This documentary from PBS’s To the Contrary shows explores the trend away from orphanages and toward family reunification. It’s exciting to see how this is working in Ethiopia and Cambodia.
While Abby and I were in Ethiopia we met orphans and street children who have nobody to love to care for them. We also met children who are living in an orphanage because of extreme poverty. Many of these children have family members who are willing take care of of them but they are so poor and that they can barely feed themselves.
Poverty should not be the reason to take a child away from their family but this happening in poor countries around the world like Ethiopia. These are desperately poor families, who with the tiniest bit of help, could be able to raise their kids and keep the family together.
That’s the reason we started the Forever Families Project. We want care for and prevent more orphans and abandoned children by preserving families Ethiopia. Long term, we want to see more orphans be domestically adopted and stay in their homeland. This requires a holistic strategy, resources and committed people to developing solutions.
Thanks for Jerry and Christy Shannon at Embracing Hope Ethiopia for pointing me to this blog Alama ya Kitumaini “Sign of Hope“ I read this post, “a story (his, mine, and how the love was left out)” by Holly Mulford and it blew me away. Holly shares her inspiring story of how she saw there was a better answer to helping orphans.
Also, check out these great people we know who are helping orphans and family preservation in Ethiopia.
We visited Resurrection Orphanage & Center of Nekemte (ROCN). They care for orphaned and abandoned children to meet their basic needs and offer a loving Christian home environment.
ROCN is a new orphanage started by Tensaie Umeta (who was from Nekemte). I met Tensaie though North Heights Lutheran Church (my home church in MN). Nekemte is a city of 103,000 people but ROCN is the first orphanage in the area. So the need is great.
We loved spending time with these kids and they touched our hearts. We were able to bring new clothing that was donated by sponsors in MN. They also needed shoes and it was a blessing for us to take them shopping to buy new shoes.
Until coming to ROCN, these children had never been to school. They are bright kids but needed help to be ready to attend school. The director of the local private school has given free tuition to the children. He himself has taken in 6 orphans into his home and he provides for all their needs. The two house mothers at ROCN are amazing care for the children like their own 24/7.
The first ROCN home provides for 4 orphans, but can hold 6 more. A donor has pledged monthly support for the other children, however they still need $2,500 to buy beds, mattresses, linens, desks, tables, chairs, clothing and shoes to make this happen. Would you consider helping?
Abby and I went to Nekemte, Ethiopia to visit the Resurrection Orphanage Center of Nekemte (ROCN). The road Addis Ababa to Nekemte is rough. It’s unlike any road we’ve ever been on and locals say it’s the worst road in Ethiopia.
It’s not advisable to drive unless you have a four wheel drive vehicle. Fortunately, our driver Tamesgen was great. Thank you to Berhanie Umeta (my friend Tensaie Umeta’s sister) for accompanying us on our trip. No one knows when the road will be complete but once it’s finished there will be a significant economic impact for all of the communities this road passes through.
In the end, when we saw the kids at ROCN, the road trip was worth it. We give thanks to God that we were able travel safely.
Let me start by saying, I don’t have allusions to save the world or start a movement. I am an ordinary person who loves Jesus. The Forever Families Project and upcoming trip to Ethiopia all started with a dream I had two years ago at an ARC conference.
In the dream, I saw a clear picture of the Earth, the continent of Africa quickly zooming into the country of Ethiopia until it reached ground level. Then, I saw children in distress that had nobody to help them or love them. They were forgotten ones.
What was different about this dream was not that it happened while I was awake (which was memorable in itself). The difference was that I knew immediately that I needed to do something.
I was reminded of James 1:27: “Religion that God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Until this dream, I had no personal connection to Ethiopia besides what I heard or read on the news. I didn’t know anyone who had been to or was from Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is home to one of the largest populations of orphans in the world: 13% of children in Ethiopia are missing one or both parents. That’s 4.6 million orphans – 800,000 of whom were orphaned by HIV/AIDS. (UNICEF) This is old data from 2005 and it appears the problem is growing. Others say it’s smaller but in any case it’s a huge issue.
There’s a lot of back story that I’m leaving out. I’m sure I’ll talk about it in future posts over time. I always have loved kids and I love being dad to three beautiful daughters (Maddie, Abby and Lydia). They are a blessing from God and bring joy to my life.
Orphans in Ethiopia are in desperate need of a big solution. Big solutions require big visions. So here’s ours.
Our vision to love and serve orphaned and abandoned children in Ethiopia to help them remain with their birth families or connect them with loving forever families through local adoption. I have a dream that all these vulnerable children will have loving homes, education, medical care and a hope for their future.
In addition, we want to do “orphan prevention” which is means we connect with families who are very close to having to give up their children because they cannot afford to keep them (these vulnerable children often have extended family who can’t afford to care for them either) and we give them some financial support each month to help make ends meet.
Ethiopia also needs economic development. Currently, the Ethiopian economy is driven by agriculture (accounting for 80% of employment) but radical deforestation combined with period’s drought and is a major cause of extreme poverty. This problem is being addressed by groups like The Eden Projects which we support.
Also, we want to help business development (think small businesses growth) by empowering young entrepreneurs to ultimately have a positive impact on orphans in the society. I’ll share more on this later.
None of these solutions can be done with a dump money and run approach. This vision is not about a hand outs. It’s about giving a hand up and empowering Ethiopians to address challenges right from the start. My goal isn’t to start another organization. I’d much rather connect with great organizations that already exist and are doing good work.
Still, I have no idea how this vision is going to happen. I’m not sure where this dream will lead me or my family but I know it’s much bigger than us and can only happen if others get involved and dream with us.
I am planning to take my daughter (age 15) to Ethiopia in December. I’m excited to see kids empowered to help kids. They have a heart for helping others and this is a project that they are leading and doing too.
I am currently searching for ministries and groups for us to plug into while we’re in Ethiopia and start building relationships and see what difference we might make. We’re planning to leave for Ethiopia on December 24th and return January 7th. This is our first trip and an initial step to starting key relationships.
Please consider getting involved.