Reflect

 
A fabulous first for us.  Dan, husband of the amazing Alex, offered to be a guest blogger during August.  All of us involved with the board of EOR have amazing, generous spouses who also volunteer their time and efforts and talents to help the children of Ethiopia.  We are so grateful to all of them, particularly Dan, who agreed to share his thoughts with you.

Let me start off by saying, I don’t blog.  I haven’t blogged in the past…and might not blog again.  But when approached with an opportunity to blog for Ethiopian Orphan Relief – a cause of a very personal, and close interest for my family, and for me – I jumped (or maybe I was pushed….I don’t really remember).  I wasn’t sure what I would blog about, but thought I would give it a shot.

That being said,  as I write this 35,000 feet in the air, and on the cusp of one of the most important meetings I’ve ever been a part of, I look down and reflect on life – and what a little role we play in this incredible universe.  There is so much of this world I’ll never see – but so much good I can do to help make a difference We know so much more as a society today than we ever have before – but there are still more questions than we have answers to.   We battle everyday with decisions we need to make – and sometimes question our choices.

I guess what I’m trying to say, without making so much sense… is live for the moment.  Don’t worry about what we cannot control, but push our children on the swings for 5 minutes longer.  Don’t stress over the next presentation, but lay with your child a little longer when saying prayers or reading a story.  Let’s not stress over a clean house; our kids will just make a mess tomorrow anyway!

For me, it’s important to reflect at times as it keeps me grounded and I believe it makes me a better person.   So does my relationship with Ethiopian Orphan Relief.

Dan, (super husband of super Alex)

Thank you  Dan, for all that you share with Ethiopian Orphan Relief!
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BiG news

The board members of EOR have agreed to participate in April’s ‘National Blog Posting Month.‘  We have foolishly committed  to blog daily through the month of April.  April’s theme is “BIG” and with so much going on,  there will be much to muse about.  Visit frequently–we’ll be here each day talking about upcoming events, giving project updates, sharing travel tips, and, if we’re really desperate, posting a few pictures of our own precious kids and calling it a day.

30 posts in 30 days and I’m not even counting this one…

Paige

And now a word from Wendy…

The blogosphere was filled with terrific, thought-provoking posts on World AIDS Day . Wendy, a long time supporter of Ethiopian Orphan Relief, Inc. wrote a particularly moving piece that I asked to share here:

December 1 is World AIDS Day. Our world is sick. Our brothers and sisters and parents and children are dying.

The Body of Christ–We have AIDS.

Take the World Vision AIDS Test to see how much you know about the global crisis.

  • Almost 35 million people are living with HIV/AIDS.
  • 2 million people died of AIDS-related illness in 2008.
  • 2008 saw 2.7 million new infections, with 1.9 million of these in sub-Saharan Africa. (Note: “Sub-Saharan Africa” means all of Africa except Northern Africa, so it includes Ethiopia, where my daughter is from.)
  • 6,000 children are orphaned by AIDS every day. Worldwide, 15 million children have lost parents to AIDS; this number is expected to climb to 25 million.
  • Every 14 seconds, a child loses a parent to AIDS.

Here in the U.S., where HIV is now considered a chronic condition rather than a death sentence, these numbers mean so much that to us they too often mean nothing. Who do we know who lost their parents? What town have we visited that has been socially, economically, physically decimated by the death of 10 percent of its population to one disease? No one and nowhere. But in Africa–and increasingly in India, China, the Carribean, and Eastern Europe–these aren’t numbers. They are names. They are faces. They are memories. And they are hopes and dreams that might have been.

They are counting on us.

Of the 15 million orphan-reasons to care about World AIDS Day, an estimated 4 to 6 million live in Ethiopia. Though to our knowledge our daughter did not lose her parents to AIDS, in many ways they are all AIDS orphans–for without this plague on the land would be millions more to raise the nation out of poverty, to grow crops, to give health care and education, to take all these children into Ethiopian homes to be loved and cared for. But there are too many.

I highly recommend There Is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene, a journalist who has added two Ethiopian children to her family. She writes of her reaction when in 2000 she encountered the UN statistics of 12 million AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa:

Who was going to raise twelve million children? That’s what I suddenly wanted to know. . . . Who was going to buy twelve million pairs of sneakers that light up when you jump? Backpacks? Toothbrushes? Twelve million pairs of socks? Who will tell twelve million bedtime stories? Who will quiz twelve million children on Thursday nights for their Friday-morning spelling tests? Twelve million trips to the dentist? Twelve million birthday parties?

Who will wake in the night in response to eighteen million nightmares?

Who will offer grief counseling to twelve, fifteen, eighteen, thirty-six million children? Who will help them avoid lives of servitude or prostitution? Who will pass on to them the traditions of culture and religion, of history and government, of craft and profession? Who will help them grow up, choose the right person to marry, find work, and learn to parent their own children?

Well, as it turns out, no one. Or very few. There aren’t enough adults to go around. Although in the Western industrialized states HIV/AIDS has become a chronic condition rather than a death sentence, in Africa a generation of parents, teachers, principals, physicians, nurses, professors, spiritual leaders, musicians, poets, bureaucrats, coaches, farmers, bankers, and business owners are being erased. . . .
….
Adoption is not the answer to HIV/AIDS in Africa. Adoption rescues few. Adoption illuminates by example: these few once-loved children—who lost their parents to preventable diseases—have been offered a second chance at family life in foreign countries; like young ambassadors, they instruct us. From them, we gain impressions about what their age-mates must be like, the ones living and dying by the millions, without parents, in the cities and villages of Africa. For every orphan turning up in a northern-hemisphere household—winning the spelling bee, winning the cross-country race, joining the Boy Scouts, learning to rollerblade, playing the trumpet or the violin—ten thousand African children remain behind alone.

“Adoption is a last resort,” I would be told in November 2005 by Haddush Halefom, head of the Children’s Commission under Ethiopia’s Ministry of Labor, the arbiter of intercountry adoptions, “Historically, close kinship ties in our country meant that there were very few orphans: orphaned children were raised by their extended families. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has destroyed so many of our families that the possibility no longer exists to absorb all our Ethiopian orphans.

“I am deeply respectful of the families who care for our children,” he said. “But I am so very interested in any help that can be given to us to keep the children’s first parents alive. Adoption is good, but children, naturally, would prefer not to see their parents die.”

I did not adopt from Africa to stand on a soapbox. I have in fact had my soapbox enough years now that I may even have learned a bit about where I should and should not set it (a child’s crib is no place for it). But I am compelled by my love of my child to remember, to consider, to speak for and to help those equally precious who have so far been left behind in her country and around the world. And so as I perhaps have your eyes on my words and your heart on my child: yes, I will speak of AIDS, I will connect the dots, I will tell the truth on World AIDS Day: Where you live should not decide whether you live or whether you die. I, you, we can make a difference.

Beneath the noise
Below the din
I hear your voice
It’s whispering
“In science and in medicine
I was a stranger
You took me in”…

I’ve had enough of romantic love
I’d give it up, yeah, I’d give it up
For a miracle, miracle drug
A miracle drug

–U2

Thank you, Wendy for your voice.

Paige

so close…

I’ve just returned from my marathon trip to Florida via an indirect route from Ohio to DC, and then on to Florida, and back.  A quick tally of EOR‘s NaBloPoMo progress suggests that we missed only one day, but on several days blogged more than once, so it almost evens out, right?

While I’m not foolhardy enough to sign on for daily blogging in December, the theme for the month is Mitzvah.  Expect plenty of discussion of gifts and giving here too–the theme definitely fits our rock-n-roll philanthropic lifestyle around these parts.

Thanks for joining us daily through the month of November.  We hope you’ll stick around for December too.

Paige

Dreamers Into Doers

Swinging

Over a rainy weekend two years ago, my husband put together a playground for our 1 year old daughter, Amelie. We adopted her from Ethiopia a couple months prior—she was our first child and after the painful wait to bring her home, we wanted to spoil her. When he was done, the sun came out, and she was squealing so loud—it was her first time in a swing. I was feeling pretty awesome about our little family, when my husband interrupted my virtual back patting…

 They didn’t have a playground at the orphanage, you know. We could have used the money we spent on this to buy them one. We could have made 300 kids as happy as she is right now.

Five months later, after much thinking, reading and talking with family & friends, I formed Ethiopian Orphan Relief, Inc.,  a non-profit that gifts completed projects to improve the lives of Ethiopian orphans. In just 1.5 years, we’ve raised nearly $100,000 and have several projects underway—two playgrounds, equipment for an HIV clinic & lab and a community center where orphaned teenaged girls will learn job and life skills.

 All of this has been accomplished by a group of adoptive moms volunteering their time—many of our children shared a room at the same orphanage. Now, when I see my children enjoying their playground, I am able to enjoy it—and picture the children in Ethiopia doing the same.

-Danielle

This essay was entered into Martha Stewart’s “Dreamers Into Doers” contest. The winner receives $10,000 toward their venture. Judging begins today-wish us luck.

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.

–Danielle

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!

-Danielle

Surviving Court Closure By Doing Something Positive

If you’re stuck in the middle of the Ethiopian court closure and your adoption progress has recently reached a standstill, then you’re probably looking for ways to pass the time (BESIDES obsessing over all the message boards..come on, you know you were). During our adoption this was one of the many hurdles we faced, and I whined my way through this and every other one, so know that you’re not alone (even if your family and friends don’t get it). Soon enough, your child will be in your arms forever and ever and all this waiting will be just a memory. So, instead of whining and waiting, how about doing something positive? Something to help the kids who won’t be going home to loving families.

During this time in our adoption, we came up with the idea to try and raise money from family and friends in an attempt to do something to help in Ethiopia once we arrived. We weren’t really sure what we’d do, we had no idea how much money we’d raise and we’d never done anything like this before, but we were waiting out the court closure and figured our holiday card mailing could be when we sent the requests–we were already sending cards (with very cool pictures of our dogs in beautiful mountain settings that no one in our family ever seemed to appreciate…”Enough with the dogs!” they’d say, but we love our furry babies! What can you do?) and we could just replace the “family newsletter” in which we had nothing to write anyway (“This year we filed lots of paperwork and did lots of waiting then got our fingerprints done again before waiting some more and…”). We gathered statistics from the internet and wrote a letter about what led us to adoption (everyone wanted to know anyway, better to throw it out there than let them wonder!), about Ethiopia’s orphans and about how we hoped to help the kids who would be left behind–the kids we knew would break our hearts when we got there. We promised hugs and kisses from our future child and photos from our trip in return.

What happened next was nothing short of amazing–our families and friends came out in droves to support our ideas (even though we still didn’t know what they were), they passed the letters on to others and asked for their support, they donated money in people’s names as holiday gifts and wrote more letters about what we were trying to do, about why this made them happy. They shipped boxes of donations and Christmas cards with checks. Then we heard from our adoption agency that the group that oversees our future child’s current orphanage was in dire need of a new orphanage for HIV+ children, and that they were trying to raise money to make it happen. We suddenly had our idea! We knew where the money would go. We frantically wrote another letter to all of our friends and family to tell them what they had contributed to–a new orphanage. Everyone was so excited and suddenly we were all in this adoption together. My hometown paper wrote a story on us, the town where we currently live wrote a feature story on us, and soon, soon we were off to Addis Ababa to meet our daughter.

We each brought a small carryon sized suitcase, plus a regular sized suitcase for Amelie (diapers take up lots of room, it turns out!) and the rest of our baggage allowance was donations. We sent the money over to the agency in charge of raising the money (along with a 100% match from my husband’s employer, Abbott Labs!). My husband later won an award from his employer for this project (The 2008 Caring Award) and it was presented to him at a large company-wide event. The event resulted in even more donations. Now, a year and a half later, ground has been broken at the new orphanage, and walls are up. Ethiopian Orphan Relief, the non-profit I founded to continue helping the kids left behind, is currently raising money for a playground at the facility. Talk about your full circle moments.

Doesn’t that sound more fun than waiting?! If you don’t want to write your own letter, send me an email to Danielle@ethiopianorphanrelief.org and I’ll send you a sample to get you started. In addition to the Toukoul Playground, EOR is also currently raising money for a Playground at AHOPE*, a sanitation system for the Hope for Hossanna School and a building for Children’s Heaven.

-Danielle

*Note: EOR was originally raising money for a water filtration system at AHOPE, but we were recently informed that another group was already raising money for this in Ethiopia, so the AHOPE staff asked that we instead raise money for a playground at AHOPE.

Celebrating Adoption–Free Sitting Fees!

If you are newly home (within 1 year) with your adopted child and have been wanting professional photos taken, but are having a hard time finding the cash to do so after your adoption, Celebrating Adoption is here to help! This non-profit has member photographers all over the country who are willing to donate the cost of sitting fees. We did this when our daughter came home from Ethiopia and found the most amazing photographer as a result, Tanja at Contemporary Expressions in Denver. We just had another photo shoot done with the entire family, and you can check out some sneak previews on her blog. Please, please, please visit and leave a comment!! For every 10 comments on our pics, we get $25 in free photos for the grandparents :). Scroll down until you see “Peek-a-Boo M Family”. Thanks in advance for your comments!!!

–Danielle

(Young) Artists Needed!

Ethiopian Orphan Relief, Inc. (EOR) needs your help! We will be producing a series of note cards, greeting cards and holiday cards for sale on our website. All proceeds from the sale of these cards will benefit EOR’s Programs, all of which help Ethiopian orphans. We would like these cards to feature the artwork of Ethiopian children, and we have already been gathering submissions from children in the orphanages.
 
If your Ethiopian child (any age!) would like to make a submission, please mail it to our Vice President Kim Pasion at 3020 SW Christy Ave., Beaverton, OR 97005 by Friday, August 1, 2008. We will be choosing the artwork to include at our Board Meeting in Portland later that week. The top boy and girl submissions will receive a free EOR t-shirt! We will notify you if your child’s submission has been chosen for inclusion, and let you know what series it will appear in. Along with your submission, please include your address, your child’s name and their shirt size. Also, please prepare a “bio” for your child like the one below. These bios will appear on the back of the art card featuring your child’s submission!
 
“This work of art was created by Amelie from Colorado. Amelie is 2 years old and was adopted from the Toukoul Orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2007. She was born in Harar, Ethiopia and is of Oromo descent. She loves climbing, running, drawing and playing with her little brother and dogs. The purchase of this card supports projects aimed at improving the lives of Ethiopian orphans. For more information, please visit http://www.ethiopianorphanrelief.org.”
 
Thanks in advance for your help! We’re all very excited to see the submissions!