Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Dig Deep, Get Involved

So yesterday I shared about the need to get involved in keeping first families together.  It's critical in my mind.  Yesterday, I read gruesome details of a public orphanage in Ethiopia.  My friend wrote the blog post having just been there and experienced it herself.  I was horrified.  She carefully shared enough to give us an idea of reality.  The need is great people.  Please don't breeze through those words.  The.Need.Is.Great.  Even if we're not going on extravagant vacations, carrying around the most recent iwhatever, or eating out twice a week, we have so much.

My post was long enough, and random enough, yesterday that I wanted to wait until today to share a few ways that you can get involved.  Of course, you know that my love is for Ethiopia.  You might not know that I also have a love for this small church in the heart of Mexico City doing big things.  My focus has been on Ethiopia so that's mostly the options that I have to share.  Here are a few places you can get involved:

Roots Ethiopia
Roots was birthed out of a desire of adoptive families to connect with Ethiopia in culturally appropriate and forward-thinking ways.  One thing I love about Roots is that their decisions are based on local wisdom and experience.  I also love that they've started small and desire a strong anchor before they reach out far and wide.  The two main projects that Roots works on is Income Generating Grants (IGA's) and school sponsorships.  Roots can be found via their website, facebook, and even cool snippets on pinterest!  Check them out and see how you can help.  $28 a month sponsors an IGA and $20 a month sponsors a student's education and medical.

Children's Hope Chest
Hope Chest is the organization we volunteer with.  I have grown to love Hope Chest and their methodology.  They work mostly in child sponsorship in countries like Russia, Swaziland, Haiti, Guatamala, Uganda, and Ethiopia.  Their focus is a community to community focus.  So, for example, my work community, or my church community, would focus on a single community in Ethiopia through sponsorship and other capital campaigns.  It's awesome to see a group of like-minded people work together to focus on a small area.  This is, by the way, how we sometimes work on water quality in my 8-5 job - a small area of focus so you can see the impact.  We call it a watershed approach.  Anyway, our community of choice has been Shanto since we were introduced to them in late 2010.  This is where Ryan and I have been involved specifically working with widows to help them survive and thrive and keep their families together.  The work that Ryan and I do is called a capital campaign project and our current campaign is to finish off the second half of the livestock project we started where we give a woman a cow and a sheep.  She will then repay her "loan" by giving away the first born of her animals.   There is no set monthly donation to support the livestock project.  Child sponsorship is $34/month and pays for private education, medical, and a uniform.

Friends of Orphans and Vulnerable Children
FOVC is an Ethiopian non-profit.  The Shanto project mentioned above partners locally with FOVC.  What started as a man caring for two orphans has grown exponentially.  While FOVC in Shanto is supported mostly by Hope Chest, they exist in two other communities in southern Ethiopia that aren't in a Hope Chest program.  Desalegn is always looking for people to partner with him in sponsorship and IGA's.

ZAT project
ZAT stands for Ziway & Adami Tulu - two communities in Southern Ethiopia which we've driven through on our way to Soddo.  ZAT project partners through Lifesong for Orphans in child sponsorship.  Lifesong partners with local ministries to employ excellent education with two meals per day.  My adoption travel buddy and real life friend at GodWillAdd has poured her heart into this project. She's gone so far as to run a marathon to bring awareness and raise money.  In 2012, the ZAT project funded 830 students to attend school.  A $19/month donation covers the tuition, and meals for a student in the Ziway, and Adami Tulu areas.

Ethiopian Orphan Relief
A non-profit here in the states that desires to improve the lives of Ethiopian orphans.  They work in partnership with local non-profits in Ethiopia.  For example, at FOVC, they built the new addition which is currently being used for the crowded school.  EOR welcomes you to participate in your own fundraising drive in your community, as well as donations.

Heartline Ministries
Heartline is located in the heart of Port Au Prince, Haiti.  I was introduced to Heartline a handful of years ago through my friend Michelle who was born in Haiti while her parents served there as missionaries.  We hosted a "purse party" and I have been so impressed with their work.  They have some really neat ministries going on there that get to the heart of the problem.  They created a women's program where they have a place to learn life-skills and support their families out of poverty.  They have a maternity center where expecting mothers can have medical care, education, and clean delivery options.  They have a children's home that they partner with.  They've even started a bakery where men are discipled half the day and work in the bakery the other half.  They're learning a trade and learning how to be MEN in their homes.  They also have a great fundraising project where you can host a purse party.  They mail you the purses made by the women in their sewing program, and you sale them at the purse party and mail back ones not used.  It's an awesome way to have a social gathering with purpose.

Ministry opportunities abound.  If you're interested in learning more about one of the ministries above, check out their website, or contact me.  If you're looking for a way to get involved locally, or in a country besides Ethiopia, I'd be happy to help you find a good cause.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Privileged Perspective

Lonely.  Dishonor.  Guilty.

Those can be some pretty heavy words.  Words from my last post.  I mentioned feeling lonely because others in our community hadn't adopted.  I mentioned questioning if I'd dishonored God by not carefully choosing my conversations.  I most certainly had guilt over it.  

For the past several months, I've been calling to question everything I believe about adoption.  This seemingly good thing called adoption can be so twisted, and miry.  The opportunity to change a child's life presents another opportunity for deceit, lies, and scams.  I'm not writing to hate on adoptions agencies.  I have no reason for vengence.  I'm not writing to criticize birth parents.  However I do see a broken system. It has the potential to become a supply/demand system.  That's not what I want to write about today. 

The more I've educated myself, the more I firmly believe that the world is just jacked up.  I think we all know that, right?  But just because it's jacked up, doesn't mean we give up.  We should all know that too, right?  Let me break down a couple of the things that spin 'round and 'round in my mind.

There is an orphan crisis.  Does anyone know the definition of orphan?  Webster would say that it's a child whose parents are dead (citation).  Makes sense, right?  But even Webster goes on to further explain "a child deprived by death of one or usually both parents".  In terms of children, and specifically the orphan crisis, our own goverment says it this way in regards to immigration: A child may be considered an orphan because of the death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from, both parents. The child of an unwed mother or surviving parent may be considered an orphan if that parent is unable to care for the child properly and has, in writing, irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption. (citation here).  Love 'em or hate 'em, UNICEF desribes an orphan similarly to our government.  Like you've probably heard, there are more than 130 million orphans in sub-saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Carribean (citation).  That's a bunch or kids without a parent.  But what reels through my mind, and my mind goes from one random tangent to another related to this topic, is this.  Of those 132 million orphans, they've either lost one or both parents.  That means, some of those 132 million orphans have a living birthparent who couldn't provide for them.  And pardon the random tangents, but I wonder how that compares to our own nation????  How many full orphans do we have in comparison to how many kids have one dead parent and one parent who can't provide.  And if said parents, whether they're in sub-saharan Africa or downtown Detroit, can't provide for their children, what is being done to help them?????  

The statistics are staggering.  I've joined the band wagon and commented that if bible-following-family listened to the scriptures and adopted a child, we could take care of the orhpan issue.  I realize how horrible that is now.  Because I've educated myself and paid more attention, I jumped off that band wagon.  Do I still believe that we, as bible-believing, or as good-natured people, still need to take care of orphans and widows?  Abso-stinkin-lutely.  Some of the staggerring statistics the UNICEF has also published say that of those 132 million orphans, only 13 million - that's 10% people - have lost both parents (citation).  While valid points, I'll stay off the bunny trail of those "orphans" in our own country.  Likewise, I'll (for now) leave alone the previous citation that also mentions 95% of orphans are over 5 years old.  Both of these topics raise my blood pressure but I'll leave them for another day.

In all this randomness, I do have a point.  

Do we really believe that those other 90% are orphans?  Do we really believe that those other 90% should be adopted into privileged America/Europe? Let me put it this way.  I know of a family where the mom is a dead beat.  She's addicted to drugs and provides horrible care for her children.  There is no training.  No discipline.  No rules.  Very little love.  Her kids, while they should be, are never in a car seat while travelling in a vehicle.  She's what we'd call a dead beat mom.  The birth father is unknown.  The mom went to court and signed over care because she's unable to hold down a job and provide for them (I'm sure it's not that simple but for the sake of the point, I'm not going to lay out every detail).  Based on Webster and UNICEF, these children would be considered orphans.  Many families that know them would take the children in a heart beat.  They would trudge through the emotional battles, the physical battles, to give them love, and training, and raise them to be responsible adults.  Based on the above, would you say that a family has a right to adopt the children?   Let me take this thought process of mine a step further.  If you were close enough to the family and knew all the details that go on behind closed doors and knew without a doubt that they are malnourished and uncared for, would you fight to adopt those children?  After all any of us could offer them a better life.  Any of us could clothe and feed them, send them to school, buy them school supplies, get them to Sunday School and soccer.  Would it be right for us to adopt them?  What if the mom doesn't care enough and never has gone to court to legally give them up?

Here's what I'm getting at.  I've heard it a lot.  I've even said it.  We could offer them so much more.  Give them a chance at life.  And that thought kinda sickens me.  It comes from a privileged mind set.  Is it because they need a mommy and daddy and they're malnourished, or because we can give them an education and opportunity?  What if some millionaire dude who lived in a mansion, had a chef on staff, a long concrete drive for riding bikes, access to private education, clothes galore, etc, etc wanted to adopt my kids.  They would have way more opportunity with the rich dude.  After all, we don't have a private school nearby, the kids don't know how to ride bikes because we have a gravel driveway, and this momma doesn't always prepare the healthiest meals.  Does that mean they should be adopted.  No way.  While we're not millionaires, we're definitely not poor or in need.  We're average people and that's okay by me.  But as Americans, I think we begin to get this twisted idea in our minds that we can offer so much more.  I'm constantly reminding myself that less privileged is okay.  Especially as we look at underdeveloped nations like Ethiopia for example.  We need to be familiar with and remember what's culturally appropriate.

What are your thoughts on that?  I'd love to hear your feedback.  I'm still learning and by no means think that I have it all figured out.  

What I do have figured out is this.  Based on the 2005 data from UNICEF, there are 120 million orphans with a living parent also called a "single orphan".  These single orphans are no doubt in need.  They have lost a living parent.  We would have the same problem here in the U.S. if we don't have life insurance.  What I want to focus on, and am more and more sure of, is focusing on those living parents.

This is my Judah.  We adopted him in 2010.  His birth father past away in 2009.  His mom was unable to provide for the three boys.  She kept the two older boys (who are now working to help provide for the family) and made an adoption plan for Judah.  This picture brings me great joy yet at the same time it's heart wrenching.  I have no desire to send my Judah back to Ethiopia.  He's mine.  We chose to parent him with the best information we had at the time.  But it's the time since then that has really stirred in my heart.  Had someone given Judah's birth mom the tools to provide for her kids, this would be a much different picture.  Empowering women to generate income that will sustain their family could change their lives.  Not just the life of the single parent, but the children as well.  Doesn't that remove the orphan issue if that parent can provide for her children???  In the non profit world, one of these terms is called an Income Generating Grant (IGA).  IGA's are an awesome idea.  Because I'm most familiar with rural Ethiopia, they receive start up funds to begin their new "job", as well as basic training as appropriate for animal husbandry, accounting, etc.  I love, love, love this idea.  

This is my point.  There are bunch of orphans out there.  Single and Double Orphans.  There are men and women struggling to survive and thrive and  provide for their families.  We should be concerned with providing for widows as well.  IGA's is one way that we, in privileged America, can do it.  Tommorow, I'll post a couple of really cool opportunities to give a little of our privelege to help a widow keep her/his family together.

Because I believe the bible tells us to care for orphans and for widows, I think it's important that we do both.  By sharing about the need to care for the widows, I'm not discounting the need to care for orphans.  A by-product for caring for widows, generally includes caring for orphans.  In any case, orphans do exist.  We do need to care for them too.  We also need to be knowledgeable and ask the right questions when pursuing any sort of adoption.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


It's what she said.  I read a blog post yesterday and now I can't find the link to it.  The post resonated in my heart and my mind.  It was as if the blogger was writing my thoughts.  Her words weren't eloquent.  Her story wasn't super exciting, didn't share any "dirt", any miracles, or crazy things that would typically grab attention.  I won't share her whole story.  Instead, I'll share the feelings it stirred inside my heart, which are much of the same as her words.  (Sorry mysterious person who I can't find right now to give credit to).

It was about this time of year four years ago when we began the adoption process.  We had prayed for months, educated ourselves for months, and researched for several more months before jumping into the adoption paperwork.  We adopted because we wanted to.  We adopted because we wanted more children and felt that we could provide for a child in need.  We adopted because the need was great.  We adopted because the bible calls us to care for orphans.  We adopted for a hand full of reasons.  A side benefit for adopting was for our community (whether it be our town, our church, our family, or our friends) to see adoption happen.  To be aware of the need.  To be encouraged to adopt.  To see an example.  To know that it's totally do-able.

Our communities have been supportive.  They've loved us.  They helped us fundraise.  They kept our kids when we picked Judah up.  They provided meals for us after we got home.  They've watched the 3 kids on various occassions.  While I'm super thankful for that, there's something missing.  And before reading the mystery lady's post, I didn't know how to explain it.  We don't know what seeds we've planted, or how people have supported orphans, we don't know who's felt led to do missions trips (unless they've told us). But people we interact with on a day-to-day basis haven't adopted.

I remember during the process of adoption thinking and praying about how our journey to Judah might encourage families to adopt.  There's a sinking feeling in my stomach when I realize that no one has.  I'm not naive enough to think that ALL of my friends and family would adopt.  However, I did think a small hand full would.  Lonely.  It's such a simple word.  But not one I ever thought to use to explain how I've felt.  As I consider that feeling, I have these quiet conversations with God where I ask Him what I've done wrong.  Have I not given Him the glory?  Have I not been a good example of adoption to those around me?  Am I not purposeful enough in my conversations with others about adoption?  What is His plan?

Some years ago, I was given a passion for orphans.  Not all of those in my day-to-day life have that same passion.  I thank God for the passionate heart I have for serving those in need.  I love sharing about it.  I love getting others involved too.  I would love to share my  heart with you and bring you along on a challenging and rewarding journey to serve those in need in simple ways like raising funds to buy livestock for widows in Ethiopia, raising funds to help repair a disheveled home, help send a widow to nursing school, or sewing school, or even sponsor a child.  Would you join me on this journey????

Friday, September 6, 2013

Bearing Fruit

Back in July, I received this message from the FOVC Ethiopia Director

Hello Tamara, We are distributing cows and sheep to the beneficiary widows tomorrow. Thanks for the great effort you and Ryan have done for the widows and their family in Shanto and its area. You will have more details through the CHC I think after tomorrow. Tomorrow is a great celebration for our children, widows and community as it is the end of the school day besides to the distribution of the animals. Thanks again!!!

The day after the distribution of livestock, I received this official report from Children's Hope Chest:

Shanto distribution was completed on Saturday July 6, 2013. There was a great ceremony in the presence of  local Government officials, Woreda and Zonal, heads of Bureau of Education, Finance and Economic Development, Children and Women’s Affairs, and the Agricultural Bureau.

Thirty-five cows and 35 sheep were distributed to 35 widows in the community (connected to the CarePoint).  The screening was originally done for 31 widows out of the total 35 according to the proposed plan. However, the type of cow to be distributed was changed to local cows within the region. The purchasing price for each cow and sheep was lower compared to the original budget. Therefore the IGA committee at Shanto increased the number of participants to 35, this was according to their objective to include all of the widows connected to the care point in the IGA program. With this conclusion participants received one cow and one sheep.

During the handover ceremony all participants were given support, and made known of planned follow up and support in every direction for their future. The widows were praising God, blessing and giving thanks to the donor community, singing with shed tears. The attached pictures show the sample for the distribution of both cows and sheep. The animals were given by Government representatives. During the ceremony and distribution, an introduction about how the selection was done, the back ground of the widows and their families, and the objective of the IGA program was relayed to the audience.

Oh, thank you Lord for YOUR timing and for allowing us to see this project to fruition.

Thank you dear friends for helping to make this program a reality.  This is changing people's lives!  Thank you for your grace, patience, and understanding during this lengthy process as we transitioned to Children's Hope Chest.  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ryan's 1st 24 hours...

Ryan wrote this about his first day experience on our way to the South after landing in Ethiopia.

Have you ever had a bad couple of days? Well let me tell you a little about my driver on this trip to Shanto. First, in his defense, the vehicle he has to drive is far from stellar. It does tend to sway around a lot and he has a lot of trouble getting it into 4th gear. That said whenever he turns to pass a car it is as though he is trying to do the slalom course.

Yesterday he had a tough time getting the vehicle to go. We stalled numerous times and several of them were because he forgot to take the parking break off when we were starting to go after lunch. This caused us to fall so far behind the lead vehicle that we lost them and took an unscheduled tour of a before unseen portion of town, nearly hitting a commercial stall when we went to turn around and also nearly getting the four wheel drive vehicle stuck at the same time. We also had the misfortune of backing into a light pole and curb when we stopped to stretch our legs.

That brings me to today. Once again we had fallen behind the lead vehicle when we got to one of the numerous round-a-bouts here in Ethiopia. We took it so fast I was thrown over into Rob, the tires squealed and Rob and I were sure we were going to tip over or at the very least lose some of the luggage strapped to the top. I guess if you are going to get in a car wreck you may as well do it with a MD by your side (more on that later).

In Ethiopia it is not against the law to have your unsupervised animals wondering around the road. It is, however; illegal to hit them with a vehicle and kill them. While I do not know for certain we did come really close to a goat at one point, I heard a loud thud, as one would expect to hear if a goat head had contacted the side of the car, people yelled at us and we quickly sped out of town. When the lead car pulled over just outside of town we simply continued at a high rate of speed until we were several Kilometers down the road.

Within a half hour of that we expertly hit a hole (it was to big to call it just a pot hole) which jarred the vehicle enough that the hood nearly popped loose. Stopping along the side of the road we took a piece of rope and tied the hood down with a piece of rope.

Off we were again, down the road to Shanto. By this time we were well off heavily traveled roads and proceeding down the dirt road. When we rounded the corner in the middle of the road only to be greeted by a bus coming in the other direction. With the simplicity that only our driver could have shown we swerved out of the way. The problem was there was a man on the road in the way of us so instead of hitting the man, we continued forward and through a ditch that is close to a foot deep and probably 3-4 feet wide.

What happened next I am not one hundred precent sure. I know I was thrown into the air twice. The first time Rob tells me he was thrown over into me so I can only assume that I was thrown into the door. When I came down I felt severe pain in my tail bone as though I had landed on a bar. I then was thrown forward because I remember thinking I was going to go over our driver. I believe that is when the rope holding all the luggage on top broke and the luggage came crashing forward, breaking the windshield and taking off the driver's side windshield wiper. When it was all said and done Rob had hurt his elbow, my tailbone was either broken or bruised, and the only damage to the car was what I mentioned. We felt lucky. The windshield was in place and who needs wipers when it doesn't rain much anyway.

The day went well. I had a surprise birthday party Shanto style. Complete with a cake and really big sign.

 Desalegn and I talked about the animal project and I helped Rob with some menial tasks while he did physicals. Then a one year old girl was brought in with severe infection around her eyes. I had to hold her down while Rob cleaned the abscess above her eye. At one point when we were bandaging her I thought she died. She went so limp and she dropped the sucker she had in her hand. We hope to see her tomorrow to start her on antibiotics we pick up in the morning but Rob isn't sure she will live through the night.

We all piled back into our vehicles to make the return trip to Soddo when it started to rain. Funny how you don't think much about a wiper until you are driving in the rain. Well, let's just say the passenger could see okay. But did we stop? no! Why?  Because we are men and we are not going to let something as little as no vision slow us down. We pressed on.  When we came to the "Y" in the road that we did not know which direction to take, did we stop? No! We pressed on. When the windows fogged over and we could not see through the fog did we stop? No! We pressed on with open windows because the defrost did not work. When it rained so hard we could not see the road at all, did we stop? No, we pressed on. Eventually we found the lead car waiting for us at an intersection telling us to head to the right, did we stop? No, we went to the left. This was fortunately corrected quickly.  To make a long story shorter, we lost the lead vehicle again and it took us so long to get to Soddo that they came back looking for us. Rob and I had a great laugh the entire time because if we didn't laugh we would have surely cried.

Arriving at the hotel we found that we did not have reservations like we were suppose to and they had no room. I am not sure why it took the Ethiopians 45 minutes to hash this out but it did. Finally it was decided to head out to eat. First he drove forward while I was trying to climb into the back seat. I had troubles getting in before I hurt myself and trust me I did not get any faster. Fortunately I avoided getting run over and was able to enter the truck when it stopped moving. He was apologetic. At dinner, I was suprised when Tamara brought out cards from the kids and candy bars for everyone. She also passed a card around and everyone signed it.

When we left dinner our driver struck again. Literally! This time it was a red Toyota truck that had the misfortune of parking behind us. Even though it was witnessed by a guard he did not get in trouble and we just drove away to our current hotel. I can't say much about this hotel other than I stayed in worse. It was in Mongolia but it was more scary than this.

I got to call the kids at school and they sang happy birthday to me and asked if I liked the cards they made and then I got the best gift of all. . . . Ingrid informed me that as of 9am tomorrow we will have a new driver and new vehicle!  While this probably will not go down as my best birthday ever, it is definitely going to be one of the most memorable.

The next day the van did show up right on time. Not only did the new van and driver have to leave at 2am to be here on time, but they brought another driver to bring the first one and the truck back. They did not even trust him enough to drive himself back to Addis. Heck of a way to, all we can assume is, end your career. Being driven back to the office to be fired. To bad. He was a really nice guy, just not a very good driver.

Monday, April 22, 2013

From Bonnie

I loved the team we traveled with to Ethiopia. I love what they taught me, how they experienced life there, how they interacted with others. I was blessed to watch them serve, and to serve along with them. With that said, I asked my team to share about their experiences. The first one is from Bonnie.  

Thank you Bonnie for your willingness to share:

Even though been putting off writing about Ethiopia, it has never been very far from my mind at any given moment. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but whatever it was, it caught me unawares -- many times. A catch in my throat, a sigh, a tear that formed in my eye--these were all manifestations in my physical body what my heart was feeling.

 Sure, I was excited to meet up with my husband, whom I hadn’t seen for eight weeks. Sure, we were thrilled to be able to meet and hug our little Girum, whom we sponsor. But I was not prepared for certain moments, like when 225 precious children in tattered uniforms and bare feet came to welcome us with so much appreciation. Like when we went shopping for some socks and closed-toe shoes that we could give Girum and it only cost $20 U.S. dollars. Like when we presented those shoes and socks with the gift bag and found out that they were his first pair of shoes--ever. He is nine years old and in first grade and walks over five miles a day just to get to school and the feeding center. We realized that our sponsorship is just a drop in the bucket among thousands of children, but it is making a huge difference in his little life.

 And then there was the moment that we had a home visit with Girum’s mother and family. “Oh, it’s not far,” they said as we had to stop the van and walk down the washed-out road. Africa is huge, and when they say, “It’s not far,” don’t believe them. We got to the mud hut where Girum’s mother was. This was my first home visit and I was not prepared. I was shocked at the state of her mud hut. I could see the sun shining through the gaping hole in the back. Girum has five other siblings and his mother is a widow. His mother began to cry when we came because she had been praying to God to send some relief. She saw Girum’s shoes and was so grateful. I think Girum is the only one out of that whole family that gets one consistent meal per day. Through a translator we learned that she had her one breast cut off. They don’t call it breast cancer, they call it “breast sickness.” Her first husband had died several years before and she had been hired out to another man. This other man abandoned her, but left her his legacy in the child that she was holding and nursing with her one breast. I assured her of our prayers and then we had to leave. I was crying when we left. The loaf of bread we brought for her was woefully inadequate.

I remember the moment the first time I had to use the “squatty potties.” And then realizing the staff and the children alike had to use these all the time. Many moments were routine, like when I took vital signs from child after child so they could have a medical record after the doctor examined them. Do you know that in Ethiopia, there is a ruler that I marked on a door jamb for children’s heights that will probably be there for many years? I am so very thankful I went on this trip. It brings the mission field up close and personal. When I read about Ethiopia in the Bible I can say I’ve been there. Though I could write much more, I will remember that the moments were precious, unforgettable, and sometimes troubling.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Welcome Back

We received a warm welcome from the FOVC-Ethiopia students.  They come walking down the path singing, and waving their signs.  It is such a precious sight, even as a repeat visitor:

Before they could finish their song, I found little Hannah in the crowd of children.  Hannah is the little girl who attached her self to Ryan's group when he was out treating livestock on our first trip.  At that time, Hannah stole the heart of us visitors.  Because of the desperate situation of Hannah's family, she began receiving schooling through the FOVC program.  It was no surprise that she climbed right into my arms and then made her way to her pal, Ryan.  You can see this in the picture below.

Last fall when Hope Chest added more children to the existing sponsorship program, there was our little friend.  She had grown so much.  Because of the support that Hannah gets through her Hope Chest sponsorship, Hannah continues to grow and learn.

Following our warm welcome, we celebrated Ryan's birthday.
The kids parade was lead by this sign while they sang Happy Birthday. 

 Ryan was  presented with fresh flowers, a true gift from the students.

His "birthday cake" was a double-layered super big loaf of bread with a birthday greeting on the top:

After Ryan broke bread with the knife, and the bread was passed out to the children, we had the traditional coffee ceremony which included roasting coffee and grinding it, before serving it along with popcorn.

Meet Asikanech.  This beautiful bright-eyed child is in need of a sponsor.  
You too can make a difference in the life of a child through the sponsorship program. $34 per month can impact a child for a life time.  You can sponsor her today by clicking on this secure link.  It is my goal for the remaining children to be sponsored before I continue work on the crops for widows project. There are 51 children in need of sponsors in Shanto today. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Team

Did you know I was just in Southern Ethiopia?  It was an amazing trip.  I've been home for over a week now and finally adjusting back to home.  Of course, now that I'm feeling adjusted, I have a slight cold.  Part of my adjustment always includes some stomach issues.  Thankfully, I don't have isssues when I'm in-country.  But when I return home, it's like my stomach wages war with foods.  I'm no specialist or super-smart person, but I wonder if it has something to do with putting foods back into my system that have preservatives, dyes, and other junk.  Enough about that.

Moving on.

The pictures tell stories themselves, right?  Let me start with a few.  But before that, in case you need some background, here's a short overview.  Adopted in 2010, drove South, saw the need.  Made ourselves available to serve in the area of our son's birth.  This was my 3rd trip to FOVC-Ethiopia and Ryan's 2nd.  

This was our team.  From left to right: Thomas, (our intepreter & all around helper); Bonnie & Tom (Dale sponsors. B helped wherever asked. T is more adventurous and took video and photos the whole trip); Antonio (high school student and our comic relief. His first time out of the U.S.); Alex (Hope Chest Discipler, our host, great leader); Rob (team Doc, cracker distributor); Abigail (college student, sponsor, Ingrid's right hand); me; Ryan (veterinarian, my husband; practical thinker); Ingrid (sponsorship coordinator, prayer warrior, awesome). Not pictured: Desalegn (FOVC Director); Kaight (Base Camp, aka Rob's "home-girl"); and Colleen (shuttle driver for Rob to Dulles... but that's a whole seperate story).

Who would have known our team  would have interacted so well together?  Ingrid would.  She prayed diligently for the right team members who would get along.  And that we did.  Not only that, but our team was great at pitching in and helping out where needed.  Whether it was helping in the medical clinic, buying supplies at the pharmacy, organizing donations, crafting with children, translating, wrangling cattle, and every other thing that came up, our team pitched in and helped.  It was a joy to be with such a fun group for 11 days.

Travelling on a semi-regular basis helps me feel at home in Ethiopia.  I love that.  It's also important for me to not become numb to the needs I see when I'm there.  To remember that while they don't need to be Westernized, they also have great need at a very basic level.  It was refreshing for me experience this trip through new eyes by watching some of my team who'd never been there before.  Wanting to help in many ways was also a reminder that what we might think "helps" really can be a disservice to them.  

In the coming weeks, I plan to post regularly.  I've even asked some of my team to guest post.  Be patient and check back.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


The team is finally together. We're boarding now. I just had coffee which decreases the chances of sleeping but I'm still hoping to sleep most of the 13.5 hour flight!

It is getting more and more exciting!!!

Friday, March 15, 2013

On the move

I have been horrible at blogging. Ryan bought me an iPod touch for Christmas and i hardly sit in front of the computer at home these days.

A quick update is in order.

We have started our next journey to Ethiopia. We're in Minneapolis for the night. Tomorrow, those of us from the Midwest fly to Washington DC to met the rest of our team (-1). We'll stay overnight there before our 13.5 hour flight to Ethiopia. While there, we'll be back in Shanto, then to Awassa, and Dale before going back to Addis.

Ryan will be treating livestock for the widows plus livestock in the community. I am eager to check in on all those I consider friends there... My crops ladies, my little buddies and the teenage girls.

I am so thankful to be part of this team. I am also very thankful for Ryan and his willingness to take part too and that he encourages me to be involved too. Without our friends taking care of our kids we wouldn't be able to do this so I'm thankful for each if them too!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


It's my oldest son's favorite number.  At 12 months of age, he could count to 17.  That might be because we have 17 steps in our staircase.  Who knows why he spoke so well so soon.  That was a long time ago.  Time flies.  The next 17 days are going to fly too.  In 17 days we'll be getting on a plane back to Ethiopia.

I'm starting to feel the crunch of the to-do list.  There's so much I haven't really made a list yet.  It would look something like this:

  • make a few necklace gifts
  • come up with list of things to talk to Judah's birth family.
  • buy pool mattresses to soften the beds.
  • buy cliff bars
  • find African bed bug spray.
  • get an Rx for malaria meds.
  • find someone to KEEP OUR KIDS.
  • Figure out kids' schedule
  • write kids' letters as in the past.  Scott requested them this year from the perspective of... some TV character...
  • Pack
  • Type/Print/Mail daily encouragement
  • Continue to pray, pray, pray
  • Think of a way to celebrate Ryan's birthday while in Ethiopia.
I'm sure I have at least 17 things to do if I sat down and thought about them.  That last one above I could really use your help on.  If you have any ideas, let me know.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to share that the Necklace page has been updated so check it out and please consider supporting our volunteer efforts by clicking here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Not A Lot

I feel like I don't have much to say pre-trip.

We fly out March 16th.  It's right around the corner.

I started to figure out where we're at in fundraising the other night but I was so tired I couldn't stay awake.  The basics is that we're still raising funds and we are so thankful for those friends who've come along side of us.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Necklaces are Posted

Due to icy weather conditions, church was cancelled today.  We were home as a family ALL day long.  Even Ryan was home all day with us.  It was a great day to catch up on a few things.  Bethany and I enjoyed much of the day beading and crafting.  I was able to get some necklaces uploaded to the necklace page.  Check it out.  Let me know if there's something you'd like.

Disclaimer: if you're willing to support us, you can mail us a check or follow this link to donate online. It is ***REAL IMPORTANT that you put ET130301T Tamara B in the memo line or the donation won't go towards us.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

We Trust

With each day that passes, we get closer to leaving for Ethiopia.  In fact, we secured our airline tickets on Thursday.  We expected the tickets to cost $1800 each.   You can imagine our surprise and gratitude when our tickets were only $1430 each.  That means we just saved $740.  Well, what it really means is that we have $740 less to raise.  That's super exciting!

We had to raise about $3,000 to cover our $6,000 in expenses.  That's a lot of money.  To date, we've raised $1375.  We're glad for the generosity of those who've donated, those who've sacrificially given.  The simple fact is that we have $1625 left to raise.  It's a lot to raise in a few weeks.  But we trust as we continue this journey of serving the widows and orphans in Ethiopia.

If you're interested in donating online towards our trip, you can follow this link. It is REAL IMPORTANT that you put ET130301T Tamara B in the memo line or the donation won't go towards us.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

8 weeks or so

If you follow my personal blog, tam4buit, you'll know that I've been fighting some health issues.  That means I haven't had a lot of energy to do much around the house, or any fundraising for Ethiopia.  But, we're in crunch time and I really need to hop to it.

This past week, I've been making some connections with people in and around Soddo, adoptive families, and other organizations interested in helping widows and orphans.  It's been a great week of information gathering and connecting the dots.

If you're interested in donating online towards our trip, you can follow this link. It is REAL IMPORTANT that you put ET130301T Tamara B in the memo line or the donation won't go towards us.

With that said, I will be starting to make bead products again.  My sweet friend Nina says I need to branch out and do different things with the beads.  Oh golly, I'm really not all that creative.  But, I'll be seeing what I can come up with for new and improved bead products.

On a totally different and out of the blue note, that last sentence made me thing of babycakes products.  Have you seen them? These cool products are made by my adoption friend, Chrissy.  These are all natural products that are good for your skin and for Ethiopian kiddos' hair.  With my recent skin issues, I've been paying closer attention to the "lotion" I use.  Did you know that alcohol makes up the 3rd highest amount of stuff in my skin moisturizer.  Oh, but not babycakes stuff.  It's whipped up of all natural, organic, food grade products.  I recently put in an order and begged Chrissy to send it to me right away. I just know it would be much better than my alcohol-filled product.  If you check out Babycakes website, you'll find that it's more expensive than the stuff from wallyworld, but it lasts longer and isn't full of alcohol.  Thanks Chrissy for sharing your helpful products with all of us!

Friday, January 11, 2013

9 weeks

Thanks to our wonderful trip leader, I understand that it's 9 weeks until we travel.  Boy, are we excited.  This week has been full of Ethiopia business:

  • talking through itinerary options
  • skyping with Dr. Rob and his sweet wife, Kaight
  • trying to connect with other Americans in Soddo
  • trying to make new connections in Halaba.
  • daydreaming about packing, ethiopian food, and those beautiful faces in Shanto
It's been a busy week for me but there's so much left to do:

  • drum up prayer support
  • drum up some financial support.
  • think through some questions to ask Judah's birth mom since she doesn't spew it out like me.
  • connect with those in Soddo and Halaba.
Ryan and currently have a little over $3,000 for the trip.  If you're willing and able to help us along financially, we'd appreciate it.  The following is a link for secure donation plus some important info that assures your donation can go to our trip:

REAL IMPORTANT!!  You need to enter the trip ID which is ET130301T and in the memo line you need to say "donation for Tamara".  Hope Chest is working with 1,000's of people.  It's important to label stuff.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Trip Planning: Fundraising

Ingrid, our trip leader, has been doing planning for some time.  Besides asking for time off work, I haven't done much with planning. With 2012 officially out the window, I better get focused.  These next few months are busy in our personal lives with birthdays and my all-time favorite, Sweetheart Supper.  Without dragging on forever, here's the deal.

Ryan and I are travelling together so we have double the expenses which amount to the following:
$3,600 for airline tickets (which can vary)
$2,800 in-country fees which includes food, hotel, travel to the South
$1,000 project costs

The above are estimates.  I'm guestimating a cost for Ryan to do an outreach project to the entire Shanto community, not just those involved with FOVC-Ethiopia.  Through Children's Hope Chest, there is a budget for the animal husbandry project.  However, as we currently understand it, we can't officially start the project until we raise the complete funds for the animal husbandry project.  Because I despise asking people for help, and because we need to raise money for our own expenses, I thought trying to raise $30k to finish off the animal husbandry project might be asking a lot.  With that said, I know that I serve a BIG God who can provide that $30k through people... I'm just not ready to ask for that.

Ryan and currently have a little over $3,000 for the trip.  If you're willing and able to help us along financially, we'd appreciate it.  The following is a link for secure donation plus some important info that assures your donation can go to our trip:

REAL IMPORTANT!!  You need to enter the trip ID which is ET130301T and in the memo line you need to say "donation for Tamara".  Hope Chest is working with 1,000's of people.  It's important to label stuff.