Field Report: Humbled and Inspired

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.

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.

Nicole - Main Room2

Courtyard2

The program places an emphasis on personal hygiene.

Brushing Teeth2

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.

SW - Toothbruch Storage2

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.

Toilet2 Shower Stall2

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

Foot Washing Taps2

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).

Main Building & Shower-Toilet Building2

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.

Parents-Guardians - Food Preparation2

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.

VULNERABLE CHILDREN OPENS NEW EDUCATIONAL CENTRE FOR CHILDREN IN ADDIS ABABA

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.

older kids

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.

kids

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.

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JOINING FORCES

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.

kids and guardians

ABOUT KALITY

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.

For more information

Please contact: Vulnerable Children Society, info@vulnerablechildren.ca

FAQ: What is happening with the House 2 House program and Educational Centre?

One of our values at Vulnerable Children Society is transparency – so even when we don’t have complete answers, we want to keep you fully informed about recent developments in our programs. We would like to assure you that we are wisely stewarding your donated funds, and working diligently to help vulnerable children in Ethiopia.

To begin with, I feel some back-story is necessary.

Back in April, we announced that we had partnered with Canadian Humanitarian, so they could operate our House 2 House program, in the place of Faya Orphanage. Most of you know that three directors from Vulnerable Children Society, including myself, spent a gruelling three weeks in Ethiopia in May working on the transition from one operator to another.

Our House 2 House program has operated in essentially four communities, with roughly 20 kids each in Ambo, Guder and Wonji, and a handful of kids in Adama.

While in Ethiopia, we met with government officials in Guder, and via the phone, in Ambo. The program in those communities is governed by an agreement between Faya Orphanage and the Ambo zone level of government. The purpose of our visit was to introduce the government to our new program operator; however, when we met, it was obvious that Faya Orphanage was continuing to operate the program using residual funding.

We also met with a local politician in Wonji, and were able to visit with and support the families, who had not heard from Faya Orphanage in a couple of months. We reassured them that we had every intention of continuing the support of their families via Canadian Humanitarian. This program, we learned, never had a formal agreement in place, and we confirmed that we would approach the government to make a formal agreement and set up an official program to support the kids and their families.

We also met with Faya Orphanage – six times over the three weeks. We asked them about their capacity to continue the program without our financial support, and what their intentions were moving forward. If they had the ability, we were content to let them continue to operate the House 2 House program without us, as the kids would be cared for, and that is the main thing. However, they told us very clearly that they did not have the financial capacity to continue the House 2 House program. Finally, Faya Orphanage agreed to the transfer of operational responsibility to Canadian Humanitarian, and promised to write a letter releasing the responsibility of the children in Ambo and Guder, so that Canadian Humanitarian could move forward with their proposal to start a new program and assume responsibility for the children.

As soon as we left Ethiopia, Faya Orphanage changed their minds and chose not to follow through on the commitments they made. We are telling you this, because we want you to know that we at Vulnerable Children Society, and the rep at Canadian Humanitarian, bent over backwards to work with Faya Orphanage, and to ensure the continuing support of the children. We have done everything in our power, but Faya has broken every agreement and has blocked our attempts to continue support.

So where are we at?

As of this week, the government in Ambo (that governs Ambo and Guder) told us that Faya Orphanage will not release responsibility of the children and is continuing to operate in those communities. So until they are seriously in arrears with payments, the children are not available to support.

In Wonji, we are still working on setting up an agreement to start an educational centre, and are cautiously optimistic about our ability to continue work in that community. Our intention is to continue support of the same Wonji children with the full capacity of an educational centre and a formal agreement between the government and Canadian Humanitarian. We are hoping to open an educational centre in another community in Oromia, to help more children. We’ll tell you more about the other community as we soon as we determine if it is an appropriate fit.

In essence, our House 2 House program and our educational centre program are in a time of transition. 
We are working hard with Canadian Humanitarian to get them back up and running. We are hoping to support both the children in Wonji, as well as children in an additional community, with complete educational centres that will provide for their learning, health and social needs.

In the meanwhile, I can assure you that your monthly sponsorship funds are not being squandered or wasted. In fact, we are very careful fiscal managers. As soon as the educational centres are up and running (this may be as soon as a couple of months from now!) every sponsor will be reassigned to a child at one of the two educational centres. Wonji sponsors will, of course, stay with the same children. Ambo and Guder sponsors, as well as educational centre sponsors, will be assigned to new children in one of the two centres. It will take approximately three sponsors to support each child at this level of care, so working together, we are able to start two centres at the same time! Your sponsorship dollars are essential to start these centres and support all these children.

You may also be interested to know that we are also working on another project to help vulnerable children with our one-time project funds, and you can expect to hear more about that in the near future!

We promise to keep you up to date with the development of our educational centre and House 2 House programs, even when we don’t have complete information. I hope this communication reassures you that your funds are being stewarded responsibly, and will indeed go to the intended purpose: giving vulnerable children in Ethiopia a chance to not only survive, but thrive.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email us at info(at)vulnerablechildren.ca We will do our best to reply back within a week, or post the reply to your question as an FAQ post.

Our sincere appreciation for your continuing support!
Arnica and the other five directors of Vulnerable Children Society

VCS directors start work in Ethiopia

Greetings from Vulnerable Children Society in Ethiopia! our first official day of work, we headed out to Guder, which is 2-3 hours west of Addis Ababa. We will have a report on our meeting in Guder tomorrow, but for today, please enjoy some pictures.

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Getting ready early in the morning to head out to Guder. Extra coffees for the jet-lagged volunteers!

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After our successful meeting with the woreda government officials. From left to right: Bisrat from Canadian Humanitarian, Nicole, Birhanu the woreda Women and Children’s desk assistant, Arnica, Birhan our VCS consultant, Asegash the Women and Children’s desk manager, and Tawnya. Rita was taking the picture.

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Nicole and Tawnya looking very official.

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The non official monkeys battering the roof of the woreda office. I recognized Columbus monkeys, but am not sure of the other type. Any ideas?

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Rewarding Visit to Faya Orphanage

A big thank-you to supporters Marie and Erik Matchett for the pictures and report of their recent trip to Faya Orphanage in Ethiopia!

On Sunday, October 28 Sintayehu picked my husband and myself up at our Guest House for a visit to Faya. He was fabulous and was a tour guide for us, taking us to visit some “attractions” along the drive!

When we pulled into orphanage we were met with smiling children ready to shake our hands and the director Meseret. It was a special day as it was a birthday of one of the little ones!

My Mom had hand made little teddy bears for the children there so we handed them out, and the children were so excited to receive these, you would think we had given them the world!! They held on to them for most of our visit and when they did put them down they laid them in their bed!

We were given a tour of the beautiful facility and we delivered our donations and some special packages for some sponsor children. We played with the children who are some of the happiest we have ever met!! We were treated to a traditional coffee ceremony and then we were on our way again!

This visit was the highlight of our trip, next to meeting our Son! I can not begin to explain how important supporting Vulnerable Children Society is and the amazing work they do for children and families!!

I hope others get the amazing opportunity to visit there as it is truly life changing!

~Marie and Erik Matchett