Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March 2010 Families for Children Newsletter

You can read our latest e-newsletter at this link: (copy and paste it into your browser)

The beautiful photos taken in Dessie at our new school are rather small in the newsletter so I'm putting some here in larger form for you to see.  Thank you to our wonderful volunteer, professional photographer Ryan Gettler, for taking them!   Unlike many children in the U.S., these kids really appreciate a school to attend because many of them could not before we finished our Dessie's Dream project.  Others walked hours to an alternate school and now have one right in their own community. 

The old library with wooden shelving

The new library with metal shelving and filling up with books sent by many generous donors and packed in the suitcases of traveling parents and volunteers.  Our kingdom for a shipping container filled with textbooks for Dessie!

Monday, March 29, 2010

New Equipment for Opportunity House

On my recent trip to Ethiopia, I had the pleasure of delivering two large boxes of specialized equipment to Opportunity House (OH), our facility for developmentally-disabled children.  At OH AAI cares for orphaned children, some of whom will be placed with adoptive families, and also provides critical daycare services for youngsters in the neighborhood.  Few such services are available in Ethiopia and many children with severe disabilities are simply abandoned because their parents cannot care for them or endure the stigma that having such a child has in Ethiopia.  At OH all of of the children receive loving care, good nutrition and specialized therapy and education to help them achieve their full potential.  It is so gratifying for the staff and parents to see the amazing progress some of the children have made in our care.

We are very grateful to Rifton Equipment for the beautiful new chairs shown in the photos below.  Special thanks to adoptive parent Nancy Simmons for connecting us with this great company. 

 Susan Poisson-Dollar, AAI Director of Development

Friday, March 26, 2010

Our new copy machine...

at Layla is up and running....  As Director of Development, I've learned it's hard sometimes to raise money for things like office equipment but when we explained how important a well-functioning copy machine is for speeding along the adoption process, copying medical records for children, etc., some generous donors came forward to help replace our ancient copier.  Thank you so much and here's a photo of the new machine in action!  It is making our hard-working office and legal staff's job much easier.  

Susan Poisson-Dollar

Sunday, March 21, 2010

High School Students visit Layla

 Post by Susan Poisson-Dollar, AAI Director of Development

For the second  year in a row, a group of 10 high school students and three teachers from the Emma Willard School in Troy, NY accompanied Susan Poisson-Dollar on a spring break service trip to Layla House from March 8th to 16th.  In addition, they were joined by one more student from Tennessee whose younger sister was adopted from Ethiopia last year.   As a group, they brought over 100 cans of Kirkland baby formula and collected several hundred pairs of pants for older children as well as other needed supplies before the trip to bring with them.  It was quite an adventure traveling with 30 bulging suitcases and 15 very full carry-on bags but everything arrived intact and was, to our amazement, loaded on top of just the two AAI vans by our very able drivers.
The trip was a wonderful experience for all of these girls and I suspect many of them will be back to join our official volunteer program when they are older.  Highlights of the trip included planning a carnival for all of the older children, painting a mural, teaching classes, volunteering at Opportunity House and of course, visiting the babies and toddlers!  Some of the girls ate breakfast, lunch and dinner at Layla several days in a row and even had a sleepover with a group of the older girls on a weekend night.  The students also took a group of older children out for dinner at a local restaurant one evening, a big treat that was enjoyed by everyone.

Our AAI staff at Layla were wonderful hosts and helped to orient the girls and support them in their planned activities.  Several adoptive families were there picking up their new children and the students really enjoyed being a part of that special experience.  The girls are looking forward to sharing their adventures and many photos with their classmates back at school and encouraging others to take advantage of unique service opportunities like this during their high school years.  

Many thanks to Sabrina Putnam, Bob Naeher and Caitlyn Jones, the three Emma Willard teachers who organized the trip and were wonderful chaperones and mentors for the students! 

Members of the Emma Willard Dance Company taught a class after school one day. 

Trying their hands in the classroom -- these girls are trying to explain snow activities to a group of older children

 The toddlers love one-on-one attention.                    

An Opportunity House child having fun at the Carnival.

Helping to serve treats at the goodbye party for children leaving with their new parents

The new Emma Willard mural in progress

Everyone made new friends! 

 Yes, Ivy did let them have a big water balloon fight with the oldest kids on a hot afternoon! 

 All of the baby rooms are being painted and outfitted with new curtains.  Here the Emma Willard students are prepping a room for new paint.

Some of the girls bought cultural clothing for their evening at Yod Abyssinia to see the dance show on their last evening in Addis.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Holiday Project Feeding Program in Arsi, Ethiopia

Thanks to the wonderful response to the AAI Holiday Project fundraising effort this year, we have begun a feeding project in a small town in rural Ethiopia, about 200 kilometers from Addis Ababa.  The town was chosen both because of the need and  because we knew of a partner organization, the Bethezasa Children's Association, that we felt confident could run and administer a quality program with the funds provided by the AAI office in Addis.  AAI staff member Ivy Dash recently had the chance to visit the program and meet the students benefiting.   Her report is below and we should be able to provide more photos very soon.


The feeding center sponsored by AAI has been set up at an orphanage called Bethzata Children's Home in Arsi run by a gentleman named Sammy (I don't know his 2nd name).  The first boy to show up was about 10 or 11 yrs old with great big beautiful eyes.    Then, one by one,  the pre-teens and teens started to file in.  It was a weekday so they were coming from school in their uniforms.  Most of their uniforms were tattered and faded and dirty but they were proud to wear them and proud to be in school. 

We started the program with everybody washing their hands for lunch.  My favorite little boy was the one pouring the water over everybody's hands.  Then it was mine and Temesgen's and Sammy's turn and then someone poured the water for him.  And we all sat down for a full meal of injera, mesir wat & aleche wet.  Everyone seemed so happy to have a nourishing meal - for some, their only meal of the day I learned.  There was some small talk around the table, but mostly everyone was quiet, enjoying the food.

At the conclusion of the meal, Sammy got up and talked, thanking everyone for coming and thanking AAI for providing the meals.  Then some of the students spoke.  They each had their own story, but the gist of what each of them shared was the same.  They were so thankful for being part of this feeding program.  They are now able to concentrate on their studies in school because they are not hungry all the time.  One girl said her brain can now function because she is no longer thinking about being hungry.  Another girl said that she did not have anything to eat for breakfast or lunch before our program and now she is so thankful to have a good meal.  Another girl said she would have 1 piece of dough for lunch before she joined our program.  There was an older woman who got up and spoke - she was the students’ teacher and advisor.  She said that she picked out these specific children to be part of our feeding program.  They are all the top-ranking students in their classes and since being part of the feeding program, every single one of their grades have risen.  Temesgen and I both spoke and  said we were thankful for the donations to be able to provide this for them.   We wished them well in their studies and hoped that they will continue to do well in school so they can make something of themselves.

We had a little coffee ceremony and popcorn was passed around.  Then we went outside for a group picture.  We did bring donations for them, clothes and shoes, but Sammy decided to wait for another occasion to pass them out.

All in all, I think this feeding program is well worth it.  I don't know how much it cost us, but I do feel we are doing something that is helping these kids.  And their grades prove it!