Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Today's Thoughts

Today as I was working quietly at my desk, my thoughts were distracted with images of Ethiopia and Somalia and Kenya. As I grabbed my coffee concoction for a little snack, I thought of the kids who walked for weeks on end to find food. Here I was having a snack, which is fine, while kids were starving.

Do you know that the road the Somali's walk to get to the refugee camp is called "road of death"? Can you imagine being so famished that while you walk along, your 12 year old child collapses with literally not an ounce of energy. He died.

Today I saw a friend with 2 multiple page flyer bragging up vacation destinations. Which place did she want to go - Cabo or Cancun? Travelling and enjoying vacations are fine but kids are travelling for weeks on end just to survive.

Did you know that a refugee camp built for 90,000 people is overflowing with 400,000 people. People are literally living in makeshift shelters outside the camp because it's so full. If you naive enough to think that there's enough food and water there, you're wrong.

Today, like every other day, I emptied my compost bucket from the kitchen counter into my bin outside. The majority of the food in there was scraps, or food 7 little kids wouldn't finish eating. Wasted. Food. Today that makes me sick. As I walk by the pantry full of food, I think of those who have one.

Did you know that a World Food Program plane with 10 tons of peanut-butter paste landed Wednesday in Mogadishu, the first of several planned airlifts in coming weeks (source). But that's not enough.

I can help. You can help.

famine: a few pics

photos courtesy of

Monday, July 25, 2011

Starving Children

My head is swirling with thoughts of the drought and famine going on in the horn of Africa. If you want really sound insight on the matter, check out Dr. Jo's blog. She's a rockstar as far as knowledge and information. So, for the general information of what's going on, check out Dr. Jo's Africa cause I'm not going to get all technical.

Instead, I want to ask you when you hear the name/word Ethiopia, what do you think of? For those who know my sweet boy, you might think of him. Or those of you who have a personal connection through adoptions in Ethiopia, you think of that. But for most of the rest of Americans, with the mention of Ethiopia brings to mind the 1980's famine.

I debated on adding a picture cause I'm almost sure you had a picture in your mind. But friends, I'm here to tell you that the picture in your mind, or the one here to the right, has got nothin' on what's going on right now.

Even though you don't see it on the nightly news or on most facebook updates, a famine is happening. RIGHT NOW.

If you've read my blog at all in recent months, you know that we've adopted from Ethiopia. And following that, we returned to the area in Southern Ethiopia where our son was born to serve the widows and the orphans. We've been working with FOVC for the past 5 months. And the kids from FOVC are being affected by this drought. And the kids at FOVC haven't even seen just a tiny bit of what they're about to experience. Here's what I know from listening to details of conversations by the amazing Jo and Lory.

Today a lady showed up at the FOVC gate and began knocking. With her children in tow, she'd been walking for days to find FOVC because she heard they had food. Desalegn (the director) who loves everyone, couldn't say no to a person in need and gave her enough food for one day and sent her on. That's what we're supposed to do right? Give those who are hungry. The thing is that right now, did you hear that, RIGHT NOW, there's not enough food for the orphans that are part of FOVC. When we were there in June, the food prices had already jumped by 50%. On an already tight budget where they decide that 4 proteins a week are better than 2 meals a day, there's no extra money for increased food prices. So increased food prices on a set budget means less food purchased. And when you start giving away your decreased food supply, you quickly begin running out of food. Follow me on that thought? It's a hard balance to serve the community and the children in Ethiopia. The truth is that with drought in those areas comes famine. And with famine comes death. In Shanto. Those kids and community members we know and love. The ones we call our own.

See these faces on the left. These girls. They have names. They were wonderfully sweet. With one meal a day, an education and medical care, these girls finally have hope and a future. And these girls (whose names I can't share because of privacy requests) have names. Are people. And this famine, this drought, is affecting them. Is threatening their lives. Is causing them to go hungry.

The good thing is that FOVC exists to help. And they're doing just that. Amidst the regular life of FOVC development, the building of the orphanage, the raising of funds to furnish the orphanage, the developing the crops program, theirs a drought going on. If we at FOVC can feed them for 3 months to get through this period, then these beautiful faces will survive. The cost of doing so has increased because of the scarcity of food. So, FOVC, among regular life needs to raise $10-$12,000 dollars to feed the orphans at FOVC for 3 months. That's less than $2/day per child. How many of these beautiful faces would you like to buy food for over the next 3 months?

Yes, I agree $10-$12,000 is a LOT of money. Even to our wealthy American pocket books. But what I'm trying to share with you is that this is simply for survival. This doesn't give them a new outfit or a fun dessert, or a night out on the town. This is basic. survival. BASIC. I'm trying to explain it to you but even I can't fathom what they're going through. And this also doesn't include the many people who will be flooding the gates of FOVC because they know there's hope within those fences. This doesn't help the community that FOVC serves and loves. This doesn't help the many refugees who have fled Somalia and walked for days and days into Ethiopia to find food and water.

My friends, this is just a tiny bit of the story. I could type for hours to share with you about the impacts of the Somalis on the existing food crisis in ethiopia. Or about how some of the crops have already failed in and around Shanto. And for those who were smart enough to plant their crops with the rains, their is now too much rain which is devastating the crops. It has wiped them out too. Or about the roads being strewn with children and elderly who don't have the strength to continue walking and so they die on the roadside. Maybe I'll tell you about that tomorrow. For now, I think you have enough to chew on. And if you haven't read Jo's post, here's a link one more time because it's worth your five minutes to read.

People need our help. Are you willing to do something. Small or big. Can you do something? Pray, blog, give. FOVC is the only non-governmental organization in southern Ethiopia. You can give through them. They're a small org with boots on the ground and very, very little overhead costs (like less than 5%). You can give to FOVC through their website here. In the note line, write "famine".

If you have questions, please contact me at tam4buit at hotmail dot com.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Eight Widows, Eleven Bovine, Three Goats, and One Little Girl

Guest post from the amazing, genius, animal doctor also known as my better half wrote the following post. I hope you enjoy.

Okay, it’s my turn to tell you about what I did while I was in Ethiopia with FOVC. I have to begin by introducing you to a friend of ours. Denise’s life took a tragic turn several years ago when her husband, a pilot, and their two boys died in a tragic plane crash on the fourth of July. She took this tragedy and turned it into a blessing by forming a foundation in their name. That foundation has done many things including helping people adopt children. Earlier this year the foundation partnered with FOVC to purchase 11 cows for eight widows in Shanto. The plan is for the women to be able to utilize these animals to aid them in making a living. They may be getting milk from them, or using them as beasts of burden, it is my understanding that this is left up to the widows.

When I agreed to go on this trip I was unsure as to what exactly I would be doing. I contacted a classmate of mine from vet school who served for several years as a veterinary missionary in Ethiopia. She gave me a lot of good advice, and I had a starting point. I still was not sure what I would be doing but I began to formulate some ideas of what to do if the opportunity presented itself. Having been on overseas trips before I knew better to make any concrete plans, but I did have some goals I hoped to be able to accomplish. I hoped to be able to make it to all of the widow’s homes to examine the animals, worm them, and teach them about the need to get colostrum into newborns. I thought if I was lucky I would be able to identify one of the widows that had some aptitude for animal care and train them in the basics.

Because I was not sure what I needed I was not overly aggressive in asking for donations. I knew I needed some wormers for sheep and goats but other than that I figured anything I was given would be better than what was over there. I approached a couple of drug companies to ask for donations and had Boehringer Ingelheim come through in spades. They donated twelve liters of an oral wormer for sheep and goats. Novartis Animal Health also donated some vaccine for me to bring along. Unfortunately that product was delayed in arriving so it was not brought along. Instead it has been sold and the money gone to help fund the program I will be discussing more in depth later. I also was blessed to talk to one of my distributing representatives who has become a friend and she informed me that she was changing jobs so she would send me all the “samples” she had in her garage. When I got the boxes from her I had no idea what I was in for. Not only was there a little bit of everything, but I had no idea how these donations would affect my first day in Ethiopia.

Having talked to my friend who used to work in Ethiopia we had “tips” on how to pack and still get everything into the country. Unfortunately we did not follow those tips to the letter because we did not want to spread the liquid through all of our luggage in case it spilled during transit. That way at least some of our luggage would arrive and be wearable. Unfortunately it drew the attention of the customs official in the Addis airport as well. No it wasn’t the nearly $1,000 dollar’s worth of wormer, it was a dozen bottles of expired iodine shampoo. Who knows why it drew their attention but it did and now they wanted me to run down town to get some form filled out saying the government thought it was safe to bring in. In the mean time I was to put it in storage somewhere. I did not want to get the form because we had other things to do. For two hours I went back and forth across the airport trying to get my passport back, and make sure I was going to be able to leave in two weeks. My, “Can’t we just throw it away and pretend I never brought it” defense was not working very well. Long story short, we got the shampoo through customs with the help of two veterinarians (think USDA equivalent) we met in the airport.

Once we got to Shanto I was able to go out to visit some of the widows on our second day. With the help of some rope that we had brought along to tie on the baggage we were able to restrain, check and treat the cattle of three widows that day. When we were done treating the animals we would take questions from the crowd. After all, how often do you get to talk to a veterinarian for free, or at all for that matter, in middle of nowhere Ethiopia. At our last stop of the day a man in the back asked me why his cows were not giving birth. What struck me about this man was the sincerity of his question. He appeared to be actually interested in the answer and had follow up questions. I told him it could be many things but that it was my best guess, and all I could do is guess without seeing his cows, was that his cows were underfed and worm infested. I suggested that he worm his animals and if that did not work he may need to make sure that his bull was good.

Another thing that happened on our last stop was the miracle of this trip. Wherever we stopped we would draw a cloud of children. At this stop one little girl latched on to Beverly, the grandmother on our trip, and would not let go. Even when we started to give out the food she did not leave Bev’s side. As we climbed back into the land cruiser to head back to the compound the little girl climbed in with us. Usually we shooed these children away but Desalegn told us it would be okay for her to come along. She would find her way home.

When we arrived back at the compound the little girl was taken to Dr. Jo to be check out. She got herself a new dress and shoes. She drank over a liter of water, ate a banana, and started on a piece of bread. We found out her name was Hannah, and that she had tuberculosis. Jo treated her for TB and she captured our hearts. The pure joy on her face as she ate that food, and the way she acted like such a little lady when she brushed the crumbs off her new dress and smoothed it out so it looked presentable, caused all of us to fall in love with her. Because of her “chance” meeting with us, she and her seven siblings are now sponsored so they can attend the school, everyone in her family was given a physical exam, the family received a goat and some chickens to help them support themselves, and the family will never be the same again.

That night as I lay on my slab or granite they called a hotel bed I thought about what had happened that day. Sure we had done some good things, but what difference would it make in a few months. What about that producer who needed to worm his cattle? Did he have access to the needed medicine? What about the equipment needed to administer the meds? I was also distracted by something I had learned earlier in the day about one of the volunteers that we worked with. His name was Tutu and he was always there when you needed him, and he always had a smile on his face. He was a man of honor. He had served his country in the military where he served as body guard to the prime minister. Because of his military service he had not attended school and had no formal education. With no formal education he was not very employable and FOVC had no money to give him a job so he had just volunteered for the last year and a half.

Finally I had an idea that I thought would help everyone out. What if Tutu became the one that I trained to act as a veterinarian? He would have the equipment that I had brought with me, and purchased in country, and I would be able to train him enough to be able to diagnose pneumonia, and administer worming boluses. It would provide him with a job, the widows with a “vet”, and the community with a “vet”. Plus he would be around the children of the FOVC compound where he could serve as a good role model. We were able to line up $50 support for his salary. I checked with Lory and found that this would be more than the security staff made but less than the teachers. I felt this was fair since he would have some education, but not enough to be considered trained like the teachers were.

As we move forward with Tutu I hope he continues to grow in his knowledge. He took to it so well the final two days I was there training him that I really have no doubt that he will. If all goes according to plan he will provide the widows with animal care, and serve the community in the same capacity. It is our hope that we will be able to fund this project separately from FOVC so it does not become a drain but rather a blessing. Future training for Tutu is in the works as well. Teaching him more English will help us communicate better with him, and we hope to get him into some agricultural classes as well. It is also our hope to continue to have American vets travel to Ethiopia and train him while they are there. If things go very well we may be able to plug him in with Christian Veterinary Missions a group that is already serving in Addis. They work all over the world training veterinarians and serving in any way they can.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why so many Babies???

Today I jumped into a conversation on the Ethiopia yahoo board about why Ethiopia has so many babies. It's not like I think I know the perfect answer, but I wanted to give my two cents worth so I shared a story from my trip (with a little creative licensing).

Really why I wanted to jump in and comment is that our perspective, as well intentioned, well fed Westerners is far different from Ethiopians. So until we've been there and lived it, who are we to say? And by being there and living it, I don't mean spending a few days in Ethiopia, making a whirlwind trip to the country-side, meeting a birthparent, heading back to our hotel that caters to us, and then jumping back on an airplane. That's not really living it.

The truth is. We don't really know. We haven't lived their lives. We haven't walked in their shoes of poverty, desperation, sickness, etc. Yes, maybe we've experienced some of that, but I'm guessing you likely can't say that you've lived their life. Can you? So imagine with me this story:

The rain is actually falling in Ethiopia. Praise God (or the heavens or whatever else you believe in) for the rain! People are on the roadside where shallow ditches carry the running water. Bent over the temporary stream are handfuls of people dipping water and washing their face and drinking until their bellies are full. A young family - seemingly a mother, father and 1-2 year old child - drink the fresh rain and fill their water jugs. It's awesome that they don't have to walk hours to water today. They can get it much easier. There's only one problem. The ditches are dirt and the water is filthy. Along with the fresh rain comes sediment, animal feces, and other water and air borne diseases. His joy on his aged face makes me smile and then frown. That so called fresh water was actually full of dysentery, a water-borne bacteria. Within a short period of time, this young father begins showing the tell-tale signs of dysentery that we can read about on the internet but that they have no clue of. First the abdominal cramps, then rectal pain, and eventually bloody stools. He can’t manage to stop the diarrhea and another villager recommends that he drink lots of water since he heard a “ferenge” talk about it some years ago. So, this man, whose name is Ayele, continues to drink what water they can gather up. But the diarrhea persists and Ayele begins to lack energy and lose his strength. His bride continues to carry their sweet baby, Asfaw, on her back to fetch water daily. It’s planting season and Ayele lays bed-ridden, meaning he lays on the dirt of his tukul, writhing in pain. Meanwhile his bride carries their child and their seed out and throws it out on the dirt, hoping something will grow. After all, she’s no farmer.

She has no clue how that works. In a matter of weeks, without clean water, IV fluids, or even a medical doctor to help, Ayele breaths his last painful breath while his wife is fetching water.

Can you imagine that? She returns home to find him gone. She’s now left to raise their son alone. Never mind the growing baby inside her belly that will be making its grand appearance any day now. How will she provide for them without her husband? The baby comes which brings some joy amongst the sorrow. His family is pressuring her to leave the home, their home, which they’d allowed their son to live in. The corn crop which had been broadcast sown was uneven and very little ears of corn matured. She daily asked herself how she would provide. Eventually she, having little to no value in her culture, was kicked out of her home and put to the streets. Her boys were hungry and she had very little to feed them. For her, it wasn’t even a choice of sacrificially giving to her toddler some food while she remained hungry because she had none to offer. As a means of providing a meal, she does what she sees other women doing and begins prostituting her body. Her boys, though she loves them, require so much. How is she supposed to provide for them? She can’t feed them without an income. There’s no welfare system to help her out. And because she’s in a small rural town, there’s no NGO presence either. She begs in the market place but can’t get enough for one meal. How can she make an income as a prostitute with two little children: one on her back and one at her side? While begging in the market the next day, she overhears a woman talking about giving her baby away. Another few weeks go by in which she begs, sells her body and watches her children become more and more malnourished. She constantly wonders if she’ll have to give her babies away too. Eventually, because she loves her children, she makes the hardest choice of her life. She kisses them on the forehead and through her tears tells them she loves them. She walks away broken hearted but is thankful that her boys will have a chance to be fed, and to live.

Several years later, I spend some time in Ethiopia. By now, this small rural town looks a little different. At the edge of the town is and organization called FOVC. And while the locals don’t know what the sign out front says, they understand that FOVC exists to help others. To care for the orphans and the widows. Even those widows who had to give up their babies. They know the children within the compound receive food, education and medical care. They know that Desalegn, who they watched grow up in this town, runs the organization and is constantly doing something, or a lot of things, for his neighbors. They know that FOVC gives them hope for tomorrow. As I stand in a crowd of villagers, some of which are seeing white people for the first time, I peer into the eyes of the people around me. One particular woman catches my attention. I watch her and she silently watches the veterinarian (my husband) treat the local livestock for parasites. With my camera in hand, I zoom in and capture a shot of that beautiful woman. As I make my way over to her, I show her the picture on my camera. She gasps having never seen herself in a mirror before, let alone on this contraption I’m holding. With the aid of a local translator, I sit and visit with this woman. And I hear her story. It’s heart breaking. But she tells me what she’s doing now and how she’s reaching out to her community. And in this small village in southern Ethiopia, I’m inspired by this woman I met who’s been through so much. She rocks my world when upon beginning to leave, she prays for us. And thanks God for using us to reach her people. I walk away with tears in my eyes. I can’t imagine the pain and loss she’s endured. Her story ends on a good note, but not all of them do.

This is all too often the case in Ethiopia. We have no clue what it’s really like there. We can’t comprehend what they go through or why they make the decisions they make. In this situation above, a baby was given up for adoption. His mom was alive. But she loved him enough to know that she could watch him die a slow death or give him up. She’d already watched the love of her life die. Once was enough. I share this story to help shed some light on their situation. It’s not perfect. And rather than argue over how and why it happens, I would love if we could work together to help prevent those situations from happening. My husband and I are volunteering with Friends of Orphans and Vulnerable Children in rural southern Ethiopia to help in these situations. If you would like to know more about them, visit their website at or send me an email.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Support the Kids

There are many organizations that support orphans in Ethiopia. We have supported an Ethiopian child for the last 6+ years. Without naming the organization, I will let you know that we haven't been overly impressed with this org. However, we found a new organization that we do love. Let me tell you about them.

FOVC exists for several reasons. One of which is supporting the orphans. FOVC has a sponsorship program. It works amazingly well. You can read about it here. Or I can tell you about it. Through FOVC's HOPE sponsorship, children receive a primary and secondary education (and hopefully a college education thanks to Cliff). They also receive clothing, health care and one meal a day. You don't think one meal is much? Just ask the other kids in and around Shanto how often they eat and you'll know the FOVC sponsored children are being well cared for. And you won't find it on their website but those kids receive lots of love from the FOVC staff.

Recently, FOVC moved into two new communities. Know what that means? Soon, FOVC will be looking for sponsors for those children. For $35/month, you can offer life-saving, hope-giving change to these children. That last statement is 100% serious. Sponsorship gives them life and hope. Just ask the amazing Dr. Jo who wept when she saw two smiling boys before her who she didn't expect to survive more than a few months when she met them in January. That's real change. And it's worth every single dollar. Every coffee you have to give up. Every meal you have to pack for lunch. Worth it. Will you commit to supporting a child? Feel free to contact me at tam4buit at hotmail dot com or sharon at fovc dot org. Sharon, who's in charge of HOPE sponsorships, would be happy to match you with a child.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Love Them

These are 3 staff that I grew to love in my time in Ethiopia.

T. Not sure that anyone knows how to spell his real name. But an amazing guy. With amazing strength. A big heart. A big smile. The heart of a servant. A volunteer. An employee of FOVC. A well deserving man. He also happened to be the man who Ryan took under his wing to train in veterinary skills. And he happened to be the one who found our birth mom and then took us back to her the next day. We love you T.

My Elesa. I met her the first day in Soddo. Her words broke my heart. I couldn't imagine the grief she was enduring. Younger than me. Beautiful. Cares for the children. FOVC employee. Quiet but strong. Dependable. Elesa, I look forward to seeing you again soon. I love you.

Desalegn, a man with a big, big heart. Younger than me but wiser than me. I was warned about you Desalegn. Thank you for caring for the least of these. Thank you for letting us serve with you for a short period while you and your staff do so daily. We love you Desalegn!

You guys are doing amazing work to serve the orphans, the widows and the oppressed. You and the remaining staff are the back bone of FOVC.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

More on 4th of July Fun

So I've told you about my amazing travel group and how half of us were together for the 4th of July weekend. But I didn't talk much about it cause I was super exhausted when I posted. I am now too but we'll see how this goes. Here's a few more pics and maybe some stories to go with them.

This little fire-cracker, well, she belongs to me. You can't really see the auburn-reddish hair but it's there. More than once people have referred to her as a fire-cracker. Which is funny cause when Ryan met some classmates at my 10-year reunion, one of them said "oh T is your wife? She's a fire-cracker!" Anyway, she was full of energy all weekend with her curly hair, glow in the dark necklace and juice-box after juice box of sugar. I was too tired on Sunday night to do the fireworks and so we let the kids do the sparklers and called it good. All except for Scott. He was too busy catching "nature's fireworks" as he called the lightning bugs.

Guess which one is my little Dutch burrito. Yes, he needs some sunshine. Sorry Dad, he doesn't take after you at all does he? Here the kids are doing who knows what after/while playing in the kid wash. I forgot the shampoo though. Next time.
Sleepovers are always fun as kids. First thing in the morning Scott's ready to read. B agrees to read to him. My son is a smart little whip so he and B read the story together: I tried everything possible to avoid any and all TV for the weekend. Sometimes I gave in though.

This is one of my fav's of the weekend. I was waiting for K to post two pics. I'll still wait for one, cause it's super cool but I'm sharing this one of her hubby and daughter. They are precious. Quiet. Solitude. Who knew such a thing was possible in a group of 20!

For the most part, we're all super experienced mom's and dad's. Not everyone is used to having 3 kids tug on them at once like we are. Which is why A did amazingly well here. Looks like he was keeping all three boys swinging. A, I think you and M are ready for twins. Make that triplets.

Thanks again everyone for coming. We had a great time. Maybe we should meet twice a year. Farther South in January sounds good to me. And for those who want to be honorary group 8ers, let us know. We'll love you.

Bugs, Floods, and 5 Birr Poops

A short story. Ethiopia is a developing nation. Not perfect. Not western. Beautiful. It's the not western part that sometimes surprises us. We stayed at a hotel in Soddo. While thankful for flushable toilets and clean towels (even if they were only hand towels) and the many other amenities that most Ethiopians have never seen, it wasn't the Hilton. Before I share the story, I want you to know that I'm not putting down Ethiopia or Soddo or the hotel. Not one bit. Just wanting to share a story of how you know you're in a developing nation.

While at the hotel, we had many funny and not so funny moments. It mostly was related to the water issue. It started with a leaky toilet in our hotel room and a few other similar situations. It may have been cold but at least we had water. It may have leaked but at least the toilet flushed. Until one day. A leaky pipe on Sunday was being fixed. When it was time to go home, they left the water off, packed up, and went home. After holding "it" all day, one team member rushed into the hotel, dropped her bag and ran upstairs. Upon flushing, she found that the stink didn't go down. The front desk was called for help. She, embarrassed, left the hotel room. Her amazing roommate paid the guy 5 birr for plunging the toilet. After that, it was referred to as a 5 birr poop. Maybe you had to be there to find it as funny as I do.

The rest of that story played out the next morning. When us Americans complained about the water (she wasn't the only one with a 5BP waiting), the staff had the water turned back on. Apparently they should have communicated that the water needed to be left off until the pipe. But it wasn't. The water was turned back on for us. By the next morning the 4th floor was flooded. Maybe the 3rd floor too. I don't remember how many floors were flooded because we were soon distracted with the water fall coming down the marble staircase. We couldn't believe it. Then again, we didn't know anything about the pipe problem from the day before. People lifted up their bags onto their beds, wrung their clothes out and headed to Shanto.

The next day, more and more people were complaining about their mosquito bites. One look from the amazingly talented vet and it was determined that they were flea bites, not mosquito bites. Flea bites? Seriously? It was Ryan's guess that somehow the flooded floors caused the fleas to come out of their hiding places and onto the beds of several of our team. Yuck. It makes my sin crawl thinking about it. Who knows where they actually came from.

Needless to say, the pool air mattress I'd taken stayed on my bed but could have been used for rafting. Shoot, it may have even protected me from the fleas. Am I complaining? No. Even with those little issues, we were still living it up compared to many people in Southern Ethiopia. I am so, so thankful for the many ways we were spoiled on that trip.

So, that's the short story of bugs, floods and 5 birr poops.

Friday, July 8, 2011


denise, a sweet friend (and team-mate) of mine from my recent trip to Ethiopia has a sweet blog post up about the widows. As a widow herself, she has a sweet perspective. And I noticed in her pictures that we have matching ones: someone caught her crying/emotional too. Check out Denise's blog:

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I've been asked questions by several people recently about FOVC. I figure if some people are asking, there might be others who are curious that haven't asked. So, I thought I'd post the answers I recently gave to a friend... and maybe tweaked them a bit to generalize them. This is not FOVC's opinion/response, this is my opinion on these issues:

  1. It's a matter of perspective. FOVC isn't a 40-year old established org. The good of that is that its easy to jump in and assist because everything's new. The bad thing is that there are bumps in the road as they continue to move forward in several ways. One example was communication from a team leadership perspective. If they'd been leading trips for 10 years, I'm guessing they'd have it down pat. This is the 3rd or 4th trip so they're still figuring things out.

  2. Do you need special skills? You think that "just" being a mom wouldn't be helpful? Don't sell yourself short about your normal mom-ish abilities. A couple of things come to mind: I'm guessing you can organize and manage kids well. Plus you can love on kids who need loved. Plus you're familiar with orphan issues. Plus you care. Plus you have a big heart. And I hardly even know you so I'm sure there's a lot more to add to that. One of the big things I think we could have used this last trip is someone to organize the kids while the teachers were being trained and some were in the medical room and some were doing an art project. It was exhausting to have unorganized play the whole time, especially for those who wouldn't say no to the kids very often.

  3. Mission trip is taken to a whole different level. I don't know exactly where you are in your personal walk. Or what your understanding/experience is with missions. But, until 2009 when I did some mission training, I had a very limited view of missions. I learned that there's many types of mission trips (preaching the gospel, encouraging the believers, establishing relationships, etc). But the difference with FOVC is that it's not a specific church mission trip. And I guess what I mean by that is that not everyone is a bible-believing Christian. In fact, FOVC is officially not a "christian" org. You don't have to be a Christian to serve on their humanitarian projects.

  4. What FOVC is doing. Currently their main work is in Shanto. The last however many trips were to Shanto. They recently moved into two other communities. We visited both of those locations. But I heard Lory say that she didn't expect we'd ever go to their towns like we do Shanto. So, that's what I know about location. Shanto it is. Currently.

  5. Was it good? Yes. Was it easy? No. Have you spent much time in developing nations? They're similar in that their culture doesn't function on a to-do list like ours. If you want to know more about that, read "Foreign to Familiar". It's a short, easy, read. So, where I was supposed to do one thing, that didn't at all happen. Some might call that a total loss. Like I just spent how much $ and 2 weeks of vacation to not even meet the widows. I believe that God is in control and I'm going to leave that in His control but that means that I have to let "my" plans go and let God do, or not do, what He wants. That could easily be a cop-out but I'm believing in God's timing. I also believe that on this trip, FOVC had too much on their plate. And then they lost a translator which put us in more of a pinch. And it could easily add to crazy frustration.

  6. Was it safe? There's always risk. Right before we left, I got really anxious about being gone from my kids. What if I died serving there and then my kids no longer had a momma. Maybe it was Satan putting doubt in my head (he likes to do that you know). But part of it was real anxiety that I was taking a risk that it wouldn't be safe there. So, was it safe. Mostly. Is there risk? Absolutely. Is it safe to go to downtown Chicago? There's risk there too. The difference is that when you take a risk in our country, you kinda know and maybe understand the legal system. After all, you are an American. When something goes down in another country, you play by their rules.

  7. Would I recommend someone else? I don't know anyone else that's doing cool things like this. I've ran into others like missionaries at the Christian Hospital in Soddo, the veterinary missionary in Addis, etc. But I love the small scale, roll your sleeves up and get it done atmosphere. I love that Desalegn is just an average guy with a bigger than average heart. I love that they're seeking to exist in biblical context even though they don't have a Christian label. So, in light of that, would I recommend someone else? No. I'm excited to serve with FOVC. That's not to say that there's not issues. And it goes back to being a new org. They're still establishing themselves, getting things figured out. And with that comes with growing pains. But, so does parenting. So does my marriage, ya know.

  8. Team Members. I think I said before, I love them. I didn't know anyone. I hardly knew Lory. But I became FB friends with a few of them and connected with them. Because most people didn't know each other, they sent out bios which helped placed names with faces. But, we all came together really well in Ethiopia. Of the 13 people on their team, there was only two that I felt like I didn't get to know very well. One was an introvert and the other was quiet.

  9. Serving without your spouse. I've gone on trips without Ryan. It was tough to come home all fired up and him be ready to hand of the kids and get a break. So, I was pretty adamant about him going along. He used ALL of his vacation time and wasn't very excited about it. But that "along for the ride" attitude quickly changed. Our first day in Ethiopia, he was asking me if we could sponsor one of the orphans. And by the second day, my very manly husband was letting the kids hug on him. So, my point is that if you go without your spouse, I think it's good to have a plan of some sort for communicating your experience with him. I know people who journal and then let their spouse read their journal when they get home. Anyway, something to think about.

I think getting involved with orphans in Ethiopia is an excellent idea. Because I, right now, believe strongly in family preservation and getting those women out of desperate situations to where they can thrive. Judah's cute and all but he still has a birthmom and 2 bio brothers who live very, very meagerly. And not US standards of meager either. And she's just one of many women who could use a little help and encouragement. I'm all about doing that.

And that's it for now. Lory and others, please feel free to chime in in the comments. If anyone has specific questions, please let me know.

supportive of FOVC,
Tamara B

FOVC: Teacher Training

Our team had lots of things to get done on this trip. Part of that was the teacher training for the FOVC school. Check out Denise's post to read more specifics and see pics of the teacher training:

Monday, July 4, 2011

FOVC: Crops

I say it every time, but I find it hard to blog about this trip. It might be that I'm so busy. It might also be that there was just so much that we experienced and learned. It's hard to put all of that plus a few of the 5,000 pictures into a few posts. Alas, right now it's quiet. And while I have some cleaning to do after our company left, and though I really want to go out for a jog, I've agreed to give my body and rest and veg on the couch. Makes for a great few minutes to share about the crops program with FOVC.

Where do I begin? Sandwich the good with the difficult? Just tell you how great it was? Give way too many details?

With a new program in a fairly new organization, you know there will be struggles, right? Right. So, I went to Ethiopia with a plan to train the chosen women widows on crops. Though I was conisdered the expert, I felt inadequate to do the training and kept begging God for knowledge of what and how to share. I had also spent a lot of time learning about the culture and climate of Southern Ethiopia.

As I type, I keep deleting and trying again. Seriously, I can't even begin to put my thoughts together in a readable manner. So, here it is - no editing, no making it all looking wonderful. Just my straight up experience.

Went knowing I was to train 8 or so women. About an hour each day I would be able to spend with them with a translator. Supposed to meet the Ag minister and visit some model farms. Gos some helpful information from My friends Marco and Jennine who have a non-prof called Food 4 the Future. We get to Shanto and it didn't go down like that. There's a handful of reasons why I'm sure. But the long and short of it, is that it didn't happen as planned. Below is a picture of the men I met. And worked with.

For several hours on one day of the trip. That's it. To say I was frustrated is an understatement. To never even meet the women widows angered me a bit. But, like my husband says, it's not all about me. Below is a picture taken of me talking to the men about soil fertility and showing them a basic soil test kit.

These men were the ag specialist for their area (think Extension agronomy) and the model farmers. So on the day that the widows came, they sat and waited while we did the cultural ceremony thing. A lack of communication occurred and when the ladies had waited several hours, they left to get home to take care of their families. The men remained. So, I spent some time in an office talking with my "specialist" guys about all kinds of crops stuff in their area. They confirmed what I already knew and then taught me a bunch more. When that was done we went to a model farmers home where we looked at his crops. I was quite impressed with the degree in which he was thinking outside the box. He had a water catchment basin, a corn crib type of thing, one for potatoes too and several other things. He was applying some manure and thinking about composting. I also saw several small plots where he had broadcasted seed rather than planting it. But, it was good to see. Unfortunatley that was the only farm we visited and I would have liked to see more.

So, it didn't go like I planned. I was frustrated but understanding of their culture but there's a really important lesson in all of it. I could have brought my American attitude in and made a big deal about not meeting the widows. I could have requested that they be brought back the next day to do some training. I could have thrown a fit because after all, I spent a lot of money and all my vacation to do this. But I didn't. And I'm thanking God for giving me some maturity in that arena. What happened instead was that I spent a lot more time with the specialists. And in that time, I was able to begin relationships with them. And since Ethiopia prides itself on relationships, this was a great thing. In that time, I learned that Shanto has a farmer training center. So, while I went in without a lot of knowledge and my help would have truly been limited this first trip, I met some very helpful/valuable people. These specialists who know way more than I do. This training center that trains farmers. How cool is that!?!?!?

So, now I have a new idea of maybe how things can go. I know they can still change. But I'm hoping to partner with these specialists and this training center to get my widows trained. And as they continue to see me invest in the community, they'll continue to trust me and what I have to say. And maybe then, some of the model farmers will be willing to try a few new things. ANd once they try, then their neighbors will too. I look forward to the progress that we can make in the next few months and then to see what we can make happen (with help, of course) when I go back (tentatively) over Thanksgiving.

The model farmers wearing the John Deere hats that my friends Lyn/Joel and Julie/Bob donated for the guys. They loved their new hats so much they didn't want to take the tags off.

Ethiopia Gathering Overview

We prepared a lot of food.

(Ethiopian food for this meal)

Did lots of dishes.

(whether the adults knew it or not in this pic)

Got into a little mischief.

Had lots of fun with our friends.

As did the dogs (mine + the neighbors)

And in general, had a good time.

Only a handful of things, I mean families, were missing. Maybe next time.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


9 adults + 11 kids = a whole lot of fun... and business.  Glad to have my house full of friends.