Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Layla House Playground is Fixed!

The deteriorating quality of the Layla House soccer area has been a big concern for quite some time.  Almost two years ago, we raised what we thought we would need to fix it only to have skyrocketing construction costs outpace our budget.  Finally though, we are happy to report that the necessary repairs have just been completed thanks to a number of generous gifts from our AAI family.   The soccer/play area is in constant use of course and the deepening cracks were a safety issue.  The photos below show the area under construction (drainage being added for help in rainy season) and the the beautiful smooth surface that is now present.  

Thank you!!  On to the next seat covers for our aging vans, anyone???

Saturday, April 23, 2011

AAI Gathering in Salt Lake City

Recently, AAI parents organized a family gathering in Salt Lake City, Utah.  About 70 people attended and brought many items for donation to Layla House.  Many thanks to Amy Brandt and Kristie Wilkins for doing so much to put the gathering together.   Below is Amy's description of the event:

 children doing crafts at the kids' table

Several AAI families and friends gathered in a Salt Lake City area church on Saturday, April 9 to meet Merrily and Ted Ripley and support AAI’s humanitarian projects in Ethiopia.  Merrily and Ted were in town to visit family, and it was wonderful for adoptive (and prospective and waiting adoptive) families to be able to put names and faces together and to share conversation with the agency’s director.

Children of all ages, from babies to teenagers, were in attendance and the younger ones enjoyed impromptu games of ball and tag while families met the Ripleys and each other.  Several families only knew each others' names from the AAI listserve, so it was great to be able to meet in person. 

As people arrived, the donation table for Ethiopia overflowed.  Families brought formula and cloth diapers for Wanna House, and school and art supplies for Layla and partner orphanages.  A family traveling in April offered to transport the donations; hopefully they had lots of room in their luggage!

After families shared a potluck dinner and conversation, Merrily began her presentation about adoption and humanitarian projects in Ethiopia.  She showed a video of waiting children created by Emma Dodge Hanson, photographer for the book Faces of Layla.  She also spoke about Opportunity House, AAI's facility for special needs children at Layla House and other humanitarian projects.   AAI's Family Quilt Project in the photo below helps fund all these efforts.  Families at the gathering were the first to see it in person.  It's starting to look so beautiful as leaves, stars and animals are being added when people donate to honor a loved one! 

Thanks to Merrily and Ted for being the impetus behind this gathering.  Salt Lake City area families are planning a fall fundraiser for AAI Humanitarian Programs on September 17, at Washington Park in Parley’s Canyon, with Ethiopian food, children's activities, and Ethiopian items for auction.  Anyone in the area is welcome to attend!

We are always happy to help people organize gatherings.  If you would like to do one in your area, please contact Susan Poisson-Dollar, AAI Director of Development.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

AAI mom Amy Ferrell in line for a Macy's Makeover---Vote for Amy!

 Amy Ferrell and family in front of their house

One of our own--Amy Ferrell, mom to three children from our Ghana program and 2 more, is a finalist for a very exciting prize on Facebook---a Million Dollar Makeover from Macy's.  Read her story below and if you are on Facebook, please head over and vote for Amy.  She has big plans to give back to children in need in Ghana and here in the U.S.  Good luck Amy!

I have always felt blessed.  I have a wonderful family, thanks is huge part to AAI for connecting us with a wonderful sibling group of 3 from Ghana.  Ellen, Elizabeth and Yaw joined my husband and 2 biological sons nearly 3 years ago.  We couldn't be happier with our family.  Being both teachers, finances are always a concern and over the winter break I entered a contest- Macy's Million Dollar Makeover with the prize being a "Life Makeover" from Macy's and Clinton Kelly (the co-host of TLC's What Not to Wear). We have a pretty serious housing concern, so I thought why not!

Out of 19,000 people I was chosen as one of 8. What!?  Me?!  YUP!  I was flown to NYC and got a makeover from Macy's and Clinton Kelly!  How fun!  My makeover went head to head with the other finalists' and I was lucky enough to get enough votes to move on to the final 4.  My next video is one that thoroughly excites me because it connects to my love of children (wish I could say more, but I can't!).  It will be up to vote on starting April 25th for the entire week.  Voting is unlimited and every vote enters you for a chance to win a $500 Macy's gift card!  If I get enough votes, I will be in the final 2!

 Amy with the show's producer after her makeover
I also have spoken with Macy's about my hope to help fund adoption for older children and sibling groups, as well as family preservation projects. They seem very excited about that as a possibility and so am I!  If we win, I plan to do some wonderful things in adoption and also in creating after-school programs for at-risk youth, in addition to hopefully having a forever home for my family.  Please visit Macy's Million Dollar Makeover Facebook page at  You do have to allow the application, but Macy's is just following Facebook rules for running a sweepstake and they DO NOT share your information.  Feel free to spread the word, if you are so moved, and please vote often. Our family appreciates the support and we can't do this without you!
Amy Ferrell

"We can do no great things, only small things with great love." ~ Mother Teresa

Mama to Luke (11), Ellen (9, Ghana), Elizabeth (9, Ghana), Yaw (7, Ghana) and Jonah (6)

Amy and her daughter Ellen