life as we know it

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine’s Day! Tom picked us up from RoPac and we headed over
to the first school. We set up in a small school room and prepared for
the children. They came in about four at a time and we each sat on the
ground in front of a chair. When we were working most efficiently, we
called out a size and whoever was standing would grab it. It, of
course, was a trial and error with sizing. The language barrier was
interesting and what made it even more difficult to get the correct
fit sometimes was that some of the children wouldn’t even look at us.
They have obviously had very little interaction with foreigners and it
was, I imagine, pretty scary to have us there in this overwhelming
situation. We did our best; “telickino?” for “too big” and “tenishno?”
for too small. Of course, “ishy?” for “okay.” We put the shoes on each
child and once we found a good fit, we took them over to registration.
We had three people who were giving children their registration
information which included a number and taking some basic intake
information (where they live, information about their parents, etc).
When TOMS shoes has a giving partner, they don’t just provide shoes
once. They provide shoes for these children three times per year. This
time around, our main goal is to have each child return for the second
distribution in June. Once they return , Tom and Sally will be
providing some health education to each child. How amazing is it that
not only children that didn’t have shoes before will have a pair, but
that they will receive a pair three times per year?! It is such a cool
thing to think that this project we are helping to initiate and
organize will be ongoing and continue to grow. I love that we are here
for this initial distribution. It really allows us to have a lot of
input into what this looks like in the future. We will be continuing
to improve on the way we run things this week and hammer out a manual
for distributions later that will make it extremely easy for
Ethiopian’s to continue once we’re gone.

After we fitted each child in the school, we opened up the
distribution to some of the children in the community. I fitted kids
with no pants, dirty babies whose families obviously did not have the
resources to buy them shoes and children who were probably not in
school because in order to be in school in Ethiopia, you have to buy a
uniform and have shoes. Not only are we providing shoes to children in
order to improve health and sanitary conditions, but we are also
giving them a way to access education by having this new pair of
shoes. I know how long it took Sally to get everything together for
paperwork and how hard the process was to be approved as a giving
partner, so this initial distribution was an emotionally overwhelming
experience. It’s hard to really grasp the impact you were able to have
in just a few hours. As I’ve said many times, Nick and I are SO
blessed to have the opportunity to be here, doing what we are doing,
because of the hard work of many other people. THANK you for your

We grabbed some lunch and walked over to the grain mill. Sally needed
some corn for corn bread, so we went and got two kilos of corn. We
sifted it first to get some of the finer dirt out, then sorted through
each kernel by hand on a grass weave platter looking for bigger debris
like rocks. Once we’re finished, we wait in line and the corn goes
through a grinder than makes it into a very fine, almost flour-like,
looking substance that Sally can use to make corn bread.

Tom took us over to Dahley so we could see the community they work in.
We met some of the children enrolled in their afterschool program, had
a tea ceremony at one of their friend’s mud huts who had a baby one
week ago, saw the library and health center they built and the land
they work. This was such a neat time to meet some people in a more
rural Ethiopian setting where people live without running water or
electricity. They have little food and have to walk a long ways to
retrieve water. Nick and Brian helped some Ethiopians move a
horse-pulled cart full of Eucalyptus trees (it was a VERY funny sight-
perhaps he’ll add a little of his own experience here, but I’ll
definitely include some pictures when we’re home). Sally and Tom feed
the children in their afterschool program three times per week. It has
been amazing for them to see the transformation in these kids, who
went from skinny, dull children to those with personality and a
brightness in their eyes.  Would you believe that for children who do
not have food to eat that three meals per week would make their lives
completely different? That it would allow them to develop their
personality and grow and experience the world with a excitement they
had never experienced? I don’t know any parents in American who would
find it acceptable to feed their children three times per week, but
here, it is a blessing and literally means these children will
SURVIVE. It’s really hard to understand what that looks like as a
parent to be unable to provide the basic necessities for your child to
live for a year, five years, then eight years. There is a staggering
statistic I heard and I’m sure I’m going to be off by a few, but
something like one in five children in Ethiopia will die by the age of
five. These children are dying from things that would never be
life-threatening in the US, yet we complain about how much hospital
visits cost when really, we’re fortunate to have a hospital to go to.
Despite these dire circumstances, these kids are happy and thrive with
interaction and attention. They are just like children born in the
United States but with less resources, less opportunity and a greater
chance at failing. How can we not intervene and provide basic needs to
give them the chance to live? I’m so glad I am able to be a part of

Monday night was an early night, too. We needed the sleep and needed
to process all that being in Ethiopia means. Nick surprised me just
before bed with a Valentine’s Day card. Although he doesn’t love the
Hallmark holidays, he was so thoughtful to have brought a card from
home to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

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