This time of year in central Ethiopia, the days are mildly warm, the sun is shining and the meskel flowers are in full bloom. It’s the end of the big rain season, and there is a daily vibrancy of growing things.
Tawnya and I (Arnica) arrived at Vulnerable Children Society’s Love and Hope Centre three days ago. It had been a year since either of us had visited, and we were wowed on our first steps through the gates. The centre courtyard, which formerly housed a vast expanse of red dirt and a tarped shack for cooking, was full of gloriously growing. The vegetable gardens that our volunteer Stefan started six months ago had been producing beets, collards, lettuce and other vegetables for the children to eat for the last few months. The difference the gardens made was amazing… The whole centre felt alive and welcoming, even before the children arrived from school.
We spoke first with the guard who had taken on the gardens has his project at the centre. Ethiopia can be quite hierarchical, but I was very pleased to learn that he had started a gardening club, and several of the children were regularly attending the gardens under his supervision.
Our next exciting visit was the new cooking building. Vulnerable Children funded this wonderful improvement to the property last year. The new metal cooking area enables the guardians who cook for the children on a rotating basis to prepare nutritious food out of the sun and rain. When you are cooking for 70 children each day, it nice to have a place to store food and plates, chop and stir and prepare the lunches. The children just started at a new school that likes the children to stay onsite during lunchtime. So instead of all the kids showing up for lunch, the guardians were cooking 70 to go lunches, delivered to the school by community members. In discussion with the mothers and grandmother on this month’s shift, we learned that the lunch boxes provided by the families varied from metal tiffins to leaking plastic plates. So we mentally added new lunch boxes to our sponsorship wish list!
Also in the courtyard are a bathroom, two showers, and outdoor taps for washing feet and brushing teeth. The children started to filter in, and the foot washing shifts immediately began. When the centre opened a couple years ago, we realized that many of the kids had never had a bath or a shower. So we place a lot of emphasis on hygiene activities, with teeth brushing, foot washing and even weekend showers on the weekly schedule. No doubt these hygiene activities help keep the kids in good health. And should they get sick, our centre reimburses families for their child’s medial visits, prescriptions and dentistry. Basically, kids who attend our Love and Hope Centre have extended health care through our program.
After foot washing, it was an outdoor day. The social worker, Walalign, broke the kids into shifts for playing. To our amusement, one of the teams was the “keep the ball out of the garden” team! So two groups of kids played, one cheered, and one held hands in a line along the garden to protect the vegetables. And then they would switch. How fun!
The Love and Hope Centre’s gorgeous veggie garden, homemade lunches, routine washing and physical activity are growing some wonderfully healthy and happy kids in Kality, one of the poorest urban communities in Ethiopia. Thanks to much too our Love and Hope sponsors, whose ongoing monthly contributions are making a world of difference to 70 beautiful, deserving Ethiopian children.
Want to make a world of difference to an Ethiopian child? Become a Love and Hope Sponsor!
In the next couple of days, we visited some of the children’s families in their homes with Woinshet (the centre coordinator,) participated in an afterschool art class, labelled 70 toothbrushes, showed the nutritionist our nutrition oak shop adapted from Harvard, had coffee with the guardians, and planned technology classes for the older kids. But you’ll just have to stay tuned for those news and pictures!