Sunday, November 28, 2010

November Volunteer Trip to Layla House

 the whole gang in front of the King's Hotel

Post and photos by Susan Poisson-Dollar, AAI Director of Development

I just returned from leading the first AAI-sponsored volunteer trip to Layla House in Ethiopia.  Ten brave souls joined the group and we all had a wonderful time for ten days being with the children, seeing the country and accomplishing some needed projects on the compound.  It was especially nice to have 3 people on the trip who had previously had their children escorted home and had not yet had a chance to experience Ethiopia.  Each of them was able to see the place their child lived before coming to their family and one of them was even able to establish some very meaningful birth family connections.  The married couple on the trip's adoption dossier arrived in Ethiopia the same week they did.  Though they have a wait yet for a referral, they appreciated the chance to experience their future child's country and culture and now can envision his/her surroundings when they finally get "the call."   A dad brought along his two teenage daughters and they were enthusiastic, lively members of the group and also had the chance to spend a lot of time with the birth family of their three Ethiopian siblings back home in Montana. 

Lots of kids got some special, individual attention while we were there

The group did far more than just come on the trip.  Between us, we collected enough money to purchase all the gifts for this year's Holiday Project and carried them and lots of other supplies in our bulging suitcases.  One participant raised over $3000 for the AAI Sponsorship program and created a special fund for the social workers to do additional things for some of our neediest children.  Her elementary school students also created beautiful laminated alphabet books and cute board games for the kids at Layla House.

 This boys' room got a very special mural to inspire their dreams
We hope to be able to offer this opportunity to more people in the future.   If you are interested in volunteering at Layla House, please contact our volunteer coordinator Brooke Cole.   For individual volunteers we have a one month minimum requirement.

 Some of the older kids even helped out with the painting projects
We got used to being mobbed by toddlers whenever we entered the Wanna area.

 Always nice to have extra hands around when it comes to baby-feeding time

Our group raised money for the Layla Field Trip fund too.  
One day we took all 16 toddlers to the Sheraton Hotel playground 
for fun and french fries at the cafe afterward.
Whew, we all napped well that afternoon!

 There's always a ball game going on somewhere at Layla.

 One afternoon our project was to get all the baby and toddler footprints! 
It required a complete assembly line of baby-fetchers, foot-inkers, stampers and washers to get it all done.  See the results below--a card was put in every baby's file for a future mom or dad to find and treasure.  

And of course we shopped too!  Here we are checking out the gorgeous scarves at a shop that benefits women who carry huge loads of firewood down the mountain. 

One night we joined parents in town to pick up their kids for a lively evening at a local cultural restaurant that features dancing from all over Ethiopia.
After a tough day with the kids, one volunteer dances up a storm.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Run, Erin, Run! Let's help her over the Finish Line

Our very own Erin Henderson, AAI Coordinator of Special Needs Adoptions,  is running the Las Vegas "Rock 'n Roll" marathon on December 5th.  She really wants to "run for a cause" and has chosen to help the AAI Holiday Project this year .  Let's all urge Erin on in her first marathon by sponsoring her per mile.  Marathons are 26 miles long so please use our online donation page-- and check the box marked "Erin Henderson's Marathon" to give her a big boost as she does her very first marathon. 

Read here about Erin's passions for running, her family and her amazing work to help place HIV+ and special needs children with loving families! 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dire Dawa Sponsorship Students

 Merrily with sponsorship boy

AAI Executive Director Merrily Ripley traveled to Dire Dawa on her recent visit to Ethiopia.  While there she was able to meet with and interview some of our sponsorship students.  We've had about 40 children in that program but now plans are in the works to increase that number to 100 in the coming months.  Our sponsorship money helps keep orphaned and vulnerable children in school in this very poor area of Ethiopia.  We are also providing leadership training one Saturday a month to help boost the childrens' self-confidence and give them much-needed knowledge about reproductive health, decision-making strategies, etc.   Please consider sponsoring a child through AAI---your monthly donation of $25-30 helps keep several children in school and provides their families with supplemental assistance and help from a social worker.  Contact Brooke Cole here to help set up your sponsorship. 

  sponsored girl above with Merrily and in bottom photo with her mother

About Mekdes, the girl in the above photos, Merrily writes: 

Mekdes is 14 years old and has been in our sponsorship program for two years.  She is at the top of her glass of 65 students, but without a sponsorship the social worker says she would not be able to continue in school.  She and her mother live in one room with walls made of mud and straw.  Outside the door under a shade made with a plastic sheet, her mother sits in the dust waiting for customers to buy her tomatoes.  They greeted me warmly and borrowed a small stool for me.   Mekdes is a charming girl, poised and very able to communicate in English.  Her favorite subject is biology and she would like to be a doctor.  With money from the sponsorship she is able to buy a school uniform, books, pay school fees and go to the library which is not free. 

And about Wagaye, a boy in the program, she writes: 
Wagaye is 13 but only in the 4th grade.  He is an HIV+ child and has been an orphan for three years.  He lives with his grandmother’s brother’s wife; they share two rooms in a compound with three other families.  All of Wagaye’s siblings have died of AIDS and he fears he will die too, but he is receiving medication and is actually physically quite healthy.  He was so depressed, however, that  last year he had a very hard time focusing on school work and so he is repeating 4th grade this year.   He is doing better now and says he loves school and is now determined to continue and to work hard..  His guardian says he is a big help around the compound and loves to run errands.  His guardian expressed gratitude for the sponsorship making it possible for her to continue to provide for Wagaye.