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

New Kitchen Facilities at the Love & Hope Centre in Kality

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.

Kitchen at Love and Hope Centre in Kality, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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!”

 Kitchen at Love and Hope Centre in Kality, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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.

Learn more about how you can help the kids at the centre!

Meeting the Kids

Originally Posted on:Step Up Dive In

Ethiopia – Meeting the Kids

Volunteering with the Vulnerable Children Society in Ethiopia is all about the kids.

The Kids

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.

Meeting the kids
The group birthday party… (that’ll be in the next post)

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?)

Meeting the Kids
Heading back to school

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.

Meeting the Kids
The leg washing station

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.

This is not a goat

Have you ever bought a goat, chicken, or a medical kit from a charity’s gift catalog? I have… But I didn’t realize at the time the intricacies of goat purchasing. For many charities, the goat or chicken is simply a symbol of a donation amount, and in the fine print it reads that charity will use your dollars as they see fit. Other charities actually send out 300 goats one year, and 3000 the next, depending on what donors would like to spend their money on. In other words, goats are either inspirational pictures, or fluctuating, donor-driven programs.

At Vulnerable Children Society, we don’t have a gift catalog, and we don’t sell goats. Or chickens either.

solon homes stud

And this is why… Our programs are created by Ethiopian/Liberian organizations, to address the most pressing needs in those countries. The indigenous organizations, run by locals, create holistic programs to powerfully impact the lives of children and families. Our job as the fundraising partner is not to tell our African partners how many of anything they should have that year, or how to do their work. Our job is to connect you with them, so that children can be educated, families can be preserved, and communities can be transformed.

Parents-Guardians - Food Preparation2

We are transparent about our fundraising: you know that when you donate to VulnerAble Children Society, we send the funds to the program you have designated your dollars to help. And if that program is fully funded, or for some reason needs to be discontinued, we roll the dollars into our general program fund. Lastly, we publish our financial statements on our website, so that you can see, to the dollar, exactly how much money each program received.

For your holiday gifts this year, please consider donating to Vulnerable Children Society. We have three programs that need your help… Home tutoring and Ebola disease prevention in Liberia, afterschool tutoring at our Love and Hope Centre in Ethiopia, and retraining for teens who have worked in the sex trade in Ethiopia. Even stocking stuffer amounts are highly appreciated! and go along way to do good work in these countries.

Hope for Children in Ethiopia, Vulnerable Children Society

We won’t send you a picture of a goat, but if you donate and then send us an email, we will send you back a personalized card with a picture of the children you are actually helping, and information about the program. Your loved ones will love learning about the positive impact of your donation.

Many thanks! And warmest holiday wishes from all of us in Canada, Ethiopia, and Liberia.

Arnica Rowan, President
Vulnerable Children Society
http://www.VulnerableChildren.ca

A surprise gift for the girls in our Teen Sex Trade Worker Retraining Program

My daughters and I had fun shopping for some very special teen girls on Saturday. Tawnya is leaving for Ethiopia next week to check in on our projects, and is visiting the ten girls in our Teenage Sex Trade Worker Retraining Program in Addis Ababa.

The girls in Addis are currently getting training in hair dressing, and we thought they could use some tool! But also, we just wanted to let the girls know how much we care for them. Many of these girls have been rejected by their families, and have very low self esteem. It’s important that they know we are sending love, as well as money for their program.

I’m sure Tawnya will have a blast sharing these gift bags with the girls. If you would like to light up the lives of 10 more girls next year, we are currently fundraising to support another cohort of girls that would like to escape the sex trade. Please consider donating 🙂

 

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