Nicole’s bottles: how one adoptive mom found her way to help teen girls in Ethiopia

It’s amazing what a determined woman, ample garage space and a generous community can do! Check out Vulnerable Children Society director Nicole’s story below of how she fundraisers for the New Life program. Her small community enables one Ethiopian teen girl escape the sex trade each year… all by collecting cans! Thanks Nicole!! with Love and appreciation from the other directors: Arnica, Tawnya, Menbere, Dacia, Flora and Laura

In the summer of 2008, I embarked on the long journey to adopt a child from Ethiopia. I expected the process to be relatively straightforward, but by the fall of 2009, my adoption agency had gone bankrupt and I didn’t know if I’d ever bring a child home from Ethiopia. There was very little I could do at that point to affect the outcome of the adoption, and I was feeling helpless and defeated. I craved a connection to Ethiopia, so I decided to do the one thing I could: raise money, to help kids there.

I explored the many different ways that I could go about fundraising for kids in Ethiopia – everything from asking people for donations, to organizing events. I hate asking people for money, and the event space was already crowded with fundraisers for local causes. At some point, the idea of an ongoing bottle drive hit me: people could donate their recyclables to me, and I could convert them to cash. Sorting through other people’s garbage wasn’t going to be the sexiest way to fundraise, but for me, it was perfect: it would bring in a steady trickle of cash, and it would be just the kind of busy work I needed to take my mind off the adoption.

Friends and family were skeptical at first (“You really want my trash?”), but they went along with it, and soon my little fundraiser took off. I found myself spending evenings and weekends in my garage, counting and sorting bottles and cans. It was sticky, stinky work… sometimes it was downright nasty, like the time I found a decomposing mouse inside a plastic pop bottle. In spite of all that, it felt purposeful, and that made it rewarding.

Over the last eight years, I’ve raised thousands of dollars for deserving kids in Ethiopia, one bottle and can at a time. All of the proceeds are directed to the Vulnerable Children Society, to fund programs delivered by our in-country NGO partners. I’m grateful to the people, community organizations and businesses on Prince Edward Island who have contributed to this initiative, and to a friend who now transports truckloads of recyclables to the depot for me.

I’m looking forward to continuing my bottle and can drive in the years to come, especially now that I have an assistant: my three-year-old Ethiopian-born daughter, Ayanna! I hope you will consider joining me with your own unique fundraising ideas, to support the amazing work of Vulnerable Children Society. – Nicole

Request for Hygene Donations

With an emphasis on personal hygiene, the goal is for each of the 70 children at the Love and Hope Centre in Kality to have at least three sets of underwear: shorts, panties, socks and undershirts (100% cotton). The center also needs toothbrushes and toothpaste.

If you would like to donate these items to the Vulnerable Children Society’s Love and Hope Center in Kality, please send them to Communications Director Nicole, who will be travelling to Ethiopia in the near future. The address is below.

Or, if you are traveling to Ethiopia soon, please consider bringing these items to the centre. You can contact Nicole for details on how to get to the centre, and for their current needs: info@vulnerablechildren.ca

Nicole Bellefleur – Please send before February 1st
6 Gay Avenue
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
C1A-2N3
CANADA

Field Report: Humbled and Inspired

From Communication Director Nicole, December 2013, from the Love and Hope Centre in Addis Ababa:

The kids who are participating in this program are among the most at-risk in Kality, meaning they have lost one of both parents, are touched by HIV (either they and/or their parents are HIV+), and/or are very poor. They range in age from 5 to 13 years.

One might think that with so many challenges before them, they’d be down-in-the-dumps, but nothing could be farther from the truth. I was greeted with unbridled excitement and enthusiasm – these kids know how to make a gal feel welcome! They were eager to play games with me and show me around, and they just loved watching videos of themselves on my iPhone.

As someone who spent three years teaching English in Japan, I was impressed by how well the kids could speak English. They were all eager to introduce themselves to me, tell me their ages and shake my hand.

Before I left, they sang a joyful song. As I watched them, I couldn’t help but marvel at their resilience. These kids have experienced more hardship than most of us will ever know, but they aren’t dwelling on it. Instead, they are meeting life’s challenges head on, smiling all the way. It was both humbling, and inspiring.

Visit: Love & Hope Centre’s Holistic Approach

by VCS Communications Director Nicole Bellefleur

Bisrat & Nicole2On Monday, December 9th, I visited the Vulnerable Children Society’s Love & Hope Center with Canadian Humanitarian’s in-country representative, Bisrat Sime.

The educational center is located in Kality, an impoverished community of about 28,000 residents located on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. The unemployment rate is exceptionally high and poverty is wide-spread; its residents are among the most vulnerable in the region.

Seventy of the community’s most at-risk kids visit the center on a daily basis, to receive a hot meal at noontime, and to take part in the center’s after-school program – this includes:

• Tutoring and homework assistance daily (the kids attend a nearby school from 8:30am to 3:30pm)
• Reading practice two days per week
• Art classes two days per week
• Free play one day per week

The walled compound features a building with one large room furnished with tables and chairs, and a small office; there is also a courtyard where the kids can play. The entire facility is immaculate.

Nicole - Main Room2

Courtyard2

The program places an emphasis on personal hygiene.

Brushing Teeth2

Each child keeps a toothbrush in a pocket of big canvas storage unit that hangs in the social worker’s office, and brushes his/her teeth every day after school.

SW - Toothbruch Storage2

To one side of the courtyard is a new structure made of corrugated metal that houses separate toilets and showers for boys and girls – this is where the kids take showers on Saturday mornings.

Toilet2 Shower Stall2

Next to this structure is a concrete platform with four taps on either side – this is where they wash their feet every day.

Foot Washing Taps2

Across the courtyard is a small shelter where the parents and guardians prepare nutritious meals for the kids (there is also a kitchen area inside the main building).

Main Building & Shower-Toilet Building2

There are seventy parents/guardians, and since they all want to contribute to caring for the children, they formed a committee that assigns five of them to volunteer for this task each month.

Parents-Guardians - Food Preparation2

The children in the program also receive medical attention from health care professionals.

It’s evident that the social worker managing the Vulnerable Children Society’s Love & Hope Center genuinely cares for each child in his care, and is proud of their accomplishments.

By giving the children access to educational assistance, better nutrition, and health care services, and enabling them to grow through play, sport and art, the program is taking a holistic approach toward ensuring they reach their full potential.

Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org! You can support these wonderful kids and make a difference in their lives. Your support enables children to receive the love and hope they deserve, as well as educational, health and social care. Your donation also enables us to expand our Love and Hope Centre program to other communities. Learn more.

Progress on the Love and Hope Centre in Kality

One month ago, we announced that the Vulnerable Children Society had partnered with Canadian Humanitarian to fund an educational center in Kality, through our sponsorship program.

photo 1

Since our announcement, the team in Ethiopia has been busy getting the Vulnerable Children Society’s Love and Hope Center up and running. We recently received an update from Canadian Humanitarian, regarding the progress in Ethiopia that has been made over the last few weeks.

Canadian Humanitarian has leased a 490 square meter building that has one large room, several smaller activity rooms, and two offices. Vulnerable Children Society is covering the cost of renovating and furnishing the compound.  The renovations are almost done: the team is now working on the plumbing in the shower and toilet house.

The Canadian Humanitarian representative in Ethiopia has received a picture of the Love and Hope Center sign that was made by the Vulnerable Children Society – he loves it! According to him, the words in Amharic are powerful. He has printed the picture of the sign and hung it in the center for all to see while they wait for the actual sign to be brought to Ethiopia by the Canadian staff soon.

photo 3

Most importantly, all of the children in the program have been registered for school, and started attending classes last week. Prior to this, the school supplies that were generously donated by our supporters in Canada and transported to Ethiopia by our volunteers were distributed to the children and their guardians by the Love and Hope Center staff.

We look forward to posting pictures of the Vulnerable Children Society’s Love and Hope Center in the near future!

BACKGROUND

Previously, Canadian Humanitarian had made a long-term commitment to put seventy kids through school, all the way to the post secondary level, through its sponsorship program. Each Canadian Humanitarian sponsor is assigned to one child, and their sponsorship fees cover uniforms and school registration fees.

Recognizing the tremendous benefits of taking a holistic approach to child development, Canadian Humanitarian wanted to enhance the support provided to the kids in the program, by welcoming them to an educational center every day where they would receive hot meals, tutoring and medical services. Following months of carful negotiations, the Vulnerable Children Society committed to funding this important facility, which we named the Love and Hope Center (Fikir Tesfa in Amharic.)

Get involved… become a Love and Hope sponsor!

ABOUT KALITY

Located on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, Kality is a community of displaced people, many who live in slum-like conditions. The unemployment rate is exceptionally high and poverty is wide-spread – its residents are among the most vulnerable in the region. We’re confident that by joining forces with Canadian Humanitarian, we’ll have a significant, long-term impact on the lives of seventy deserving kids and their families, through this enhanced sponsorship program.