Friday, November 24, 2006

Hope 4 Ethiopia


Finally, I am writing to you all from Africa. I arrived in Addis on Wednesday morning and then hung out in the airport until my flight to Mekelle that afternoon. Upon arrival in Mekelle I was greeted by a smiling Gabe and Connie which immediately soothed some nerves.

What can I say? It’s amazing here, here in Ethiopia, here at the orphanage, just in general. There are no kids so far as they just received power the day I arrived after waiting for 2 months. If all goes according to plan, I will go with them on Wednesday to pick up the first bunch of kids. And I can’t wait. Connie and Gabe are a source of information and inspiration. Their wish to give not just the bare minimum but the world to each and every kid they can is astounding and it makes me want to do all that much more. I have never found myself so curious to learn as much as I can about everything and anything that they’re willing to share and I can’t wait to share some of that with you all. I am amazed by their generosity to do whatever they can for the extended community, from giving a free ride to

Starting next week, I will be teaching a few classes a week of English at a nearby school. And today I went to be introduced to the kids and teachers. As soon as we drove up I was overwhelmed by this sense of purpose, of feeling like there’s no other place in the world I’d rather be. Being the first white person the kids had ever seen, I was immediately treated almost like a celebrity, the kids following me while I took a tour of the school and then actually surrounding me as soon as I stopped moving. It’s just ridiculous what a smile and a wave can do. And I honestly could not stop smiling and laughing. The kids were shouting out any English they knew. “How old are you?” “Is this a pen?” The school itself has only the bare minimum in terms of supplies. There’s no specific area designated with swings or a field for the kids to play in, but we are hoping to change that by providing soccer and volleyballs and goals and nets. The school has classrooms with tables and chairs to serve 1008 students per day who are split up into two shifts. The kids walk anywhere from 1 to 10 miles to get there each day, often with water jugs so that they can bring water for their families on their way home.

At the moment, however, I am writing with an ulterior motive. I have currently given the $2500 of gifts donated by you all to Gabe and Connie to use as they see fit. Most likely it will be put towards getting a phone line for the orphanage. This is necessary to connect them to the outside world, which they depend on to keep going. Quite honestly, what they really need is more of everything, more money, more books, more clothes, more everything. I absolutely cannot promise that this is the last time I ask for your generosity because the truth is that you cannot get things done here without money. For example there is one phone company and one electricity company, both of which are government operated, so there is no bargaining on the price which is given. This does not leave a lot of room for leeway. To explain more clearly the situation of things, the orphanage is currently 3 floors which will be able to house 75 kids. The 1st floor is completely finished while the finishing touches are still being put on the 2nd and 3rd floors. Each room will house 4 kids and the hope is to eventually have a desk, chair, and closet for each child. There is one other building already under construction. It will be a cafeteria area with cooking and dining facilities and more dormitories to house even more kids. There is another area, currently just a whole in the ground, which will eventually be a school. The hope is to make the orphanage and the compound self-sustainable within the next 3 years. This will consist of a vegetable farm, likely some cattle, possibly a small fish pond, and the school. They also hope to set up an education fund for each child they intend to have at the orphanage. In order to accomplish all of this, they will need help. They will need sponsorship for each child each month for the basic needs and they will need donations of money and any supplies that can be spared to fulfill this dream. So, acting as an intermediary, I am asking you to dig even deeper than you already have and do whatever you can to help make this possible. I am going to try to make this process even simpler than before by giving you a way to donate directly to them without going through me. I also ask that as I am not in a position to get this message out to the entire world that you forward it along for me to anyone who you think would be interested and have the means to share.

To donate:
Please make the checks payable to New York City Relief
designated: Support to Ethiopia.

Send to:
New York City Relief
1181 East Broad St
Elizabeth, NJ 07201

If you have any questions regarding how money will be used please feel free to email me at and I will try and answer that for you. The orphanage also has a website, so feel free to visit as well to get a better idea of life over here and the work that Gabe and Connie are so valiantly doing each day.

I met a South African man on my flight from Addis to Mekelle who said something that really struck a chord. He said that never again will my heart only be in New York. And I know that already to be true. I can say without a doubt in my mind that I will forever feel invested in the orphanage and the kids there and all the good that Gabe and Connie hope to accomplish. Already I cannot wait to come back here and bring as many of you with me as I can convince.


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