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

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!

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

Canadian Sunday School Supports Ethiopian Children’s Music and Dance Program

by Marie Matchett

Recently I was approached by my childhood church (St. Stephen’s United Church) and asked if I knew of a charity in Ethiopia that the Sunday School children could fundraise for.  Immediately Vulnerable Children Society came to mind.

After waiting over 4 years to adopt our son from Ethiopia through many ups and downs, a lot of the congregation were there to cheer with us and sigh with us when we hit yet another hurdle.  On our first trip to Ethiopia in October 2012 we were able to visit with one of Vulnerable Children Society’s former projects.  It was one of the highlights of our trip that we still talk about to this day!  We saw first hand the good work this wonderful organization was doing for the most vulnerable children.  So it was an easy choice when I was asked about a charity.  After bringing our son home and visiting Ethiopia twice, we knew how important it was to give back to a country that gave us so much, and the Sunday school agreed!

The Sunday school which consists of around 15 children fundraised throughout the year.  In September they kicked off the season with a pancake breakfast.  In December they had a service where all the loose offering was donated.  And in February they started Random Acts of Kindness and placed a jar though out the church for people to place loose change or money in.  This project alone raised $135!

In June I was asked to make a presentation to the congregation about our adoption journey and the work Vulnerable Children Society does.  I was also presented with a cheque for $450 which will go towards a music and dance program for the children at the Love and Hope Centre!!   It was an honour to accept that cheque on VCS’s behalf!

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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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