Monday, April 26, 2010

An AAI adoptee returns to her homeland--India

Katie Afman, center in the above photo, was adopted through AAI's India program as an infant.  She is now  a 21 years old and recently returned with her mother Nancy to visit her birth country for the first time.   This post is from a letter she sent to Merrily describing her experiences.  Katie has one more sister from India, and three from Ethiopia, all adopted through AAI!  Their beautiful family photo is at the bottom of Katie's post.



Kolkata (previously Calcutta) is a huge city with a population of over 10,000 million people. The city is hot and sticky, not to mention crowded. Kolkata is full of beautiful people, scenery and warm temperatures (without the humidity). It was my first time to Kolkata to see where I was born and where I was adopted from. 

I had no idea of what to expect in terms of India itself. The roads were crowded and everyone was busy doing things; there is never a dull moment whether you are walking down the streets, volunteering with an organization, or just hanging out. The streets are always filled with cars and people. The cars are always honking (that is their way of saying "watch-out i'm coming thru,"-- kind of like us with turn signals) and the people are always talking and trying to get you to buy something or to take a ride in their rickshaws or taxis. The people of Kolkata are always happy and full of life; the streets are beautiful and always full of color and smells.

On my trip with my mom, we helped out at two different organizations -- New Light (which is a secular nonprofit charitable trust, set up a creche-cum-night-shelter to protect and educate young girls, children and women at high risk) and Mother Teresa's organization ( in Shanti Dan for malnourished children and Kalighat- home for the dying and destitute). What a blessing to work with people who have little to nothing, and being able to share my love with them. It really made me think about the country I was from. I could have been one of those children in the Mother Teresa Facility or at New Light.

I have an older sister (not blood-related) who was also adopted from I.M.H. We went to the nursing home that she was born in and got to see what the building looked like. It was just luck that we had the chance to see where I.M.H was as well.  It took a while for the taxi drive to find the street it was on because it was down an alley. The building is still there to this day but it is no longer an orphanage. When we went and look at it, it appeared to look like more of an apartment where people rented out rooms. But we were unsure because of our language barrier.

Each memory of Kolkata will have a special place in my heart. I am proud to say that I am from Kolkata, India.  But I am also very blessed to be in my home in Seattle, Washington with my family. We take so many things from granted when really we just need to be happy with what we have.

The beautiful Afman girls:  
Preya- Adopted from India 24
Katie- Adopted from India 21
Meseret- Adopted from Ethiopia 16
Frehiwot- Adopted from Ethiopia 14
Tsion- Adopted from Ethiopia 11

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

News from the Layla House School

The following post was submitted by Julie Hehn, AAI's Program Director for the Layla House and Opportunity House schools. The photos were taken by both Julie Hehn and Ryan Gettler, a recent volunteer and professional photographer.  That's Julie, clapping for one of the recent "honor students" at the Layla School.


As AAI’s Program Director of Education,  I travel to Ethiopia two or three times a year to work at the Layla and Opportunity House schools, do in-service trainings with the teachers and to bring supplies.  I came back this month from another wonderful trip to Addis Ababa.  We have a new administrator at Layla School--Zelalem Cherinet.  Prior to this new position,  Zelalem worked in our sponsorship program and as a translator.  He has years of experience working in education and was happy to get back into his old field.  We had to say good-bye to Berhanu, our previous administrator,  who moved on to another AAI position as a social worker - so he didn’t move far!

 Zelalem, our new school director

As always during my time in Addis I have teacher meetings, visit classrooms and work with students.  I continue to be impressed with the work of the many teachers and staff.  It seems that they “eat up” any training with enthusiasm and joy.  I always come with resource books, new curriculum, general supplies and leave with a long wish list of things that will make the school even better! 

This trip I was able to schedule my visit for the end of a quarter at Layla School.  Our school is broken up into four sections with three months in each.  At the end of each quarter all of the students are assessed through their work and we have an award celebration.   The students who are highest in their classes and those who are showing positive behaviors are given awards, typical of the system throughout Ethiopia.  

This is always a fun time for the students who are filled with anticipation and enthusiasm for the ceremony.  There is cake and soda for all with lots of drumming and singing.     Not only do the top students receive an award (that you parents will be getting a copy of!), but most importantly they get a bag full of goodies!  Ivy, our Layla Compound Coordinator, and her group of volunteers stuff a bag for each award recipient full of fun trinkets and toys!  We hope it serves as inspiration for all of the students during the upcoming quarter.  

a little nostalgia---February 2000

Hi all,

We will be having a bunch of blog posts in the next few weeks.  Sorry for the little break but I, the blog manager, was off on vacation.  A while ago Merrily unearthed the February 2000 newsletter and I thought I would copy it here so you can all see how much has changed.  For instance, I think Layla House has been in three different locations since that date!   You can also see the very beginnings of our sponsorship program which helps orphaned children remain with caregivers and continue their education.  Starting with just this one family, we now have over 400 children enrolled in a number of different locations in Ethiopia. 

Susan Poisson-Dollar
Director of Development

Dear Friends,

I am sure you have been saddened, as I have, by the recent media reports of the extent of the HIV infection problem in Africa.  I can only tell you that from my experience the situation is getting worse day by day.  Last April the child care facility near our House in Ethiopia that cares for children who have tested positive for HIV was caring for 40 children.  In July it was 90.  When I was there last week they had 140, and room for no more. 

In the waiting room at the Children’s Commission there is no room to sit, the room is full of adults, bringing children who have no where to go, hoping that the welfare system can find a place for them.  Neighbors and relatives bring orphan children every day seeking help for them, and we are under constant pressure to take more children into our Children’s House.

Compared to the need, what we are able to do it so little.  On the other hand, every child who is cared for at our House and goes on to join an adoptive family, is one who otherwise would have had no future.  To keep from becoming hopelessly depressed we can only think of the positive impact of what we are doing.

At this time we are only able to care for 40 youngsters at a time.  Our lease expires in June, and by then our goal is to either move to a larger facility or to open a second home to care for babies. 

Your Christmas donations enabled us to do many things.  We purchased a second hand computer and now have email capacity at the House, making communication faster and easier.
We purchased a new video camera for me and left the one I have been using there, so we will be able to get video of new children more quickly.  Our challenge is to identify families quickly, process the children quickly, and get them to their new families so that there is room for new children.  We need more beds, tables, and chairs and hope to be able to order them soon.  The pre-school for the younger children is functioning well, but they have very little equipment so we will buy or send more puzzles, building blocks, simple books, and other supplies.

We have been hampered in our effort to find families for the Ethiopian children, in that the Children’s Commission has forbidden us to show pictures of children on the Internet.  It seems ironic that they are unwilling to allow us to use the most effective tool available in identifying families, but they feel that it is advertising children and simply will not allow it.  So we are more dependent than ever on word of mouth in spreading the word that there are children, especially Ethiopian children, in need of adoptive families.

Eleven of our older children will join their new families in the next four to six weeks.  Some of them have been with us for more than a year and they will be missed, but we feel that they have a strong foundation that will allow them to make a good adjustment to adoptive family life.

The Children’s Commission has asked us to help in another way.  They often receive requests from parents who want to keep their children but need some financial assistance to do so.  They introduced me to a young woman who is blind.  She has two children and has passed the examination to attend the university but has no money to do so, or to support her children while she is in school.  I agreed to provide a sponsorship in the amount of $50 per month.  I was told that amount would cover a one-room accommodation, someone to care for the children during the day, tuition, and food for the family.  So we need two sponsors willing to help on an ongoing basis by contributing $25 per month.  We will provide reports on an ongoing basis.

We thank you for your ongoing interest, concern and support.  The task seems overwhelming at times, but working together we have made it possible for many little ones to have a full and productive life with their new families.


Merrily and Ted