Today was our first trip to visit with our House 2 House families, and it was a resounding success!
Our first stop was in Ambo, a busy city west of Addis Ababa. We went to the woleta Women and Children’s Affairs Office, to meet up with some of the families in our program. We were happy that most of the children were able to come and meet us. We had packages from some sponsors to deliver, but we made sure that each child that we got to meet went away with a car, stuffie, or soccer jersey. They were big hits! So thanks to all the donors.
Our plan ahead of time was to sit and talk with each family and get updates from them, but most of the mothers and aunts who brought their children were doing so over their lunch hour, so we didn’t have much of a chance to chat before they had to go. It was fun to meet many of the mothers and amazing to see the sweet little kids in person. unfortunately, the lady who runs the office just passed away two days ago, and of course, the whole office was in grieving mode, so we didn’t talk to any officials at that location.
After a late lunch we drove out to Guder, which is 12 kms away. This is a much smaller community, more of a town than a city. We were all impressed at how immaculately the streets were kept – it is just a pleasant place.
Our visit was at the woreda Women and Children Affairs office, which shares space with the HIV Association. More than sharing a building, we learned how closely the non-profit and the government office work together to identify and support children and families affected by HIV. For entry into our House 2 House program, there are many steps that take place. The kebele (neighborhood) identifies families that are extremely poor and affected by poverty and HIV. Reports are made (we saw examples of these) by the kebele and the adults applying on behalf of the child also have to collect a letter of support. The files go to the woreda Women’s office and the staff there conduct home visits. They then connect the families with the HIV Association to get access to ARVs and some of the children that fit our priorities, such as being HIV+, missing one or both parents, or physically disabled, get onto the wait list for House 2 House. Officially, we have 10 sponsors for our families in Guder, but in reality, we actually support about 16 children and their families. These families receive a cash stipend to help them send the children to school, feed them adequately, etc. I asked the official about follow-up, and I was impressed to hear not only do they do a home visit to ensure the money is being directed to the welfare of the child, but they also call the schools and collect report cards for all the school children to make sure they are attending. Super staff there at the women’s office, I have to say.
I think what really impressed me in general about Guder was how the non-profits, community and government all work together to take care of these extremely vulnerable children. The other distinct impression I had was that it is a real community, with a connection between the families.
Only 1/2 of the children we sponsor were there, but we left sponsor packages for a couple of children and made sure all the rest went away with a toy or jersey. I personally enjoyed interacting with the grandmothers there, and sharing laughs as we took photos. We also had a chance to meet with an enterprising couple of young women who are running a community lending program, which I will tell you more about in a separate post.
Enjoy the pictures! We did get pictures of all the children and their guardians who were able to join us, and will send them out in the next batch of updates in August! For now, here are some of my favorites of the day.