Friday, May 29, 2009

A Good News/Bad News Week

First, the not-so-good news from Ethiopia. The landlord who had agreed to rent us a new property for Opportunity House rescinded the deal at the very last minute as we were preparing to move in. Needless to say, everyone is quite disappointed but already Gail is on the hunt for other suitable locations in the neighborhood. The silver lining in this cloud is perhaps having a bit more time to raise the money we will need to refurbish and equip any new space for housing and educating special needs children. So keep on selling those quilt raffle tickets because the proceeds are still going to be used for our Opportunity House program. Contact Johanna in the AAI office to get some tickets.

Now for the GOOD NEWS from Ghana! We have just rented a brand new and spacious facility for our program there. Anita's post and photos are below:

We are happy to share that after two years in a rather small home/compound, Eban House in Ghana is moving! We have rented a very large residential home in Teshie, a suburb of Accra, Ghana. Currently we can care for up to 35 children, but after the move we hope to care for up to 60 children. The home has 7 bedrooms, and a 3 bedroom guest house. The guest house will be used as a school house for our children. All of our children currently go to school in one room, so having three rooms will be a luxury! The new Eban House has large grounds--some paved (great for "football"!) and some grassy area. Our kids will definitely enjoy the mango trees, which not only provide great snacks, but also much needed shade. The new home is surrounded by a wall that includes spikes for extra security.

the nice courtyard
Plans are in the works to have a volunteer/guest room (or two) that can be used by families when they travel. There will be a daily room and board fee. We hope this will be an attractive option for our families, but it also serves in a practical way to help us pay the rent! The daily fee will include room, private bathroom, and three meals a day.

our new schoolhouse

the main building

We plan to bring our playground equipment and the current schoolhouse to the new home. The current school house will also be moved, and likely be used for another purpose (play room, storage, etc.). The next few weeks will be hectic as attention is placed on moving from one home to the other. But all in all we are VERY excited about the change and think it is a move in the right direction for our program. I will be traveling to Ghana in the next few weeks, and so look forward to our children sitting under the mango trees outside our new home, playing the drums and singing traditional songs. What a happy sight that will be!

AAI Ghana Coordinator

the mango tree

Sunday, May 24, 2009

One AAI family's experience

Recently we received a letter from a family that adopted two older children from Layla House last year. It brought tears to all of our eyes and we asked permission to share it along with family photos below.'s what makes our work so worthwhile.

Thank you for the updated information from Addis Ababa. It makes me glad that we used AAI and that we are sponsoring an AAI employee in his pursuit of further education. I imagine that you might hear more often from frustrated or disgruntled clients than happy families. (I'm a teacher, and that's how it works in my field!)

Please know that we are thrilled with our decision to adopt M­­ihret and Tsion last fall. They came home in September at ages 13 (Mihret) and 10(Tsion) after spending seven months at Layla House. They have both flourished in their new home. Our son Mihret has been on the A/B Honor Roll every quarter, and he recently scored at the 80th percentile on the North Carolina End-of-Grade math test. He was required to take it, despite the language barrier and gaps in his knowledge base. He worked very hard in preparation for the exam, and we are amazed by his score. Tsion takes her test in a few weeks, and my husband (a math teacher) thinks she'll do just as well as her brother. She's a math superstar, apparently. They are both on soccer teams, and doing well with that too. Tsion is especially aggressive and talented on the field.

We call their father in Addis Ababa every few weeks and send letters and photos back and forth. We believe the contact with the kids' Ethiopian father has really helped the children cope with the transition. He is a wonderful man who raised his children with values and expectations that align with ours. (He used to buy them books and nag them to read. Now the kids are stuck with an American mom who teaches English and insists on daily reading. They never complain.) We feel very fortunate to have had the chance to meet their father while we were in Addis Ababa. Thank you for providing that opportunity to adopting families. I have heard that other agencies do not allow families to meet (adopting families and Ethiopian families), and I think that is a real disservice to the children involved.

Last year we were on the list for an infant girl up to 18 months when we fell in love with Mihret and Tsion on the Feb. '08 waiting child video. Now I am pregnant and our third child is due in five weeks. Believe me, it worked out perfectly. Two babies would have been very stressful, financially and otherwise. We've already got the two best kids in the world in Mihret and Tsion. I just hope our third child will be so special. His name will be Ezra Tamrat, in honor of Mihret and Tsion's Ethiopian father, Tamrat. Although people like to tell us that Mihret and Tsion are lucky, we feel that Ezra is the luckiest kid in the world to have such amazing older siblings. I'm sorry for rambling, but please know that every day Kevin and I marvel at our good fortune in being blessed to parent such fantastic children.

Thank you for all you do for the people of Ethiopia.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Toddler time--news from Gail

Around January of this year we had as many as 14 toddlers at Layla house. The new current total though is only 7 as so many have left the last few months. These 7 are all boys, as our last toddler girl left Layla with her father last night. As one volunteer put it yesterday, we now have a toddler Frat House! Today two little boys were "promoted" to the Frat House and joined the class. They have recently learned to walk and are now confident in their walking, so they want to hang with the big boys!

The toddlers spend time in the mornings in class. They sit quietly these days as Debritu the teacher hands out books or toys for them. They are learning their colours and letters. They spend time outside too, and a new recent activity is playing with the Ikea trains.
We hope that some girls will come along soon to give the boys some competition!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Layla House "Traveling Quilt"

Hi all,

We really need more people to sell tickets for the 2009 Layla House Quilt Raffle! Please contact Johanna at the AAI office and she'll be happy to mail you as many tickets as you can sell. Tickets are $5 apiece and come in books of 10.

Remember that the proceeds from the 2009 Layla House Quilt Raffle go to Opportunity House, our facility for developmentally-delayed children that is also open to families in the neighborhood. You can see some pictures of the new property we've rented below. It has lovely "green space" just waiting for the playground equipment that will be purchased from the funds raised by the raffle. Opportunity House is a wonderful project that helps demonstrate AAI's commitment to "giving back" to a country from which we place children for adoption.

Barb Patton, the quilt's creator, has also made a "traveling quilt" pictured below in this post. If you have an opportunity to sell tickets at any kind of event, we would be happy to send the quilt and AAI brochures to you. Just let Johanna know when the event is scheduled.


Susan Poisson-Dollar
Director of Development

the "traveling quilt"

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Wedding in Ghana

This post was contributed by Anita Gillispie, AAI's Ghana Program Coordinator. Contact Anita by clicking here.

On May 2, 2009 Muna Saeed, our Program Administrator in Ghana, was married. The day was long-anticipated at Eban House! Each staff member at the home was involved in some way. Our Adoption Coordinator, Joha, acted as chauffeur for the Bride and Groom. Our regular driver, Daniel, transported all of the children and staff back and forth in the AAI van. Other staff helped with the food and with child care. Grace, an AAI adoptive parent who attended the wedding said, "For days before, the children were having 'rehearsals' to blow bubbles and for holding the canes." All of Eban House's 36 children participated in the 3 hour long wedding.

(photo: Eban house children waiting patiently for the festivities)

AAI Ghana families also participated in a small way. Months before the big day, adoptive families came together to provide some of the decorations and favors used in the wedding. Wedding bubbles, mini battery operated fans, batteries, invitations, and the signature book were all gifts from the AAI Ghana "family." Even the wedding rings were purchased here in America! Families took turns carrying the items over when they traveled to Ghana. It was a small way that our families chose to show appreciation towards Muna, who has always taken such care with each adoption process.

Only our Ghanaian staff, the children, and one adoptive parent were able to represent AAI at the wedding. Many more wish they could have attended. Grace summed up the wedding by saying, "The sight I wish I could've captured on my camera was the van arriving at the wedding with over 30 children, several staff, plus the wedding cake! It was also a lot of fun to see the Eban House staff and children enjoying themselves and dancing together at the reception."

(photo: Eban House children dance up a storm!)
We wish Muna a long and fruitful marriage, and we welcome her husband Joe into our extended AAI family!
Read more about our Ghana program at this link.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dessie's Dream! Almost a reality....

(Smiling sponsorship students at our Dessie School project)

The blog post below was written by Barbara Patton, a long time AAI volunteer who has spearheaded the fundraising drive for “Dessie’s Dream,” our project to build a school in a town about 10 hours north of Addis in a very rural area. This project has taken almost two years and is our largest humanitarian effort to date. Recently we received a $10,000 challenge grant to complete the project and just this week that challenge grant was completely met by another generous donor.

We are very proud of being almost to our goal but donations are still needed and can be made at this link: With your help, the doors of the new Menbere Tsehay School will open for good at the start of the next school year in September 2009.


The Good School Committee of Dessie

Consider one Ethiopian family’s contribution to Dessie’s Dream--- Samrawit and her family have to be careful with every birr, the national currency. They only eat once a day and new clothes are out of the question. But when the school committee of Dessie requested a birr a week towards the new school building, they gladly agreed to pay. Four birr a month (about 50 cents U.S.) doesn’t sound like much, but if your monthly income is 250 birr for a family of 6, every birr lost is a sacrifice. Samrawit, 9 years old and a good student, hopes that her education will eventually help her family improve their lives and they trust the local school committee with their hard-earned money.

I visited Dessie School and attended one of the school committee meetings on my recent trip to Ethiopia. As I waited for the meeting to begin, an elderly gentleman also sat patiently outside the school director’s office. He was greeted and returned greetings affectionately with the children of the school and the adults who passed by him. He is one of many on the Menbere Tsehay School committee who help make decisions and rally support for the improvements their school desperately needs. He knows that, despite the assistance of AAI on the project, they ultimately have to help themselves. The committee is an active group and they have accomplished quite a bit on their own.

(photo: School committee member reviewing student work)

The school director, Beletu Assefa, heads the committee. She is a good leader and a strong believer in decisions by consensus. There is also a women’s representative, Christian and Muslim representatives, representatives from the parent and teachers coalition, the kebele (local government), the education and training board chairperson, a parents’ representative, two committee association members and the assistant school director. These dedicated individuals come from diverse backgrounds and they are all tremendously respected in the community. They have met each month for over two years now to work on improving the Dessie school. They are truly devoted to helping all the children get the education and opportunities they deserve for the future of the town and the region.

I listened at the meeting as they discussed the progress on the new two story school building and I could see that they have worked together for a long time and developed a good rapport with each other. Each member seemed comfortable voicing an opinion even if it was not a majority one. As in most groups, some are very vocal and others say very little but receive respect and strong consideration when they do speak. This is a group with a mission, and they are not afraid to throw all their support behind causes they deem worthy. The bottom line for this group of respected elders is the good of the children. At the end of the meeting, when they were asked once again to provide help for the school, one of the members, said, “Well, it only makes sense!” They are there for the sake of the children and they will continue to be there. This is their school, their community and their future.

The children, their parents, the school staff and the entire community of Menbere Tsehay School are so thankful for AAI’s participation in the school construction project. We are giving them the tools they need to help themselves. We provided assistance when the scale of the project has been too daunting for the local families but it is still their school. We have yet to raise all the money needed to pay for the new classroom building, but Dessie and Adoption Advocates have faith that the money will come, the project will be completed and the children of Dessie will use their opportunities to make life better for themselves and their community.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Welcome to the AAI Blog!

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to our new AAI blog! We envision this as a space where we can post information about what's happening with all of our programs and projects. We know people love to read about current events at Layla House and Eban House as well as our humanitarian programs and we'd like to be able to share more than there is ever room for in our monthly newsletter. We're hoping that many AAI staff and volunteers will contribute to the blog on a regular basis so that our supporters who have expressed the desire for more "inside" information will now have it.

The latest big news is that we've rented a compound across the street from Layla House. This great new space will house our Opportunity House program for special needs kids and provide extra space for all of the children at Layla House (OH) to use regularly. The program serves both children available for adoption and children in the neighborhood who come for daycare because there are few options for these children in Ethiopia. At Opportunity House, there is an educational program that seeks to maximize the potential of each child and to provide them with a stimulating, nurturing environment. In Ethiopia the parents of such children often feel stigmatized and are not yet aware that many special needs children can lead productive, fulfilling lives. Many of the children have made incredible progress during their time at OH---starting to speak, walk, perform basic self-care tasks and the parents of the daycare children are so happy to have this service.

The new compound has wonderful outdoor space and will also have additional classrooms. Currently plans are being made for the Layla Kindergartners (KG) to have both classes and playtime there. Older children will also cross the street for craft classes and to interact with the Opportunity House children. We view this new property as a great addition to Layla House that will enable all the children to have a more varied, stimulating educational program.

The proceeds from the 2009 Layla House Quilt Raffle will be used to purchase playground equipment and educationals supplies for the OH property. Above is a picture of the beautiful quilt made by Layla House children and our wonderful friend and volunteer Barbara Patton. Please contact Johanna Sculley in the AAI office at if you'd like to sell tickets. The tickets are $5 apiece and come in books of 10. Johanna will mail you as many books of tickets that you can sell as well as a photo of the quilt to show. We've found in the past that the tickets practically sell themselves when people hear what the proceeds will go towards. The drawing will be held at our Warm Beach Gathering on Saturday, August 1, 2009.
We hope you enjoy this blog and please comment about anything in particular you'd like us to post about.