Today was definitely better with Alem, but not any easier on the emotional front. We spent the entire day visiting orphanages. It was intense. We began the day at the orphanage where Alem stayed from about 6-11 weeks old. She was taken there after her mother left her at a stranger's house. It was incredible to see where she spent those few weeks. This orphanage was not nearly as nice as the Gladney Foster Home where Alem has been since October. The caregivers here are kind and seem to do the best they can to care for the children, but there are many babies for each caregiver and the conditions are not as nice as the Gladney home. The babies are all in one big room---many cribs. Some babies are only a few days or weeks old here. The rest of the facility has other buildings where all of the older kids live. They mostly seem young here, early elementary school age. They are incredibly sweet and quite well-mannered - running up to us, shaking our hands, and posing for pictures then frantically wanting to see themselves in the pics. Oh, so sweet. They are all in tattered, but matching school uniforms with big smiles on their faces. I want to take them all home. We are so impressed with the level of education of these children; really everyone in Addis. People seem to value education dearly here, and it is obvious in the way that people speak and carry themselves, even these kids without homes.
Friday, March 23, 2007
The second orphanage was privately run and much smaller home/compound. Every house here is behind a wall of some sort---ranging fom corrogated tin to mud walls to fancier cement walls with security fencing along the top (only a few homes had this nice of a wall). This particular private orphanage was tucked into a neighborhood on the most narrow street. There weren't many kids here...but again, they were sweet, kind, full of smiles and wanting nothing more than to be picked up anf held and talked to. There was one beautiful little girl here who was about 3 years old and looked noticeably sad and withdrawn. Apparently, her mother had just taken her here not too long ago. It broke my heart. She did not want her picture taken, she would not make eye contact, she didn't want anything to do with anyone. Having a 2 and a 1/2 year old back home, I can imagine how traumatic such a separation at this age would be. Very sad. The last orphanage was older children-about 195 of them! One little girl attached herself to Mike the whole time and he wanted desperately to take her home also. These kids knew English well and very respectful and kind. They seemed to work hard in school and were even computer savvy. Gladney is working on different programs to teach various skills to the children. Particularly, to the girls who will perhaps "age out"...meaning that they will reach 18 without being adopted and therefore be forced out of the orphanage. You can imagine the lack of job opportunities for these young ladies--in a country with a very high unemployment rate and the jobs that are available aren't really availale to a lot of women. Even college educated women have trouble finding jobs there! So, many girls/young ladies turn to prostitution, and eventually may contract diseases-like AIDS, endure poverty, and maybe have babies themselves that they cannot care for and so they also bring them to orphanages. Alas, a second generation being raised in orphanages! A tragic cycle. I cannot imagine the fear, struggle, pain, worry, and stress that these parents go through that leads them to make a decision to actually give up their child. Sometimes I think that I have stress in my life, but I have never had to even think of giving up my daughter because I couldn't provide basic needs for her! We are very fortunate indeed. We will tell Alem that her biological mother made a brave decision to take her to a home and ask for help- hoping to find a better life for her somewhere else. We are on the verge of tears at every moment here. I must mention how impressed Mike and I have been by the kind demeanor of the people in Addis. We have yet to meet an unfriendly Ethiopian! It seems that in this culture, every baby is treated like family, as nearly everyone we interact immediately moves to hold Alem, kiss her and play with her.
Posted by Anne at 9:33 PM