Crafting, reading and meeting at the Love and Hope Centre

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On March 10, I had the delight of spending the day at Vulnerable Children Society’s Love and Hope Centre in Kality, on the outskirts of Addis. In fact, a whole gaggle of us met at the centre. My family came along with me to teach crafts, and my kids ran around with the other Ethiopian children their age. I had a meetings with staff from Canadian Humanitarian, our partner organization that operates the centre, as well as Deb, the expedition coordinator from Canada. We were also joined by other Vulnerable Children reps: our project consultant Birhan, as well Nicole, one of our directors from Canada. It was a merry, busy day!
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Now, as the president of Vulnerable Children, I spend most of my time in Ethiopia in meetings, strategy sessions, and project evaluations. But this time, I got to interact with the kids, reading them stories and leading a craft.
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My mother, a retired school teacher, prepared a fantastic but very involved craft, that helped the kids practice their English. Counting, colours… My husband father, mother and I all lead groups of 15-20 kids, making beaded frogs and lizards. My hats off to my family… I had the benefit of rudimentary Amharic on my side; but they operated their groups with humour, determination, and a lot of hands on help. At the end of two hours, two hours! all the kids went home with an incredibly special, durable, and fun toy to show their families.
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On a personal note, my seven year old daughters visited and participated too. Most of huge children at the centre are right around their age, so even though they were shy at first, once their daddy got involved in chasing around the kids, they were in their like dirty shirts. My husband Jason only knows a few words of Amharic, but all he needed to start that game was by yelling “Anbassa!” (Lion!) at the top of his lungs. Then he had a crowd of kids, including ours, after him!
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The children usually come to the centre for lunch, then return to school until the end of the school day. Then they return for after school tutoring, games, art club, showers, teeth brushing, etc. but since it was the first day back for them after “spring break,” the kids came for lunch, and stayed until the end of the day.

I was really impressed by how the ideas concocted between Canadian Humanitarian’s former executive director and I, those months ago, have transformed into reality. It’s amazing to see. For example, we asked the caregivers to be involved in cooking… So far, five groups of female guardians have rotated through the kitchen, making lunch every day. The guardians are paid as cooks usually would be, and then the next month, they are replaced by new guardians. It’s a pretty awesome, legitimate way to financially involved them in the centre, as well as being involved and supportive.
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The centre’s coordinator, an amazing young woman, came with the children from the former program, so she knows and understands their individual needs well. Also on staff are a social worker, and an accountant. In reality, they all help with the day to day operations, and it’s an extremely efficient and effective operation.

We did have meetings after the children went home (what’s a visit without a meeting?) to discuss the needs and new developments at the centre. I’ll share those with you all after I have a chance to discuss them with Vulnerable Children Society’s directors. But the punch line is that both our project consultant (who is doing formal evaluation work for us,) Nicole and I… We were all extremely happy with the project!
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If you are currently a Love and Hope sponsor, you should be really proud of your support. It’s money extremely well spent! With an incredible well run centre. Hats off to our partner, Canadian Humanitarian, for operating a fantastic project. And hats off to you, for funding it!
Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!
We hope you will ask a friend to join us as a Love and Hope sponsor, so that we can enrich this program, and open another centre in the near future!
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January 2014 Letter from VCS President

Happy new year! 2014 is shaping up to be a great year for Vulnerable Children Society. We have two wonderful programs running, and goals to expand and help even more children living in Ethiopia.

I am so proud of being a part of the society over the past year. Despite obstacles, we have truly stuck to our values of compassion, transparency, sustainability, and impact. We have shared news, even when there wasn’t good news to give. Thank goodness, there was a lot of good news at the end of the year! We have created new partnership programs that have a strong lasting impact on the children and families. Even though I personally am not known for my patience, we have worked with compassion, not only for the children but also with our previous and new partners. It’s also been amazing to see the outpouring of love and support from our sponsor community. And lastly, we have been careful in our commitments and are ensuring that Vulnerable Children Society will be able to operate sustainably, long into the future.

Our directors have been busy, and our partners have been too. Nicole, our communications director, just got back from Ethiopia, and has written a wonderful update on one of the children in our Love and Hope Centre. You can read all about it and see gorgeous pictures of the project we are so proudly working with Canadian Humanitarian on.

Our newest director, Flora, has taken on the role of fundraising. Flora tells me that we have a goal of 20 new Love and Hope sponsors before June 1, 2014. She is enthusiastic, and knows exactly what our society needs at this moment.Flora wants to share that she is happy to support anyone who would like to run a fundraiser during this year, so that we can do more projects like supporting the young women at the retraining center in Addis Ababa.

As you know, we have a policy of never making commitments that we cannot match. But two challenges have put us in a “thinner” situation. Don’t get me wrong, as you will see in our interim financial statements, we have money in the bank. But, the matching of monthly income and monthly expenditures is closer then we are comfortable with.

There are two factors at play. Firstly, many of our long-time sponsors signed up through CanadaHelps with a commitment of one year sponsorship. Unfortunately, some of these sponsorships are expiring and we are missing months of support. What can you do to help?

Please check your sponsorship on CanadaHelps.org, and set your Vulnerable Children Society monthly donation to “no expiry.” You can always cancel it at any time, of course. Then we will not miss those months of income.

The other challenge that we are facing is the normal attrition of sponsors. When people get divorced, or lose their jobs, they are no longer able to meet their sponsorship commitment. We didn’t actively encouraged new sponsorship for over a yea,r when we were having the transition issues in 2013. But now we are here in 2014, with stable, excellent programs. We need more new sponsors to stabilize our monthly core funding, and then grow our programs.

If you would like to help us grow our sponsor base, so that the society can comfortably meet its commitments and even grow to help more children, please ask your friends and neighbors if they would like to become a monthly donor.

We suggest a minimum $35 monthly donation, but of course, it can be in any amount. A little goes a long way in Ethiopia. And a little more goes a lot more!

Myself, I am heading back to Ethiopia in February on a personal trip. But I will be visiting our Love and Hope Centre for the first time, and also visiting with young women in Hope for Children’s teenage preemployment training program. I’m so excited to meet the young people Nicole and others are raving about.

And I can’t wait to blog all about it! So if you haven’t already, please subscribe to our blog on our website homepage so you can see all the kids’ shining faces and hear all the news.

Finally, I’d like to invite each of you to our annual general meeting on January 22, 2014. Everyone who is a monthly sponsor, is also a member of Vulnerable Children Society. That means that you have not only have a chance to ask questions and understand how we work, but it’s also an opportunity to get more involved. If you would like to attend our annual general meeting, please simply send me an email info@vulnerablechildren.ca and I will gladly include you.

Thanks again for your amazing support this past year. I can’t wait to work more with you in 2014.

Arnica

President, Vulnerable Children Society

2014 Annual General Meeting

Attention all supporters, donors and monthly sponsors! You are cordially invited to our annual general meeting: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 10am Pacific time.

It’s more interesting than it sounds! This year, we’ll have directors telling about their visits to our current projects, explaining our financial picture, sharing a marketing and sponsorship plan, explaining some of the rules for charities registered in Ethiopia, and a few more odds and sods. The nice thing is that we are holding our meeting on Facebook, so you can follow the conversation, and be as involved as you like. It’s a great chance to ask questions, offer ideas, and be involved!

If you would like to be involved, please rsvp by January 20, 2014 to info@vulnerablechildren.ca.

Major Announcement from Vulnerable Children Society

This week we have two MAJOR announcements to make to our donors and sponsors. Please watch the video below to hear the news directly from 5 of the 6 directors of Vulnerable Children Society. (Pam is in Swaziland, so she didn’t get in the video!)

Click here: To learn more about our new Love and Hope Centre in Kality!

VULNERABLE CHILDREN OPENS NEW EDUCATIONAL CENTRE FOR CHILDREN IN ADDIS ABABA

Vulnerable Children Society has partnered with Canadian Humanitarian to open the Love and Hope ፍቅር ተስፋ Centre for at-risk children in Kality, an outlying neighborhood of Addis Ababa.

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In June 2013, Canadian Humanitarian made a long-term commitment to put seventy kids through school, all the way to the post secondary level, through its own 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 Kality.

Vulnerable Children Society stepped up to the plate.

Following months of careful negotiations and planning, both organizations are pleased to announce that Vulnerable Children Society is opening the Love and Hope ፍቅር ተስፋ Centre  to serve the children in Kality. Vulnerable Children will fund the educational center through its existing sponsorship program.

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Vulnerable Children’s Love and Hope ፍቅር ተስፋ Centre  will welcome the Kality children every day, where they will receive hot meals, tutoring and medical services.

An existing building has been leased, and Vulnerable Children is covering the cost of renovating and furnishing it.  Canadian Humanitarian will use its vocational center in Addis Ababa to build some of the furniture; where possible, they will also involve the kids’ guardians in the renovation work.

Renovations are currently underway, and the children are expected to be attending the Centre by October.

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JOINING FORCES

Canadian Humanitarian sponsors will continue to be Kids Hope child sponsors; their funds will be directed to supporting the children to attend school. They will receive regular updates on the individual children they are sponsoring through Canadian Humanitarian.

Vulnerable Children Society sponsors will become Love and Hope sponsors. They will receive quarterly updates on the all the children at the Kality centre, including details on one or two featured children.

Canadian Humanitarian will manage and operate the educational centre. Vulnerable Children Society will have strong strategic direction over it, and is the major funder of the centre.

Because of its close proximity on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, it will be easy for Vulnerable Children Society’s Love and Hope sponsors to visit the educational center when they travel to Ethiopia, to see how their financial contributions are transforming vulnerable children’s lives.

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ABOUT KALITY

Located on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, Kality is a community of displaced people who live in impoverished and slum-like conditions. The unemployment rate is exceptionally high and poverty is wide-spread;  its residents are among the most vulnerable in the region.

By joining forces with Canadian Humanitarian, Vulnerable Children Society sponsors will have a significant, long-term impact on the lives of seventy deserving kids and their families, through the Love and Hope ፍቅር ተስፋ Centre.

For more information

Please contact: Vulnerable Children Society, info@vulnerablechildren.ca

FAQ: What is happening with the House 2 House program and Educational Centre?

One of our values at Vulnerable Children Society is transparency – so even when we don’t have complete answers, we want to keep you fully informed about recent developments in our programs. We would like to assure you that we are wisely stewarding your donated funds, and working diligently to help vulnerable children in Ethiopia.

To begin with, I feel some back-story is necessary.

Back in April, we announced that we had partnered with Canadian Humanitarian, so they could operate our House 2 House program, in the place of Faya Orphanage. Most of you know that three directors from Vulnerable Children Society, including myself, spent a gruelling three weeks in Ethiopia in May working on the transition from one operator to another.

Our House 2 House program has operated in essentially four communities, with roughly 20 kids each in Ambo, Guder and Wonji, and a handful of kids in Adama.

While in Ethiopia, we met with government officials in Guder, and via the phone, in Ambo. The program in those communities is governed by an agreement between Faya Orphanage and the Ambo zone level of government. The purpose of our visit was to introduce the government to our new program operator; however, when we met, it was obvious that Faya Orphanage was continuing to operate the program using residual funding.

We also met with a local politician in Wonji, and were able to visit with and support the families, who had not heard from Faya Orphanage in a couple of months. We reassured them that we had every intention of continuing the support of their families via Canadian Humanitarian. This program, we learned, never had a formal agreement in place, and we confirmed that we would approach the government to make a formal agreement and set up an official program to support the kids and their families.

We also met with Faya Orphanage – six times over the three weeks. We asked them about their capacity to continue the program without our financial support, and what their intentions were moving forward. If they had the ability, we were content to let them continue to operate the House 2 House program without us, as the kids would be cared for, and that is the main thing. However, they told us very clearly that they did not have the financial capacity to continue the House 2 House program. Finally, Faya Orphanage agreed to the transfer of operational responsibility to Canadian Humanitarian, and promised to write a letter releasing the responsibility of the children in Ambo and Guder, so that Canadian Humanitarian could move forward with their proposal to start a new program and assume responsibility for the children.

As soon as we left Ethiopia, Faya Orphanage changed their minds and chose not to follow through on the commitments they made. We are telling you this, because we want you to know that we at Vulnerable Children Society, and the rep at Canadian Humanitarian, bent over backwards to work with Faya Orphanage, and to ensure the continuing support of the children. We have done everything in our power, but Faya has broken every agreement and has blocked our attempts to continue support.

So where are we at?

As of this week, the government in Ambo (that governs Ambo and Guder) told us that Faya Orphanage will not release responsibility of the children and is continuing to operate in those communities. So until they are seriously in arrears with payments, the children are not available to support.

In Wonji, we are still working on setting up an agreement to start an educational centre, and are cautiously optimistic about our ability to continue work in that community. Our intention is to continue support of the same Wonji children with the full capacity of an educational centre and a formal agreement between the government and Canadian Humanitarian. We are hoping to open an educational centre in another community in Oromia, to help more children. We’ll tell you more about the other community as we soon as we determine if it is an appropriate fit.

In essence, our House 2 House program and our educational centre program are in a time of transition. 
We are working hard with Canadian Humanitarian to get them back up and running. We are hoping to support both the children in Wonji, as well as children in an additional community, with complete educational centres that will provide for their learning, health and social needs.

In the meanwhile, I can assure you that your monthly sponsorship funds are not being squandered or wasted. In fact, we are very careful fiscal managers. As soon as the educational centres are up and running (this may be as soon as a couple of months from now!) every sponsor will be reassigned to a child at one of the two educational centres. Wonji sponsors will, of course, stay with the same children. Ambo and Guder sponsors, as well as educational centre sponsors, will be assigned to new children in one of the two centres. It will take approximately three sponsors to support each child at this level of care, so working together, we are able to start two centres at the same time! Your sponsorship dollars are essential to start these centres and support all these children.

You may also be interested to know that we are also working on another project to help vulnerable children with our one-time project funds, and you can expect to hear more about that in the near future!

We promise to keep you up to date with the development of our educational centre and House 2 House programs, even when we don’t have complete information. I hope this communication reassures you that your funds are being stewarded responsibly, and will indeed go to the intended purpose: giving vulnerable children in Ethiopia a chance to not only survive, but thrive.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email us at info(at)vulnerablechildren.ca We will do our best to reply back within a week, or post the reply to your question as an FAQ post.

Our sincere appreciation for your continuing support!
Arnica and the other five directors of Vulnerable Children Society