Meet Tracy!

Tracy Stevens has been volunteering with EOR since 2008, and is a vital part of our Art for Ethiopia planning team.  I thought I would “interview” Tracy in order to share with you her experiences as an EOR Volunteer Extraordinaire!

Me:  How did you hear about EOR?

Tracy:  I heard about EOR when I was invited to hear Hanna Fanta of Children’s Heaven speak in Stapleton (a neighborhood in Denver).  She was there to raise awareness and funds for her organization and find more sponsors for the girls she takes care of.  I had been thinking about adopting from Ethiopia, which is how Emily Barr came to invite me, but when I heard Hanna speak I knew that there were ways to help many more children than I could ever adopt, and help them faster.  After that presentation, I started thinking of ways I could raise money for Children’s Heaven.  I had sold some of my art through my kids’ school before for fundraising purposes and I thought maybe I could find other artists and organize a show.  I told my idea to Emily and she introduced me to others that would be instrumental in making this dream of a fundraiser work beyond my imagination.  At our first meeting, everyone gathered around my table to plan this art event.  When, several months later, we had raised 250% over the goal, and Hanna Fanta herself was there to witness it all, it made me feel so go to know that my dream was going to do so much good.

Me:  Why do you volunteer with EOR?

Tracy: I volunteer with EOR because I have a lot of latitude to come up with all sorts of ideas that appeal to me, knowing that I will be taken seriously and get plenty of help in making them happen.  I like how egos don’t get in the way of any person wanting to do some good in her own way.  I like working with people who are all incredibly dedicated to helping – it feels good to work toward a common goal.  Sometimes in my day to day life, I forget the initial inspiration, but working with everyone at EOR frequently reminds me of who still needs help.  I feel that we are all here to serve others and it is so easy, rewarding, and fun to do it.

Me:  How do you think EOR could do a better job utilizing its volunteers?

Tracy: I think EOR would do well to send around a survey to all its volunteers, just like schools do, asking what their interests and talents and experiences are.  From there EOR could mine this for ideas.  I think if you ask people directly for their help, they are far more likely to help and be very active.  Without being directly addresses, sometimes people feel that they won’t know their place or might not feel welcome.  This helps them to see that there is a place for everyone and that their help is help is valuable.  I also think lots of different small efforts are a good thing.  They don’t overwhelm people and they are more apt to participate.  They are also less stressful and keep the momentum going.  And they are FUN!

Me: What would you like to see EOR do in the future?

Tracy: I would like to see EOR volunteers get their neighbors together and organize multi-family garage sales to raise money for the orphanages we serve.  Stapleton has a HUGE one and it wouldn’t hurt to try to get people to donate the proceeds to a good cause.  You just have to ask.  Also, I really am excited about the fundraising, gourmet supper clubs we are planning.

Thanks Tracy – for answering my questions and for all that you do with EOR!  I think Tracy has some great suggestions and I can’t wait to start implementing them.


Meet fabulous volunteer, Tracy S

I am an Ethiopian Orphan Relief volunteer, though I do not have any adopted children.  I met the group because at one time we were considering adopting and Ethiopia was one of the countries I was drawn to.  Through my interest in this, I was invited to a talk by Hanna Fanta, a woman who runs  Children’s Heaven, an orphanage for teen girls in Addis Ababa.  That woman amazed and inspired me.  She was a strong, capable woman who spoke multiple languages and had raised her children in Ethiopia and then later in the United States.  She decided that she was not done mothering so she went back to her home country to foster a child or two and ended up caring so deeply that she couldn’t turn children away.  Children’s Heaven grew but money has always been a struggle.  She showed us pictures of her girls and a few that lived in dumpsters that she simply had no room for.  I wanted so much to help and thought of creative ways I could do something more after writing a sponsorship check for one of the girls.

I am an amateur artist for fun and I often give away my pieces to raise money for my children’s schools.  I thought it might be possible for me to organize an art event if I found a few other people who would contribute art along with mine and give the proceeds to Children’s Heaven.  I told my idea to Emily Barr and she, connected, caring woman that she is introduced me to some amazing people who were instrumental in making it work.  Danielle Marquis had just formed a non-profit group for helping orphans just like this and so provided the perfect vehicle for getting money to the orphanages.  Greg Cradick is a fantastic photographer who was incredibly generous with his time, his talents, his artists contacts, and the use of his gallery.  Shawn Rodda and Jane Gregory were tireless in their efforts, making great use of their contacts and their knowledge to make the event go so well.  I later met some other generous, caring people through EOR that helped make the events so successful.  Many of them flew in from all corners of our country to help: Kim Pasion, Lauren Andronici, Paige Chapman-Layland, Dawn Finley, Becky Mitchell, and Katie Bell

With all of these people around my table that first night I knew this was going to be even bigger and better than what my initial vision had been.  And it was.  The first year we raised around $13,000 toward a building for Children’s Heaven, because at this point they were operating out of an abandoned storage container that was covered with tarps to keep out the inclement weather.  This year we raised  more than $7000, enough to fund a well for a different orphanage.  I felt so good, so proud to be part of a team that made that happen.

We don’t have any plans for adopting at this time, but it does feel good to be part of a group like this, even if I don’t share the same circumstances as everyone else in it.  It doesn’t matter.  It is incredibly satisfying to do good for people even without a stake in it for yourself.    I continue to look forward to find ways to make a small part of our world a better place with this great group of people that have now become my friends.



Art for Ethiopia 2008–A Smashing Success!

Art for Ethiopia, our fundraising art sale/auction for Children’s Heaven that was held this past Saturday, November 8th in Denver was a SMASHING success!!! Not only was the event attended by hundreds of people, but we were able to exceed our own fundraising expectations and raise over $12,000!! Hanna Fanta, director of Children’s Heaven, was moved to tears when she found out how much people contributed towards her project of building a permanent community center for her girls’ programs. We were also moved by everyone’s generosity as well as the time commitment, enthusiasm, and dedication shown by the volunteers and board members who made the event happen. Special thanks to Tracy Stevens for planting the seed of inspiration that blossomed into this amazing event. Also thanks to volunteers Shawn Rodda, Emily Barr, Katie Bell, Becky Mitchell, Greg Cradick, Valerie Photogoddess, Jasmine Champion, Ellen Yeiser, Lisa Wells, Katie Bradford, Heidi, and Hanna Fanta for all you did!! And thanks to Board members Dawn and Paige for travelling out to the event. It was great to have you here!

Here are some stories from Hanna’s children to give you an idea of what these girls face every day in their lives:

Tigst Shewangizaw age 10 lost her mother and lives with her older sister who is
eleven. Her 11 year old sister is the one who is taking care of her and herself. Tigist has
lost a lot of weight because of malnutrition for she has no one to look after them. She wants
to be a doctor.

Asefu H/Mariam, age 11, lost both her parents and she now lives with her aunt.
When we met her she works during the day time and goes to school at night. Assefu baby
sits her niece and does chores in the house. We made a deal to her aunt for her to go to
school during the day time. She now goes to school during the day time and is very
happy. She wants to be a teacher.

Bethlehem Jafar, age 11 lost her father and lives with her mom. She was raped
when she was seven years old. She did not get any help to cope with the tragedy.
Bethlehem has aggressive behaviour because of the incident. She wants to be a pilot.

Haymanot Sisay, age 11, lost both her parents. She is HIV+ and gets sick more
often. After her parents died, she started to live with her aunt. In her new family
she gets a lot of stigma and labor work. She used to work hard and do many chores in order to
live with her aunt and be able to go to school. Her aunt finally wanted her to leave her
house for no reason and she is now staying at Children’s Heaven shelter for she has no one to
take care of her. She wants to be a singer.


Greg Cradick, Tracy Stevens, Becky Mitchell, Heidi Mehlretter, Hanna Fanta, Jane Gregorie, Danielle Marquis, Paige Chapman-Layland, Dawn Finley, Shawn Rodda and Katie Bell

Greg Cradick, Tracy Stevens, Becky Mitchell, Heidi Mehlretter, Hanna Fanta, Jane Gregorie, Danielle Marquis, Paige Chapman-Layland, Dawn Finley, Shawn Rodda and Katie Bell

Art for Ethiopia Preview!

Dear Friends,
Please join me and Ethiopian Orphan Relief, Inc. (EOR) as we host the First Annual Art for Ethiopia fundraiser at the Flash Gallery at Working with Artists in Belmar on Saturday, November 8th from 3:00pm-10:00pm.
All of the funds generated by this show will benefit the construction of a facility in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to care for orphaned teenaged girls through an EOR partnership with Children’s Heaven. Children’s Heaven is a non-profit organization committed to serving teenaged girls who have been orphaned due to HIV/AIDS, and to help meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of these vulnerable children.
The first 50 families through the door will receive gift bags, and all attendees will be entered into a door prize drawing for a free photo shoot (on location or in studio) with Contemporary Expressions Photography. Portrait photographer Greg Cradick will also have a portrait studio set up throughout the event where families can have 10 photos on CD, taken over a 10 minute period, for a suggested donation of $20 (reservations encouraged, walk in availability will be limited! Please contact me for more information)–perfect for holiday cards and holiday gift giving! Appetizers will be provided by Aspen Catering and wine will be provided by Mile High Wine & Spirits. Children will enjoy the arts and crafts station! A traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony will be performed, and Hanna Fanta, founder of Children’s Heaven, will be visting from Ethiopia to talk personally about her program and the girls she supports.
EOR has received an outpouring of donations for this event from artists all over the country–there will be paintings, photography, prints and sculpture from artists ranging from those whose work is on display in museums to orphans currently residing in Ethiopian orphanages. There will also be Ethiopian artifacts and crafts for sale. Artwork ranges in price from $25.00 to $250.00, with many pieces framed as well as matted. Ethiopian artifacts and crafts will start at $10.00.
Please join us for this amazing event, and please, bring the whole family! What a wonderful excuse to get dressed up and support a great cause, where every purchase will have an immediate impact on the lives of many for years to come. Also, please help us spread the word about this wonderful event by telling ten friends about it!
Looking forward to seeing you there, and thank you for your support!
Danielle Marquis
Founder and President, Ethiopian Orphan Relief, Inc.
Some of the artists who have donated works for this event (if you’re donating and aren’t listed here, leave a comment with your website and we’ll add you!)…

Thank you Katie and Cindy!

Thank you to Katie from CO and Cindy from KS who purchased oodles of items to add to the EOR store during their recent trips to Ethiopia! Both ladies donated the goods, so 100% of the purchase price will go towards our Projects. Katie’s items will first be for sale at Art for Ethiopia on Saturday, November 8th in Denver and Cindy’s items will be added to the website soon (I’ll post here when they are). Cindy is the mom to ridiculously adorable triplet boys, so she pumped up our boy clothing inventory :).

If you’d like to purchase items for the EOR Store on your trip to Ethiopia, please email us at and we can let you know which items are most in demand and suggest some great shopping venues!


EOR in the News: Union College’s Alumni Magazine

EOR Founder and Board Member Danielle Marquis was profiled in a cover story about alumni working in Africa in her alma mater’s alumni magazine this month. The article talks about EOR and the Art for Ethiopia event in Denver on November 8th.

Union College is a small, private liberal arts college in Schenectady, NY.

You’re on Facebook? We’re on Facebook!

Although my husband tells me I’m too old for Facebook, I recently reactivated my account at the urging of my fellow Art for Ethiopia planning committee members. Shawn thought it would be a good idea to make an event page for Art for Ethiopia and I couldn’t argue with her logic. Kim then agreed to make a page for EOR and lo and behold, there we all are. Kim’s even addicted! And waging an “I have more Facebook friends than you” war with her husband. So sweet. So, if you’re on Facebook, please add Ethiopian Orphan Relief! We’ll have links to pages for all of our events, and much, much more.


Help Me Choose!

As many of you know, EOR will be hosting Art for Ethiopia in Denver on Saturday, November 8th to benefit the new building project for Children’s Heaven. I took about 700 photos while we were in Ethiopia, so I thought I’d submit something for the event. Problem is, I can’t choose–I like lots of them and I really love a few. We’ve had many blown up and framed and others printed onto canvas, which we’ve displayed in our home. I was hoping I could have our readers vote to help me choose…so, which photo would you pay the most money for?! Please leave a comment with your vote!


EOR Project Updates-September

The moms and dads that make up Ethiopian Orphan Relief’s team of Board Members, Advisory Board and Volunteers have been so very busy raising money and organizing projects, we wanted to update all of our readers on the status of our various projects.

Many amazing children have spent their summer selling lemonade to benefit EOR, asking for donations to EOR instead of birthday gifts and even donating all the money they were saving for a Wii to EOR (Curious? Look back in our archives). Parents, you’ve done good–mini philanthropists in the making, for sure. Kids–we’re all so proud of you. You probably don’t remember the cheesy lyrics to Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All,” but as someone who spent many a summer day torturing my babysitter with a lip-synced version of the song, I can tell you–you are the future, I hope the money you’ve raised has made you feel proud and I hope other kids (and adults) see you as heroes like the kids in Ethiopia will.

We’ve also had lots of adults step up for Ethiopian orphans–we’ve had parents to be ask for donations to EOR instead of gifts at their baby showers, and raise lots of money in the process.

As of today, a mere 8 months after our founding, EOR has raised over $6,000 to benefit Ethiopian orphans. None of this came in the form of huge donations. Our vision for EOR was lots of people doing whatever they could for the greater good of Ethiopian orphans–it’s amazing to see that coming to fruition.

Here’s the status of individual project fundraising–

Playground for AHOPE for Children: We’re about half way there…but we need the rest of the money ASAP so we can get the playground shipped over the first week of October. PLEASE donate now to this project if you can! There is a link on our website!!

Playground for SOS/EE: We’re about a quarter of the way there. Donations welcome!!

Building/Facility for Children’s Heaven: We’ve only just begun…EOR will be hosting an Art for Ethiopia event in Denver on November 8th to raise money for this project, please plan to attend if you’re in the area and if you’re an artist, please donate something!! More information is available on our website under “Fundraising”

Sanitation System for Hope for Hosanna School: Donations needed!

Foundation for Be’Emenet Orphanage and School: Donations needed! This is a new project for us, and a very important one. If we can get the foundation built quickly (by the end of the year) we can have the land FOR FREE to build the rest of the orphanage and the school.

For more information on our projects and beneficiary organizations, please visit our website and click on “Partners and Projects” and/or search our blog archives.

Thanks again for your support, donations and purchases from our store–every little bit helps. Together, we can change the world for Ethiopian orphans.

-Danielle, President of EOR