Last February visit, the staff at Vulnerable Children Society’s Love and Hope Centre in Kality asked us if we would provide funding for a new kitchen. The existing kitchen was used every day by the guardians of the kids who go to the centre. But a 8’x8′ structure was not sufficient to feed 70 hungry kids every day! We approved the funding, and are now happy to report that the centre’s staff and some fabulous volunteers with one of Canadian Humanitarian’s expeditions have completed a permanent kitchen.
According to Deb Northcott, the expedition leader, “the guys built a structure to give shade to the children, replaced many of the taps on the water center, and helped construct a smokeless oven in their new outdoor kitchen! Lots of fun!
This now captures the smoke and takes it out a chimney so the women can cook the hot meals for the children without being faced with a smoke filled room. AWESOME job!”
The Love & Hope Centre in Kality provides hot meals, tutoring, medical care, community, clubs, a safe place to play, love and hope to 70 deserving children in Kality, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The centre is funded by Vulnerable Children Society and managed by Canadian Humanitarian, both registered Canadian charities.
Oh, the kids. I don’t know how to describe them. The 70 kids at the center are the very embodiment of what it means to be developing into the people that shock you when you arrive in Ethiopia. Before you meet them you could easily describe them as the kids that have very little, or nothing. They have no toys, and few clothes. Were it not for the center they would have no meal at lunch time; no desk to do their homework; no toothbrush or soap. If you were ever to think of kids that are the poor of the poor, then they would meet your description.
But somehow, that’s just not what you see. They’ve been handed a tough lot in life, but it hasn’t chipped their shoulders, or dampened their enthusiasm; hasn’t darkened their outlook or silenced their laughter.
When you arrive, they all run to shake your hand, and say ‘hello’ and ‘hi’; ‘hello mister’ and ‘how are you’. Then they’ll attempt to impress you by blurting out all of their English at once, whereby they both ask and answer questions immediately, it’s adorable (and somewhat awkward) and sounds something along the lines of:
‘Hi mister, how are you? Are you fine, I am fine. What’s your name, my name is ….. you father name?’. You kinda get stuck wondering if you’re actually supposed to answer any of the questions, or if they are 100% rhetorical. Furthermore, I’m really curious as to what English courses teach, ‘are you fine?’ … Don’t they know what F.I.N.E stands for?!
But I digress, after the question monologue, they’ll want to play with you, touch you, and continue to ask you questions… this time they actually wait for answers. Another heads up, I’ve lately discovered that asking your father’s name is akin to asking your last name… so if you respond with your father’s actual name, they will all think that your name is something like Jonny Frank.
The first time I met the kids, I ate lunch with them (much to their amusement), and then we went out to play. They competed over who could hold my hand and touch my arm. They giggled and chuckled at my arm and leg hair… both of which they couldn’t help but touch, and pet, and caress, and examine (checking for bugs maybe?)
They did their best to teach me Amharic words, and their names, and wanted to show me every corner of the center and how, even in a space that seems to be completely void of hiding places, you can play hide and seek. When it was time to return to school, they all came to bid me goodbye, and shake my hand again. I don’t know when the fad of kissing my cheek started, but it took over like wildfire, and became the thing to do… What can I say, I have beautiful cheeks (even if I do try to hide them under a shaggy beard).
A few days later I returned to the center to get started building a compost. The kids came at lunch and the whole scene played out again. If I were to guess, I would say that an average of 5 hands were touching me at all times. They are not shy, that’s for sure. They’ll take your arm and wrap it around their shoulder, or come sit on your lap. Coming from our culture, it may seem odd at first, almost unnatural and inappropriate. But, when you stop to think about it, you realize that it’s not this beautiful culture where the kids aren’t afraid to approach you; this culture where you don’t have to worry about overprotective parents getting the wrong idea that is unnatural and inappropriate… No, it’s not THIS culture that has it wrong.
I was still around the center when they came after school to brush their teeth, wash their feet and do some artwork. There are many clubs set up at the center including the ‘art club, reading club, gardening club, etc.’ The kids enter them voluntarily and seem to have a great time. It happened to be art club day so I took my seat and drew some flowers… the very charm of the kids might be best exemplified by the fact that they started a new improv acting club in order to pretend to be impressed by my picture and not notice the fact that I’m quite artistically challenged.
When you meet them you certainly don’t think of what they are missing, but rather what they have. They are grateful of every minute you spend with them, and never ask for money. They have a light in their eye that you can’t help but notice. They are the very reason why you’ve showed up, the drive behind the intercontinental flight and long layovers, the faces that make each sweaty, bumpy, grinding bus ride, well worth it.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.