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.

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