When I returned from Ethiopia, I wrote a post, Fridays in Ethiopia, about our experience visiting three orphanages. It was an incredibly difficult day but it's been memories of that day and the faces of the children we met that have partly been the impetus and inspiration for the volunteer work I am doing for Studio Samuel, a non-profit started by my friend and fellow adoptive mom Tamara Horton. There are nights when I am in bed and I can't fall asleep and my mind wanders to Ethiopia. I think of the kids we met and their living conditions. I think of the older girls getting ready to age out of the orphanage with no support system or skills and that sadly many of them will end up as prostitutes. I tear up as I think of them and the heart ache can be unbearable. But that heart ache is not enough. My tears are not sufficient.
Of course, my mind also wanders to LB's family. What are they doing? Do they have enough food? The loss that they sustained is enough to bring you to your knees. My love for LB and his Ethiopian family is the other big piece driving me to work past my tears. There have been countless times when I have gone over the details of his story and what led to his arrival at an orphanage in Southern Ethiopia. I know his story is not unique in Ethiopia. So what could have been done to prevent it? Was there a way to keep more children with their families? I couldn't shake these thoughts. The underlying answer always went back to women and mothers. Better education for women. Less child brides. Access to pre-natal care and birth control. I read statistics and quotes like:
The number one cause of death for girls 15-19 is childbirth. - World Health Organization
Educated mothers are more than twice as likely to send their children to school. - UNICEF
"When you educate a girl you educate a nation." - UNICEF
"If we are going to see real development in the world, then our best investment is women." - Desmond Tutu
I also felt strongly that I didn't want to be part of something that felt like a handout. The Ethiopian people are smart, capable and proud and I think all of us who have been there see that they are on the rise. It's amazing what one can do with education, resources and opportunity. In 2012, Tamara launched Studio Samuel with the mission of providing life skills to vulnerable young women with the mantra Empowerment Without Pity. I knew I had found my place. I was so excited when Tamara asked me to join the board. Studio Samuel has accomplished a lot but we have more we want to do.
Our newest program, Training for Tomorrow, is quite the endeavor but we are committed and believe it will make a huge difference.
Training for Tomorrow is a two year sponsorship program that will provide 40 young girls with:
Life Skills Training
Counseling & Mentoring
We have partnered with Children's Heaven, an organization on the ground in Addis Ababa that provides programs for vulnerable young girls. Most of them have lost one or both of parents to AIDS.
The sponsorship fee is $30/month. That is less than $10/week and about a $1/day.
You will receive a photo of the girl you are sponsoring along with her name, age and her goals. You will continue to receive updates on her progress and will have the opportunity to exchange letters. You will be making a difference in the life of a girl. And if all the data and research is true then you are impacting a family and a community as well. This project is so important!
Will you join me?
You can sign up now to sponsor one of these precious girls. Thank you so much, friends!