Missy and I became "internet friends" following her visit to Kebebe Tsehai Government Orphanage. For her post regarding her experience read here:
(NOTE: I’m Janet, and I can be found at www.bellemes.blogspot.com, but I’m one of “those moms” who stopped regularly blogging when the baby came home from
And in our case, a second child closely followed the first… Someday I’ll blog
I read Missy's post in the middle of the night one night (I have 2 kids under age 3) and I couldn't sleep the rest of the night. Many of you had the same experience. 72 people commented. Many people shared a link on facebook. People cried. People prayed. Moms looked at their babies and thought or said- what if that was my baby? People asked how they could help. This post is my (very delayed) response to that tragic situation where babies are kept alive but not held. Where babies hopelessly stare at the wall, or lay in pain or in wet diapers without protesting. Where the needs greatly outnumber those who can meet them.
Where to start... Kebebe Tsehai has become a place I think about when I can't sleep, a place I pray for, a place my heart breaks for. My husband and I first visited Kebebe when we were in
for a month adopting our
daughter in June 2010. Our first visit there was absolutely shocking to me.
Believe it or not, the conditions were even worse then, than what Missy
I took 10 steps in the door and froze. What I saw broke my heart. Babies lay 2 or 3 to a crib in wet or dirty diapers, with bottles propped up and milk flowing down their tiny necks. The stench of the room almost knocked me over. There were 8 caregivers per 8 hour shift caring for these kids. Get this- there were about 125 kids and babies there at that time. Several cribs were missing bars or even whole sides. One crib was right up against an open window. Babies and toddlers were sleeping in the middle of the day, staring at the ceiling or just crying with no one in sight to help them, change them, feed them. Preschoolers much too old for cribs were sitting or laying in cribs just looking around- waiting for someone to touch them, to pay them some attention, to love them. After a minute of shock, another Mom grabbed my hand and said "We need to pull it together and love these kids!" and that is what we did. We went around hugging, holding, praying, loving. I haven't had many moments in life where I felt so useful, so needed, like I was doing the work of God.
It was also one of the clearest times of my life that I heard God speak. Not audibly, but in my heart. He said "DO SOMETHING!" My husband felt the same. We asked what could be done, and were told that hiring people to care for these kids would be a great start. We asked our friends and family to help by sponsoring caregivers at Kebebe. God provided people willing to partner with us. Within a few weeks, caregivers were hired, and the number of caregivers at Kebebe doubled. We also later did a drive for cloth diapers, as I had been told that the babies (even newborns) were only changed 2x in 24 hours- 4 am and 4 pm.
The caregiver sponsorship program is now being overseen by the Adera Foundation in the
It costs $50 a month to hire a caregiver. There are 28 newer caregivers at
Kebebe Tsehai (most of them were hired in August 2010). We are currently in serious
need of monthly sponsors or one time donations of any amount. It all adds up! We
trust that God is able and He will provide for this program. Still, we need your
help to help these babies and kids. We believe that their lives are just as
valuable as our own children. Clearly this program is not enough to get them
everything they need, but it's a start. If you'd like more information or to
give a donation, please visit: Ethiopia
My husband, Joe, visited Kebebe again this April, for the 3rd time. This time a few caregivers approached him and thanked him for their jobs. He was so surprised and so humbled. They interviewed four of the newer caregivers and discovered that many of them had been orphans themselves, were fleeing abusive spouses, or grueling day labor, and this job allowed them to support themselves and their children, and to escape the dangerous life of poverty. Several of the caregivers had “aged out” of the government orphanage for girls- Kechene before being hired here. I was reminded that this program is good for the kids, and good for the caregivers, too. It’s not solving the problem at Kebebe, but it is a start. Even WITH this program, the caregiver to child ratio is still 1:10 or so. But we have to start somewhere! If we can sustain sponsorship for these 28, maybe we can do more! Please join us in making a difference for some of the most vulnerable orphans in
And if you have any questions, please find me on facebook and ask! I’d put my email here, but I think I’d get spammed for weeks… J