House 2 House in Adama and Wonj

Yesterday we finished up our visits to all the children in Wonji and Adama. Even though these communities are side by side, they are totally different places with different needs and different programs.

Wonji is a rural community of approximately 20,000 residents. It’s a much wealthier rural area than Guder or especially Nakemte; however, appearances can be deceiving. There is a sugar cane factory in the community that’s as many decent paying jobs. Any family who isn’t supported by the factory is at a serious disadvantage, though, since they are competing for the food resources, without a good income. In others words, the economic gap is deep.

House 2 House in Wonji is a community program enabled by Vulnerable Children and implemented by Faya Orphanage in cooperation with the local HIV clinic and the kebele (neighborhood government.) The children are referred by the HIV clinic based on their HIV status, their guardians HIV status, if they are orphaned, their family income and their body mass index. The same man that I met with works at both the kebele office and the clinic, so he is the go-between.

The cool thing about the Wonji program is that it has an organized support system attached to it. The kebele has donated a room in a house across the street form the office where families struggling with HIV meet to discuss treatment, stigma, and just to share experiences. The room is stocked with a buna coffee set… All you need for prolonged discussion in Ethiopia!

With e official, I discussed many things… How they started giving a certain amount of stipend but then decreased it because people were migrating from another organization to ours. They have tried some gardening in the area (the other org) to deal with the dominant food issue, but due to lack of training it failed. We also discussed the possibility of group-based community lending as a wa y to get people up on their feet and out of the programs. I ink we are all on the same page, and it wil be interesting to see how the program evolves over time.

While I was meeting wi the official, Tawnya and Rita were having fun handing out gifts from sponsors and from us. Every child we met got a small toy, a soccer jersey or school supplies! Thanks to all the generous donations we brought with us.

The program in Adama is much more labour intensive, because it is organized directly by the orphanage and the children and families are spread all across the urban city. Adama (formerly know as Nazret during the Red Terror) is a gorgeous, laid back city full of flowering trees, fun shops and cobbled stoned streets. The children live all over the city in the poorer slums and orphanages.

We had a chance to meet with all the families in Adama and Wonji, due to the May day holiday, which was awesome. Sponsors can expect nice update pictures in their August updates!

Sponsors.. Know that your money is being well spent! The dollars are stretched because the vast majority of our sponsored kids are in programs that cooperate with local government AND. Other NGOs… A smart strategy for sure!

So now we are off to Addis again. We have lots of meetings with other NGOs, and will meet with our new Ethiopian Vulnerable Children staffer as well. Enjoy the pictures of our visits with House 2 House, as well as some gorgeous pictures of the area!

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House 2 House in Ambo and Guder

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.

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Our Semi-Annual Newsletter!

Please downlaod, read and pass on our semi-annual newletter.

It’s chock full of moving stories from visitors to Ethiopia, wonderful pictures of the children, exciting news on our latest projects and so much more!

Download it and pass it on!!

VCS November 2011 Newsletter

2nd Round of Food Aid Feeds Hundreds

Yesterday we received word that Vulnerable Children Society’s second round of food aid was distributed by our wonderful partner, Faya Orphanage. The impact was even greater than we anticipated.

According to the House 2 House program director Sintayehu Habtemariam, 66 families received bags of tef. These families included a minimum of 275 children.

Additionally, 45 students received school materials to start the year off right, and 30 of those students also received some food.

The pictures that follow show people recieving food aid in one area and children with their school materials another area. The lineups went into the evening, but the distribution was calm and organized.

Sintayehu commented on how surprised and grateful the families were: “Everybody was happy.  Public media also received the documents. We thank you for everything you did for these children.”

Than you so much to our wonderful donors who made this drought relief work possible. We are truly grateful.

The happy faces of a sponsored family

Last week we got some new pictures of children needing sponsorship in the House to House program from our partner organization in Ethiopia, Faya Orphanage. Along with those pictures was tucked in this one:

This lovely little girl, her sister and mom are the recipients of a family sponsorship. They actually only started a few months ago, and they were in a pretty darn desperate state. But here they are, picking up the sponsorship amount, as well as school supplies donated by a visitor, and looking  happier and healthier than we ever expected.Wow.

This family will still have challenges… their life is not easy. But I think you can see from the look in the mother’s eyes that it means the world of difference to her and her little ones’ well-being.

If you are interested in sponsoring a deserving family, we currently have two families that are waiting to be matched with… well, is it you?