Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ethiopia - Day 6 (Part Two) - Visiting the Government Orphanages

In the afternoon, we visited three government-run orphanages in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia’s capital city of 4 million people). The first orphanage we visited is the Kolfe Orphanage for older boys (ages 7-20). It was definitely bare bones conditions, but it was encouraging to see some of the improvements that have been made for the boys’ lives there, due in large part to donations made through Gladney. It makes us happy that our agency is not just about adoption, but also about providing humanitarian aid to orphans who may not ever be adopted!

The second orphanage we visited is called Kebebe Tsehai (meaning “Round Sun”). This orphanage is for newborns – 7 years old (all orphans that need families!). It was the saddest and worst of the orphanages we saw. We first walked into the baby room, and the stench of sour milk and stale air was potent. I noticed a couple of the men had to cover their noses until they adjusted to the smell. The room was pretty much wall-to-wall metal cribs with just enough space to walk between the rows. Every crib was occupied. The orphanage is severely understaffed. For the 30 or so babies that were there, there were only two caregivers. They have to prop bottles for the babies to be fed, which can lead to pneumonia. There were a lot of sick babies, and each one has his or her own story. I want to tell you about just one of them, because he is the one who I (for reasons only God knows) connected with.

When I asked if I could hold a baby, I was told by a Gladney staff who was there with us, “By all means! Please hold one. These babies need to be held!” So I looked around and found a tiny baby who looked like he was maybe six weeks old—no bigger than the first pictures that I saw of our Biruk when he was referred to us. I wanted to pick him up, but he didn’t have a diaper on, and he was lying in his own feces. (I imagine that someone took off a previously soiled diaper, but never got back to putting on a new one, as they are so overwhelmed by the needs of so many babies). Someone alerted one of the two caregivers, who came over and diapered him and returned him to his crib all swaddled.

I picked him up and gave him his bottle. He wasn’t so interested in the milk, but this tiny baby boy never took his eyes off of me, and when I looked into his eyes and talked to him, he smiled at me. Let me tell you, I am sure that his smiles were not because he was a charming newborn (though he was soooooo precious), and they certainly weren’t because he was charmed by me. Instead, I sensed his desperation. It was as if he was trying to communicate with me that he so desperately NEEDED someone’s eyes to gaze upon him. I held him until it was almost time to go, trying to give him what I sensed he needed—connection. And then, I put him in his crib and prayed that God would care for Him and provide this sweet baby with a Mommy. It broke my heart.

I’m so thankful that most of those babies will be adopted eventually, as adoptive families tend to want to adopt infants. Still, Belay Tafesse (director of Gladney’s Ethiopia Program) drove home the sobering truth that some of the babies there don’t live to be adopted, saying that he once saw seven babies die in that orphanage in one night. The internationally accepted standard for orphanages is to have a minimum of one caregiver for every five babies. Gladney’s care centers (where our boys are currently living) have one caregiver for every three babies. The Kebebe Tsehai orphanage has one for every FIFTEEN babies.

It only costs $70 US per month to pay a caregiver, and we all have to power to make a change! Would you consider making a difference in the lives of Ethiopia’s orphans by contributing money to hire more caregivers at Kebebe Tsehai? Another adoptive family is partnering with the Gladney Center for Adoption to make this project HAPPEN!!! Click HERE to read more about it and to learn how you can become involved!

Thank you for considering providing for the needs of the poorest of the poor. These babies need us, and we can help to significantly improve their circumstances and lives!


Belleme said...

Wow! Great post! I will never forget those babies at K. T.... I held 10 or more infants- maybe the same one you held! Thanks for linking our blog- we need 8 more sponsors!!

kcinnova said...

This post made me cry. I have a friend who visited China for a summer and experienced conditions like this in an orphanage for handicapped children. She came back to the US, raised support, and returned to China for nearly 10 years, effecting incredible changes for handicapped children of all ages.

Laura Ferry-Jimenez said...

congrats! the boys are GORGEOUS!! I've been following your journey and am so happy for you guys. we're also hoping to adopt from Ethiopia and using Gladney. how exciting!

we started our first adoption fundraiser which are custom photo adoption announcements. I'd love to gift one to fellow Gladney families. :)

if interested, you can read about it here:

The Lambos said...

Hi, I found your blog through a friend's and saw this post. We have been trying to adopt two older girls from Kebebe Tsehay for the last year. While we were there this last April an older child who was deaf passed away because he couldn't communicate what was wrong with him---my mother in law and I were just talking last night and wondering how many of those children (and especially babies) pass away that we don't even know about. It's actually so strangely coincidental that I read your blog this morning. My heart is in that orphanage---and not just because my hopefully soon to be daughters are there.

If it's not too much to ask, would you mind emailing me pictures of any older kids you took while you were there?

Thanks for sharing about your experience and not letting people forget about these little ones.


Kelli Ugarte said...

OH my goodness, I am a mess today emotionally. Crying about everything and this post about that baby just made me boo hoo.