Friday, June 24, 2011

AAI needs new vehicles! Can you help??

Children piling in the van for another trip to the doctor's office
If you've visited Layla House in Ethiopia, you have undoubtedly seen and probably ridden in one of our old red vans.  Each day when they are not "in the shop," these vans travel miles and miles with children, staff and visiting parents.   They go to medical and dental clinics, the airport, the U.S. embassy, passport offices, the Mercato for food and supplies, and often to small villages in remote areas.   They carry social workers to visit children in our sponsorship program, adoptive parents to meet birth family, and staff to visit our partner orphanages all over Addis and well beyond.  At this point, they are really on their last legs with engines, bodies, seats and upholstery falling apart.  They are spending more and more time in the repair shop which wreaks havoc on the schedule and prevents us from operating as efficiently as we'd like.  As our staff there informs us, it's finally time to say goodbye to the oldest red Toyota van and to thank it for serving us well all these years!

Although the situation with our present vans has gone from bad to worse these past several months, we have GOOD NEWS to report.  New vehicles are usually very expensive in Ethiopia but because of our recent official agreement with the Ethiopian government to operate and expand Opportunity House, our home for special needs children, we have special permission to import a duty-free vehicle.  That means we will be able to purchase a vehicle for about $10,000, a deal we don't want to pass up but also a cost we don't want to pass on in increased adoption fees.  A generous adoptive family has already come forward with a $5000 challenge grant----if we can raise the other $5000, they will match each donation dollar for dollar.  So every dollar donated to our ETHIOPIA VEHICLE CAMPAIGN, is actually $2! Make your donation count twice.

Abraham, one of our drivers, embarking on yet another trip with a full van of kids
Our Ghana program is also in need of a new vehicle.  The Ripley Foundation, our affiliate in that country, has had no van for months now and families and stuff are increasingly reliant on taxis and public transportation to get around Accra and to travel to other parts of the countryAs our adoption program in that country has grown, we able to do more and more humanitarian work and reach out to more orphanages delivering food and supplies donated by our families and supporters.  The lack of a reliable vehicle is the biggest impediment to improving our work there and to giving visiting families a quality experience in that country.  Anita Gillispie, our Ghana coordinator, is in-country right now and she reports that sometimes it is very difficult to find a taxi big enough to take three or four kids and a staff member to a medical appointment and that without their own van, they are having to forgo many important errands.  So we are also starting a Ghana Vehicle Campaign and welcome any of your donations to get the Ripley Foundation staff moving again!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Rock for Layla House

Adam Ezra and percusionist Turtle rock the house!

In March, AAI Director of Development Susan Poisson-Dollar led a trip to Layla House for 12 high school students and 3 chaperones from the Emma Willard School in Troy, NY.  One of the high school girls, Hayley Kohler from Westwood, MA, was so moved by her experience that she and her parents organized a fundraiser for friends and family with Boston Area rock musician Adam Ezra who often devotes his considerable talent to good causes.

Haley (left) with 2 friends

Haley's June fundraiser brought in $2000 for Layla House and Hayley has chosen to help the Grace Fund, the Good Neighbor Fund and a medical fund for the children of Layla.  Her family recently sent these photos of the event.   Hayley did a fabulous job decorating with pictures she took in Ethiopia and also gave a short slide show during the intermission so that her friends and family could learn more about our work!

Thank you so much Kohler family.  We hope it inspires more people to do something fun for a cause.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Melissa Fay Greene comes to Seattle on her book tour!

Merrily looks over Melissa Fay Greene's shoulder as she signs a book
 Post submitted by AAI parent Susan Denning
When Melissa Fay Greene’s book tour for No Biking in the House Without a Helmet hit the Seattle/Tacoma area, local adoptive families enjoyed a great evening out.  Co-hosted by the Ethiopian Community Mutual Association, the event took place at the ECMA’s new facilities in South Seattle and attracted a sell-out audience of over 200 people.  Melissa enthralled the crowd with excerpts from her very entertaining new book and was joined onstage for a panel discussion by author David Guterson who shared his views as an adoptive parent.  Members of the local Ethiopian community were present and they contributed to the Q&A discussion, offering their own views on international adoption.  Many adoptive parents seemed to value the opportunity to hear this frank and open dialog.
Merrily and Ted Ripley and Barbara Patton attended, bringing along the AAI quilt for display.  Eliott Bay Book Company, another co-host of the event, donated 10% of the proceeds from the evening’s book sales to the ECMA.  And most touching of all, even the local Ethiopian teens who provided childcare for the evening quietly donated their takings to ECMA.  This was a truly wonderful community event.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bright Futures Fund Girls--an update

The Bright Futures Girls

Just nine months ago, we learned that all of the girls pictured above were too old to receive US Visas and therefore ineligible for adoption.  Birthdates are not generally recorded in rural Ethiopia and children are often smaller than a typical child that age would be here in the U.S.   Therefore it is always a bit of an art to guess the ages of children who arrive at Layla House.  We rely on both doctor's reports, relatives' recollections and technology like wrist x-rays that can show at what stage of puberty a child is in.  Even though these girls had been at Layla House for some time we had hoped that they would still be eligible but it was not to be and other plans had to be made to assure that they would still have a "bright future."  Thus the Bright Futures Fund was born and the girls were enrolled in a boarding school outside of Addis so that they could continue their education and begin preparation for a life in Ethiopia. 

Recently Merrily and Susan Holmgren were able to see the girls on their trip to Ethiopia because the entire group were on a weekend visit to one of our partner orphanages--Sele Enat.   Merrily returned with photos and a social worker's report about how the girls are doing.   Here is an excerpt from that report:
It has been nine months since the girls have joined the school. At first, though they struggled a lot so that they can adjust themselves to the new environment, gradually they have been becoming acquainted with the school system, surroundings and with the other children whom they learn together. At this time they are also doing better day after day and following their schooling courteously. I have been able to see some of the class exams they have taken in the past nine months and they are all doing acceptable. The last semester of this year is at hand and they are doing their best to prepare themselves so that they are getting good result. They are going to have a final exam that starts from June 13-17/2011.
Many people have met the girls over the years and have have received some donations to help us with this project.  The cost of boarding school, books and necessities comes to about $1300 per girl/per year.  If you would like to help ensure that these girls do indeed have a Bright Future, click here.  Please contact Brooke Cole, AAI Sponsorship coordinator.  Donors to the Bright Futures Fund will receive periodic updates and may send letters to the girls via the AAI office in the U.S.  Let's encourage them to do well and succeed!