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

Pictures of our kids in Wonji

It was such a pleasure to visit with our sponsored kids and their guardians in Wonji last month. The guardians all recognized us and were glad to see us. We were able to give them the House 2 House families the monthly subsidy through our new partner, Canadian Humanitarian, as well as delivering a gift to each of the children. We made sure that every child left with a stuffie, dinky car, soccer jersey… And of course, some toothpaste and a toothbrush for each. We also delivered specific sponsor packages.

Enjoy the pictures of the children… We were able to interview each family (17 out of 20) and have good material for the August updates for their sponsor families!

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A thousand meetings: Slow and steady progress for our programs

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Our last few days have been full of meeting and meetings. Tawnya, Nicole (when she was here) and I (Arnica) have met many times with Bisrat from Canadian Humanitarian, and our consultant, Birhan, to develop plans for our programs and new partnership. We have also met with Meseret and Sintayehu from Faya Orphanage three times, including one joint meeting with Faya Orphanage and Canadian Humanitarian.

It’s obvious that we all have the children’s best interests at heart, and we are making plans in cooperation to move our programs forward. Transitions like this are difficult, because they involve many levels of government, as well as agreements and organizations. But we are committed to coming up with a plan that takes care of the children, no matter what.

I know as sponsors, you have been hanging in there with us through this transition time. Thank you so much to all of you. It takes a while to navigate all the government processes and agreements. I can assure you that Tawnya, Bisrat, Birhan and I have been working very hard to get everything in order. Right now, we are working with Faya Orphanage to determine whose responsibilities will be whose and and what the final program is going to look like. We expect to have a firm plan, involving all the players, by the end of May.

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Seeing our Wonji House 2 House Kids

Finally today, we went and saw the kids in Wonji. It was wonderful to reconnect with the children and their guardians. We met at a school, out in the courtyard, it he hot Ethiopian sun.

We were able to sit and talk to each family that arrived, and to ask the children and guardians questions. For sponsors of these families, there will be a wonderful update in the fall! Thanks to S, the local kebele contact, we not only got to see the majority of the kids, but we also got to give the sponsorship support to all of the Wonji families through our new partner Canadian Humanitarian.

It seems like such slow going in each location, but there are many meetings to have and connections to make. We are basically starting from scratch in each community, depending on the agreements and structure. We have had so many meetings in each community, it was very gratifying to get as far as connecting with the children in at least location! For those of you that sponsor children in other communities, rest assured that your gifts will eventually get to the children. It will just take a few more meetings…!

I think all of us Canadians are learning a lot about doing business in Ethiopia this trip. You can’t get right to the goal or purpose of the meeting. First, you have to build a relationship, then introduce the topic, then answer and ask questions, and eventually get to what you want to do. But this all takes time, tact, and a deft ear for the clues in between the lines. Luckily we’ve had two great Ethiopian culture coaches along the way.

Things seem reasonably on their way in Wonji now… The next week, we will be working on moving everything forward in Guder and Ambo as well. All we need is a little luck and a lot of patience as we navigate due process. Well keep you posted!

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Success in Wonji/ Adama

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Today was very successful.. We drove to Adama as early as possible in the morning to avoid the traffic. The traffic was still horrible, but we managed to get to Adama in the early morning, even with a breakfast break in Debre Zeit.

We had a simple mission in Adama: meet with the official from Wonji and start our new relationship off on the right foot. We had a very fast and pleasant meeting with S, who works at the HIV clinic as well as at the kebele and woreda levels. We recognized each other from our last visit, but somehow the tone this visit was very different from the professional distance of the first meeting last year. We found him extremely warm, reassuring and welcoming… Such a pleasant person. And we are quite confident in our ability to work together on behalf of the kids in Wonji and Adama.

Sponsors would like to know that we received confirmation that until 2 months ago, the 21 families in Wonji were receiving their monthly stipend. The kids also received the uniforms and drought assistance we sent. This was all confirmed by the government, so it is extra nice to have that reassurance. We were clear that we respect Faya Orphanage’s work so far, but it was simply a matter of reporting that we could not continue. S seemed to understand perfectly. “Reports are the backbone of Ethiopian society!” He exclaimed. We had a good laugh at that.

We discussed formal agreements, but also interim care for the kids. And we also talked about seeing the kids and delivering gifts. Wonderfully, he is coming on his day off and arranging for us to meet them all on Sunday. Yeah! We are so very happy about that! And can’t wait to see our kids and post pictures.

Now off to bed after another exceedingly long day! Bon voyage to our dear friend (and director) Nicole, who was trying to think of every excuse not to fly out tonight. She had a wonderful time… Especially handing out some toys to kids at the bean factory today.

Good night!
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VCS directors start work in Ethiopia

Greetings from Vulnerable Children Society in Ethiopia! our first official day of work, we headed out to Guder, which is 2-3 hours west of Addis Ababa. We will have a report on our meeting in Guder tomorrow, but for today, please enjoy some pictures.

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Getting ready early in the morning to head out to Guder. Extra coffees for the jet-lagged volunteers!

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After our successful meeting with the woreda government officials. From left to right: Bisrat from Canadian Humanitarian, Nicole, Birhanu the woreda Women and Children’s desk assistant, Arnica, Birhan our VCS consultant, Asegash the Women and Children’s desk manager, and Tawnya. Rita was taking the picture.

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Nicole and Tawnya looking very official.

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The non official monkeys battering the roof of the woreda office. I recognized Columbus monkeys, but am not sure of the other type. Any ideas?

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