Bonding with at-risk Ethiopian teens, over cookies and nail polish

It’s been six weeks since we spent time with our favourite teen girls in Ethiopia. With one of our directors (Menbere) leaving this week for a visit, I find that I’m missing these special girls that we got to know. I don’t think I’ve ever met a more determined, sweeter group of young ladies, and I’d love to tell you about our visit.

A tiny bit about our program first: Vulnerable Children Society’s New Life Teenage Sex Trade Worker Retraining Program is a year long supportive program, helping girls indentured in the sex trade escape, and build new lives for themselves. Tawnya and I (Arnica) were eager to meet the newest cohort of young women, who had just started the program in June.

We met the girls at their new group home, a spacious new building that accommodates the ten girls we support (on the top floor) and ten girls supported by a US NGO. They’ve moved out into the outskirts of Addis, distancing the girls form the dangers of Entoto, the Stadium and other dicey districts. As the groups of girls we’ve met before, they were shy and on their best behaviour, treating us to coffee ceremony. I personally find that formal visiting stifling… Heaven knows how difficult it is for the girls to have us, the faces of the organization that sponsors them, sit in their living room. So we brought some icebreakers… Temporary tattoos! The Canada flags were a huge hit!

Vulnerable Children Society' s New Life - Teen Sex Trade Worker Retraining Program in Addis Ababa

The giggles started then, although, understandably, there were a few suspicious scowls. We can’t forget that these girls have been through unimaginable horrors, and are justifiably nervous around strangers. Tawnya and I then handed out the little gifts of nail polish and hair tools we brought with us, and the nail polishing began. The girls’ house mother, a quiet woman named Mulu, was delighted that she too had some new – orange- nail polish.

Vulnerable Children Society' s New Life - Teen Sex Trade Worker Retraining Program in Addis Ababa

We were soon treated to some delicious coffee, made by one of the girls. Addis said it wasn’t her favorite chore to do, but she did it with care. The girls take turns at everything, from cleaning and cleaning to serving their guests. Note the tattoo on her arm.

Vulnerable Children Society' s New Life - Teen Sex Trade Worker Retraining Program in Addis Ababa

The most amazing part of our visit for the girls are the letters that we brought with us. 20 teens from an International Development course in Prince Edward Island wrote the girls, with the hopes of starting a penpal relationship for the duration of their respective programs. It was incredibly meaningful to several of the girls. They had never received a letter before, and were astounded that astounded that young strangers their age, all the way in Canada, cared enough to share about their own lives and wanted to know how they were doing in Ethiopia. Over the next two nights, the girls worked hard on their return letters. Even Tigist, who never learned to read in her rural home, and certainly didn’t working in Addis, got a friend to scribe for her and sent a note back.

Over the next few days, Tawnya and I got to know many of the girls as individuals. We attended their lessons, ate supper cooked by them in their home, sat and chatted in the living room, shared stories of family and I even got to teach them something from home. Of the twenty girls in the program (ten supported by us,) fifteen are in cooking school right now. The other four are learning hair dressing and one is in design school. Since all of the girls supported by Vulnerable Children are in cooking, we volunteered to teach them to make some ferengi food… Foreign recipes to increase their employability at guest houses and restaurants. When I asked the girls what they wanted to learn to make, one tentatively told me “chocolates.”

Well, I thought chocolaterie was a bit difficult for their first sweets lesson, so we settled on cookies.

Vulnerable Children Society' s New Life - Teen Sex Trade Worker Retraining Program in Addis Ababa

With peanut butter and chocolate chips in hand, the next day I taught them two kinds of cookies. Tawnya would have been right in there, but she was terribly under the weather. So with help from our translator/public health nurse Meron, I taught the girls about the funny things called cups and teaspoons. What fun! The dear kids braved my teaching methods. Remember, I speak only Amharic Lite and traditionally teaching in Ethiopia is not interactive. We made several batches of the cookies in teams. They put much of the dough in the fridge to make later (not on fasting days!) so they could all sample them. Delicious! The only person who appeared unimpressed was the oldest girl, Ada, who hadn’t let out a hint of a smile since our arrival.

The last day we visited the girls, we popped by their house announced. They were all lounging around, playing games and watching TV, obviously not in their best clothes as the times we had stopped in before. This time, there was no formal coffee, but some honest conversation.

We asked the girls about their dreams for the future. We went around the circle, as they shared their own hopes: of finding a cooking job, designing her own clothes, starting a family and living in an apartment with a friend. Finally, we got to the oldest, Ada, who had a scowl on the whole time. She looked at us, and defiantly declared that she was going to start her own cookie business, and sell the cookies to foreigners at guest houses around Addis Ababa. Then, ever so gently, she grinned.

Vulnerable Children Society' s New Life - Teen Sex Trade Worker Retraining Program in Addis Ababa

An hour later we were sharing hugs with all the girls in the courtyard. Much to my surprise, Ada made a beeline for me. We hugged and hugged and cried and cried. I can’t believe what that girl has been through, but I believe with all my heart that she is going places.

In fact, all of them are. These girls, thanks to support from people like you, hard work and determination, are building new lives for themselves.

Think of a girl or a woman in your life, and consider donating in their name to help teen girls in Ethiopia this holiday season. We want to give another ten girls the life changing experience these teens have experienced.

with gratitude,
Arnica
President, Vulnerable Children

High School Students Sew Comfort Dolls for Vulnerable Children

A big warm shout-out to our friends in Invermere sewing these awesome dolls!!! When their teacher asked me if we had any use for dolls like these, I jumped at the chance. The students are making them durable, lovable and original! We will deliver them to Faya Orphanage and distribute any remaining dolls to impoverished families with small children. Thanks so much, guys!!!

Sewing machines in the textiles classroom at David Thompson Secondary School are humming, and needles with thread pass through colourful fabric with a flourish.

The Grade 8 and 9 students aren’t sewing pyjama pants or things for themselves, as often happens in textiles class: this year, the young seamsters and seamstresses are stitching together plush comfort dolls to send to Ethiopian orphans.

David Thompson Secondary School has a special connection to the particular orphanage where the dolls will be sent. Arnica Rowan, the sister of English and Drama teacher Silena Ewen runs a not-forprofit organization in Ethiopia called the Vulnerable Children Society.

When textiles teacher Marguerite DiFilippo heard about the organization, she thought her sewing class would be the perfect place to create a donation of dolls.

When all the thread is tied off, the high school students will ship enough dolls across the Atlantic Ocean for about 30 children.

“It’s a fun project because the dolls are all going to be one-of-a-kind. No one else is going to have them,” says Grade 9 student Natalie Gibbs as she irons a piece of clothing for her doll.

Sitting nearby, fellow Grade 9 student Courtney Falkmann adds, “It’s nice to know that someone who really needs it is going to get it.”

Excerpt from the Columbia Valley Pioneer page 32! Just click on the picture below to make it big enough to read.

3 days until our oversight trip to Ethiopia!

Vulnerable Children Society’s treasurer/money lady Tawnya Pattie, update volunteer/keeper of the files Rita Churchill and big dreamer/president Arnica Rowan (that’s me!) are off in 3 days for a whirlwind trip to see our charity’s projects in Ethiopia.

We hope you’ll stay tuned and come along for the ride. We will be blogging along the way, and posting at least text and hopefully pictures from our travels.

We have a packed schedule! In just 9 days, we are:

  • visiting the families in our fabulous House 2 House community support program, which is now operating in Ambo, Guder, Teko, Adama/Nazret, Wonji and Mojo;
  • meeting with government officials and/or the HIV clinic in each location that refers the House 2 House families to us;
  • visiting Faya Orphanage and doing some strategic planning with our partner organization;
  • delivering packages to many sponsored children and donations to the orphanage;
  • visiting the Canadian Humanitarian educational support centre in Gindo that we are filling with books, furniture and supplies;
  • taking pictures of all our projects and sponsored children;
  • investigating ways to ensure the timely arrival of complete updates for each child;
  • connecting with other fantastic NGOs in Ethiopia (Hope for Children, Partners in the Horn of Africa and Canadian Humanitarian) to discuss synergies and strategies;
  • shopping for good to sell at a fundraiser this spring;
  • visiting our families and friends, as well as our own sponsored children!

If you would like to subscribe to our travel blog posts (there are usually one or two a week, but more while we are traveling,) simply enter your email on the left. You can always unsubscribe when our trip is over.

Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!Please follow the links, if you would like to

We’re furnishing a library and pre-school in Rural Ethiopia!

Vulnerable Children Society is proud to announce our partnership with Canadian Humanitarian!

Canadian Humanitarian, a fellow registered Canadian charity, is also very focused on breaking the poverty cycle. We are helping kids in rural Ethiopia by furnishing Canadian Humanitarian’s new educational support center in Gindo, Oromia.

This amazing center should open this summer, and will include a preschool, after school program, library, microenterprise center and community garden. We are very excited about the social, physical and emotional opportunities it will create for this community.

The completion of this center will allow the entire community to blossom by providing them with the tools to get themselves out of poverty. We are building sustainability, so the community can thrive and take care of its most vulnerable citizens! Our partnership with Canadian Humanitarian is so effective because  it will allow for resources from around the world to be pooled together to these deserving children.

Please donate to furnish the Gindo education centre! Donate here!

A floor plan of the building is below and the construction is well on its way.

Thank you for your continuous support and please stay in touch for updates on the center’s progress!

Please help this sweet little man by sponsoring him

What a cutester!  This little boy in Ethiopia was identified by the local Ethiopian authorities as highly at risk and in need of support. He really could use your sponsorship to be happy and healthy, and to recieve the medical treatment he requires.  Please consider sponsoring him through our House 2 House program.

You can make all the difference in the world for this little boy from Ethiopia. With your House 2 House sponsorship, he will receive adequate food, shelter, access to education and medical care. Most of the children in this program are affected by HIV/AIDS, and many have lost their parents to the disease.

UPDATE: This little boy has been sponsored! Thank you! We still have many many more children waiting, if you are interested in helping another child in need 🙂

Make a difference for this deserving child.
#1 Click the link below
Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!
#2 Add the amount of $35
#3 Select “Repeating Donation”
#4 Select “Community Child Sponsorship” in the Fund area, and type CM048 in the Message area.
#5 Complete your monthly donation. You will receive your tax receipts directly from CanadaHelps.
Please click the button that shares your name, address and email with the charity, as we really want to know who you are and be able to send you updates on the child and newsletters!
Thanks so much!

Sponsorship Opportunity: he needs you to put a smile on his face

This solom little guy need your sponsorship to put a smile on his face! With your support, he will be able to get good food, medicine, and go to school. Our partner organization has met this little guy and has told us he really could use your sponsorship to be happy and healthy. He was identified by the local Ethiopian authorities as highly at risk and in need of support. Please consider sponsoring him through our House 2 House program.

You can make all the difference in the world for this little boy from Ethiopia. With your House 2 House sponsorship, he will receive adequate food, shelter, access to education and medical care. Most of the children in this program are affected by HIV/AIDS, and many have lost their parents to the disease.

Make a difference for this deserving child.
#1 Click the link below
Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!
#2 Add the amount of $35
#3 Select “Repeating Donation”
#4 Select “Community Child Sponsorship” in the Fund area, and type CM046 in the Message area.
#5 Complete your monthly donation. You will receive your tax receipts directly from CanadaHelps.
Please click the button that shares your name, address and email with the charity, as we really want to know who you are and be able to send you updates on the child and newsletters!
Thanks so much!