Nicole’s bottles: how one adoptive mom found her way to help teen girls in Ethiopia

It’s amazing what a determined woman, ample garage space and a generous community can do! Check out Vulnerable Children Society director Nicole’s story below of how she fundraisers for the New Life program. Her small community enables one Ethiopian teen girl escape the sex trade each year… all by collecting cans! Thanks Nicole!! with Love and appreciation from the other directors: Arnica, Tawnya, Menbere, Dacia, Flora and Laura

In the summer of 2008, I embarked on the long journey to adopt a child from Ethiopia. I expected the process to be relatively straightforward, but by the fall of 2009, my adoption agency had gone bankrupt and I didn’t know if I’d ever bring a child home from Ethiopia. There was very little I could do at that point to affect the outcome of the adoption, and I was feeling helpless and defeated. I craved a connection to Ethiopia, so I decided to do the one thing I could: raise money, to help kids there.

I explored the many different ways that I could go about fundraising for kids in Ethiopia – everything from asking people for donations, to organizing events. I hate asking people for money, and the event space was already crowded with fundraisers for local causes. At some point, the idea of an ongoing bottle drive hit me: people could donate their recyclables to me, and I could convert them to cash. Sorting through other people’s garbage wasn’t going to be the sexiest way to fundraise, but for me, it was perfect: it would bring in a steady trickle of cash, and it would be just the kind of busy work I needed to take my mind off the adoption.

Friends and family were skeptical at first (“You really want my trash?”), but they went along with it, and soon my little fundraiser took off. I found myself spending evenings and weekends in my garage, counting and sorting bottles and cans. It was sticky, stinky work… sometimes it was downright nasty, like the time I found a decomposing mouse inside a plastic pop bottle. In spite of all that, it felt purposeful, and that made it rewarding.

Over the last eight years, I’ve raised thousands of dollars for deserving kids in Ethiopia, one bottle and can at a time. All of the proceeds are directed to the Vulnerable Children Society, to fund programs delivered by our in-country NGO partners. I’m grateful to the people, community organizations and businesses on Prince Edward Island who have contributed to this initiative, and to a friend who now transports truckloads of recyclables to the depot for me.

I’m looking forward to continuing my bottle and can drive in the years to come, especially now that I have an assistant: my three-year-old Ethiopian-born daughter, Ayanna! I hope you will consider joining me with your own unique fundraising ideas, to support the amazing work of Vulnerable Children Society. – Nicole

Field Report from Addis: Teen Sex Trade Workers

Our honorary director Tam and her family visited the ten girls in the Teenage Sex Trade Worker Retraining Project in Addis last week. Here’s her awesome field report:

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“Right before we left for Ethiopia, I was invited to participate in the 10 for 10 campaign being held by Vulnerable Children’s Society. Ten women were challenged to raise $1300 each so that 10 more young women could be admitted into a former sex worker retraining program that Vulnerable Children Society supports in Addis Ababa.

These young women in Addis Ababa are as young as 14 years old and receive incredible support in this program which we got to see firsthand on the second day we were in Ethiopia. The director Yonas, told us that the young women receive counselling, skills training, medical care, education, food and group accomodation while they are in the one year program and that it’s had a 95% success rate to date. The former sex worker retraining program is just one of many that they have run successfully for years and it was obvious that he has a passion for helping wherever possible.

We were able to meet the young women in the program who were just about to start their daily counselling session with a pair of Dutch counselling students and an Ethiopian counterpart. Some of the other girls were in a hairdressing class (big business in Ethiopia) and were shyly showing off their flat ironing skills.

It was obvious that these girls had be through so much. Their eyes spoke volumes of the things that no one should have to endure and the courage they have to try and change their lives. It was an hounor to be able to meet these girls and see the program first hand.”

You can donate to Tam’s campaign to support one (or more!!) teen girls to attend the program next year:
https://www.canadahelps.org/GivingPages/GivingPage.aspx?gpID=36706
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10 women fundraise for 10 girls

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This summer, 10 women from across the country are fundraising to support 10 girls to attend our Teenage Sex Trade Worker Reemployment Program in Addis Ethiopia.

The women are students, government workers, homeschooling moms, retirees, business women… aged 15 to 65! They all want to give a teen Ethiopian girl another chance at freedom and self reliance.

Each woman is raising $1300, the year-long program cost for one girl!

So far, we have raised $3870 as a team… That’s enough for three girls to attend the program. Will you help us 10 women support 10 girls?

In the next four days, please consider donating to Dacia’s campaign!

https://www.canadahelps.org/GivingPages/GivingPage.aspx?gpID=36820

Guests Welcome at the Love and Hope Centre!

On our last visit to the Love and Hope Centre, we sat down with the staff and discussed visitors coming to the centre. Several of our supporters have expressed an interest to visit the Love and Hope Centre, in Kality, on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. You are very welcome to visit! Here are some of the guidelines to ensure you, the staff, and the kids, have a lovely time together. We’ve also included a current list of valuable donations, should you decide to fill a bag for the centre!

Love and Hope Centre Visitor Guidelines

We are so glad you have decided to visit Vulnerable Children Society’s Love and Hope Centre in Kality. Please follow these guidelines to ensure a wonderful visit for yourself, the kids and the staff!

  • Plan on visiting the centre around 3pm in the afternoon, on a weekday, so that you can see and interact with the children.
  • When you know your exact date, please email Nicole info@vulnerablechildren.ca so she can pass on the date via the proper channels to the centre staff.
  • The Love and Hope Centre in Kality is approximately a one hour drive from the centre of Addis Ababa, depending on construction and traffic. You are responsible for the costs of a driver to visit the centre. If you need a driver to pick you up, please include that in your email with your date of visit, as well as where you are staying in Addis. If you have your own driver, we will provide a contact phone number so they can speak to the centre staff and get directions to the centre.
  • Any gifts for the children must be brought in batches of 70, and must be given to the centre staff for appropriate distribution. Please don’t hand out gifts or candy at the centre; it teaches the wrong lessons and may not be fair to all the children. When in doubt, please stick to the donations list below.
  • If you bring donations – thank you! Please give them to the centre staff, so they can distribute them wisely, at an appropriate time.
  • Please do not give cash to the centre staff. If you use cash to purchase donations in Ethiopia, and drop them to the centre, that is fine. But if you have cash to give, please donate it through Vulnerable Children Society, so that we can properly account for cash flow. This assists us, and our operational partner, to maintain our stellar reputations as accountable, reliable, non-profits.
  • You may take pictures at the centre! In fact, we encourage it. Please realize the pictures may be used for the sole purpose of promoting Vulnerable Children Society’s work, and the Love and Hope centre. The pictures may not be used for any other application, such as making profit, religious purposes, or raising funds for other causes. You are welcome to post the pictures on Facebook or blogs, but again, please always link to Vulnerable Children Society’s website.  Do not post the names, or personal stories, of any of the children, as we want to respect their privacy. This is really important, and we appreciate your consideration.
  • We love it when we get pictures from visitors, or even better, little stories about your visit to the centre. If you can send us a couple of your best pictures, as well as a paragraph about your visit, we would love to post it on Vulnerable Children Society’s blog, to inspire others to contribute.
  • FYI: the Love and Hope Centre is operated by our awesome partner Canadian Humanitarian, and mostly funded by Vulnerable Children Society. We each have revenue streams that support the centre. If you are interested in Love and Hope sponsorship, or making monetary donations, we have an agreement with Canadian Humanitarian (CH) that Vulnerable Children Society (VCS)’s friends and supporters should donate through VCS. If, for some reason, you are affiliated with VCS but donate through CH, then please let us know, as this amount should be deducted from our transfers to CH.
  • If you have any feedback or questions about the centre, please don’t hesitate to email us.

 Current Donation Wish List

  • Groups of 10 Pre-K and K (Kindergarten) readers. This means 10 copies of the same book, so the students can work on them together  in Reading Clubs. Please avoid any political, violent or religious topics.
  • School supplies, including notebooks, pens, pencils, sharpeners, erasers.
  • Art supplies of any kind, for the art club. Examples include paints, brushes, chalk, charcoal, sketch books, canvases, coloured paper.
  • Toothbrushes and toothpaste.
  • Underwear, for boys or girls aged 6-12.
  • Black socks, for elementary school aged children.
  • Skipping ropes

Visit: Love & Hope Centre’s Holistic Approach

by VCS Communications Director Nicole Bellefleur

Bisrat & Nicole2On Monday, December 9th, I visited the Vulnerable Children Society’s Love & Hope Center with Canadian Humanitarian’s in-country representative, Bisrat Sime.

The educational center is located in Kality, an impoverished community of about 28,000 residents located on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. The unemployment rate is exceptionally high and poverty is wide-spread; its residents are among the most vulnerable in the region.

Seventy of the community’s most at-risk kids visit the center on a daily basis, to receive a hot meal at noontime, and to take part in the center’s after-school program – this includes:

• Tutoring and homework assistance daily (the kids attend a nearby school from 8:30am to 3:30pm)
• Reading practice two days per week
• Art classes two days per week
• Free play one day per week

The walled compound features a building with one large room furnished with tables and chairs, and a small office; there is also a courtyard where the kids can play. The entire facility is immaculate.

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The program places an emphasis on personal hygiene.

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Each child keeps a toothbrush in a pocket of big canvas storage unit that hangs in the social worker’s office, and brushes his/her teeth every day after school.

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To one side of the courtyard is a new structure made of corrugated metal that houses separate toilets and showers for boys and girls – this is where the kids take showers on Saturday mornings.

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Next to this structure is a concrete platform with four taps on either side – this is where they wash their feet every day.

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Across the courtyard is a small shelter where the parents and guardians prepare nutritious meals for the kids (there is also a kitchen area inside the main building).

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There are seventy parents/guardians, and since they all want to contribute to caring for the children, they formed a committee that assigns five of them to volunteer for this task each month.

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The children in the program also receive medical attention from health care professionals.

It’s evident that the social worker managing the Vulnerable Children Society’s Love & Hope Center genuinely cares for each child in his care, and is proud of their accomplishments.

By giving the children access to educational assistance, better nutrition, and health care services, and enabling them to grow through play, sport and art, the program is taking a holistic approach toward ensuring they reach their full potential.

Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org! You can support these wonderful kids and make a difference in their lives. Your support enables children to receive the love and hope they deserve, as well as educational, health and social care. Your donation also enables us to expand our Love and Hope Centre program to other communities. Learn more.

Progress on the Love and Hope Centre in Kality

One month ago, we announced that the Vulnerable Children Society had partnered with Canadian Humanitarian to fund an educational center in Kality, through our sponsorship program.

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Since our announcement, the team in Ethiopia has been busy getting the Vulnerable Children Society’s Love and Hope Center up and running. We recently received an update from Canadian Humanitarian, regarding the progress in Ethiopia that has been made over the last few weeks.

Canadian Humanitarian has leased a 490 square meter building that has one large room, several smaller activity rooms, and two offices. Vulnerable Children Society is covering the cost of renovating and furnishing the compound.  The renovations are almost done: the team is now working on the plumbing in the shower and toilet house.

The Canadian Humanitarian representative in Ethiopia has received a picture of the Love and Hope Center sign that was made by the Vulnerable Children Society – he loves it! According to him, the words in Amharic are powerful. He has printed the picture of the sign and hung it in the center for all to see while they wait for the actual sign to be brought to Ethiopia by the Canadian staff soon.

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Most importantly, all of the children in the program have been registered for school, and started attending classes last week. Prior to this, the school supplies that were generously donated by our supporters in Canada and transported to Ethiopia by our volunteers were distributed to the children and their guardians by the Love and Hope Center staff.

We look forward to posting pictures of the Vulnerable Children Society’s Love and Hope Center in the near future!

BACKGROUND

Previously, Canadian Humanitarian had made a long-term commitment to put seventy kids through school, all the way to the post secondary level, through its 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 the program, by welcoming them to an educational center every day where they would receive hot meals, tutoring and medical services. Following months of carful negotiations, the Vulnerable Children Society committed to funding this important facility, which we named the Love and Hope Center (Fikir Tesfa in Amharic.)

Get involved… become a Love and Hope sponsor!

ABOUT KALITY

Located on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, Kality is a community of displaced people, many who live in slum-like conditions. The unemployment rate is exceptionally high and poverty is wide-spread – its residents are among the most vulnerable in the region. We’re confident that by joining forces with Canadian Humanitarian, we’ll have a significant, long-term impact on the lives of seventy deserving kids and their families, through this enhanced sponsorship program.