Monday, September 5, 2011

Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise!

This past week my family and I went on vacation to smugglers notch in Vermont.  It's one of our favorite places to vacation.   Having some down time-I was excited to think about the Non-profit I have started- Hayel Kids aid.   I have been feeling really down about some things in the management of it- and wanted to think through and consider what to do with it.

The good news is that there are so many people trying to make a difference in Ethiopia now - and with the influx in adoptions and the increasing stability of the countries infrastructure it is now more possible to affect change.  Why do these things matter- because there is enough interest and understanding to request funds and enough order now to manage potential corruption and prohibit it.    But to really make this difference -takes a ton of energy, time and involvement.  I need to be in Ethiopia more, I need to be in the public eye more and I need to have time and energy for my family too! With the news of the drought and many other non-profit activities sometimes I wonder - is fighting to educate these children (near and dear to my heart might I add) really what I want to put my energy into. 

The answer- is YES.  YES I do! When these children are eating and healthy from the other non-profits helping out- what next?  Education. Education is so necessary for this generation of children in Ethiopia.  Empower a nation through Education. Yes this is what we need to do.  Yes-We need people in this world to focus on now and Yes it's difficult to focusing on "then".  It is difficult to focus on something less tangible like Education.. but these children need a then. They need somebody that says... You have been helped with having a future-but we haven't forgotten you.. let's work together and guarantee you and your country a better future! A future of educated citizens-making better choices for their nation.  Yes- we need this.. we need to empower this nation through education- and Yes Kim- you can do this!!!

So what was the problem then?  I gave every penny of the money we gathered last September to the children in need and did not host a fund-raiser this year.  With that build up- let me tell you what happened... what little miracle happened...

I was with my husband- on our first day of  vacation - we  had just dropped our children off at camp and were wondering- what do we do with our time.. hmmm no kids.  We sat next to this woman who was sitting alone and just started a wonderful conversation.  Life, vacation.. what do you do..etc etc.. eventually Hayel Kids Aid came up. More in a way of - this is what I am trying to do but I'm a little discouraged with the famine and how to really help people but with a clear message that I am continuing to try but was excited that my kids were going back to school so I could focus again on this!   That my first goal was to make my non-profit an officially recognized 501c3-and that meant a fundraiser event or something but it needed to happen if I wanted to move forward! 

Would you believe she donated the money? The entire amount to file federally!  It's been 7 days and I can't believe our fortune.. how lucky Hayel's children are- to have such amazing and giving people in this world. 

 I am forever grateful that events like this happen -thanks again to all of those who keep random acts of kindness in their hearts.  

But this week-this week- I'm particularly thrilled that this happening for Hayel (and me)!  There's nothing more empowering than another person saying- You can do this! 

So please if you think of anything today..consider the following:

Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise!


Last year's angel built a science lab- please see below. This year- we are going 501c3. 









Monday, August 15, 2011

20th High School Reunion

Below I'd love to share with you a photo that is currently warming my heart tonight.
Meet some of the wonderful men and women I went to school with many years ago.

Making memories, New and Old

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Families welcome Fresh Air Fund children in Marlborough

I'd like to thank everyone who welcomed "Z" into our home while he visited with us.  He had such a delightful time getting to know our friends and extended family.   We truly feel lucky to have been matched with a lovely boy!  I've had several families say to me- what if it doesn't work out, and they've heard stories of poor matches.  My answer to that is 80% or so are invited for a return visit, so sure some don't work out but the first visit is for only a week for that very reason.

If it works out- you invite the child back if you'd like . If it doesn't work  out - it's only a week the first time- and if it's really bad- you have a wonderful support system in place and the program does assist you in removing the child. Their children have to be recommended by a teacher, an organization or their pastor so they tend to be good kids.

If you have ever considered the program for your family I'd strongly recommend it.

Our visit with our Fresh Air host child was published in the news.
Families welcome Fresh Air Fund children in Marlborough




Sunday, August 7, 2011

a look at the current state of the Border countries of Ethiopia

Ethiopia's government personnel,  military personnel  and population are under great stress from international activities these days. With a personal interest vested in the country I have decided to look into and learn more about the countries global situation.

I am beginning today with a quick look at the countries that Border Ethiopia and the impact their stability or instability have on Ethiopia.There are currently only 34 countries with travel advisories in the world for Americans. Travel Advisories are released when a country is considered to have conditions that make the country too dangerous or unstable for Americans to consider visiting.    Ethiopia is bordered by 3 of these countries.

As you read this consider what impact this nation has on Ethiopia. Remember that Ethiopia's current form of government is only 25 years old, her tax base is the  10th poorest of the world and her current federal police system has been in place for only the past 11 years.

Somalia:
Who isn't confused by Somalia's borders these days?  Although we still refer to this region as Somalia, it seems to (as of August 2011) to be comprised of three separate countries (or territories). These three areas  have different government control and require different visa's in order to visit them (which as American's we are told not to)  although the actual lines of these borders are constantly changing. At this time these areas are called Somaliland, Puntland, and Somalia.

Somalia is now unofficially considered only the most southern part of this land and it is the part most seriously affected by the drought officially recognized by the UN last month. This is the only location where the UN has officially declared a Famine.  Much of the famine stricken area borders Kenya.  A small portion of the affected area borders south eastern Ethiopia.

Some are confused by this and many are saying there is a "famine" in Ethiopia and Kenya.  So why hasn't it been declared as well?  In 2005 the UN created an Integrated Food Security Phase Classification system (IPC).  This classification system now exists because there was a need to identify how to allocate resources.  This newer system is why Somalia has been defined as being in a famine and why Ethiopia and Kenya has not.This is not to say there is no hunger in Kenya and Ethiopia.   I've found that Ethiopia and Kenya are determined to be between levels 3 and 4 depending on where you are located in the respective countries. The most heavily affected areas of Somalia are classified as a 5.  Southern Ethiopia that touches Somalia is considered a level 4.  Please refer to the above link to best understand this.

The town most affected in Southern Ethiopia is Dolo Odo. This is the location you will find one of the largest Somali refugee camp. In February of  2007, Save the Children reported finding malnutrition in Dolo Oden and Dolo bay woredas of Ethopia's Somali region. According to GOAL-there are 1,400-2,000 refugees arriving into the 4 camp zones located in  Dolo Oden  with over 54,000 arriving in 2011alone  so far.  Combined the current population as of August 2011 indicates that Dolo Oden is sheltering 101,315 refugees. Americans are requested to not visit Somalia or this area unless working for an aid agency at this time.

The Ethiopian military is providing security and safety to the additional Aid individuals coming into Ethiopia because access to Somalia is restricted. In the capital, the federal government resources are being requested to manage the streets during meetings drastically affecting the individual owning a taxi or car's ability to get to work or to manage their own lives.  When the federal government is utilized it costs Ethiopian citizens money.

Kenya:
Ethiopia and Kenya have a friendly relationship since 1954.   They have supported each other in their efforts to increase peace in Somalia and Sudan.  Aid agencies work in both countries and the countries meet often to maintain this friendly relationship. Kenya's entire Northeastern border abuts the famine stricken region of Somalia.  There are some travel restrictions and safety concerns for individuals travelling into
North Eastern Kenya due to the affect Somalian unrest is having on this part of the Kenyan border.

Djibouti:
Djibouti has a stable government and is open to tourists.  The borders of the country are poorly controlled and there have been recent acts of violence coming from Eritrea and Somalia and going through Djbouti to Ethiopia and acts of piracy at the Djibouti port affecting foreign aid delivery. Djibouti is Ethiopia's prime link to the sea since Eritrea's independence from Ethiopia. It's relationship with Ethiopia is stable at this time. Instabilities in Ethiopia and Somalia have been known to cause floods of refuges to Djibouti in the past.

Eritrea: 
Eritrea was linked with attempting to bomb the African Union office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in January, 2011 during AU Summit.  A summit that hosts more than 30 African Leaders. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi declaired in April that it would support guerrilas fighting to overthrow Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki.    The UN has enacted an arms embargo, travel bans and an asset freeze on the political leaders of Eritrea.  It is said and largely supported by documentation that Eritrea is actively recruiting and supporting Child Soldiers.

Ethiopia has been in conflict with Eritrea for many years and for many reasons. Besides January's bombing attempt, they have had a large number of Ethiopian soldiers deployed along the Eritrean and Ethiopia border since the 2010 Eritrean-Ethiopian border skirmish.

What effect does this have on Ethiopia?  According to some - Eritrea is the largest refugee producing country in the world as of March of 2011. Although many countries are supporting Eritrea's refugees, Ethiopia is currently hosting and supporting approximately 61,000 of them at this time with another 1300-1600 arriving monthly.  These refugees are mostly unaccompanied youth.

There seems no end to the conflicts and disputes between Eritrea and Ethiopia.  If you want to read more on this subject see the reference links at the bottom of the Wikipedia reference to the Eritrean-Ethiopian War .
American's are requested to not visit Eritrea at this time.

There are a couple of refugee camps being run by the government and Non-profit agencies assisting these refugees.  Refugees cannot work and require much support. Violence is common in these camps and police presence is required.  I have been told by local Ethiopians that there are many additional refugees illegally working and living in Addis Ababa.  These individuals often do not pay taxes or get proper licenses for their businesses for fear of being found out.

Sudan and South Sudan :
The relationship between Sudan and Ethiopia in recent years has been tumultuous. There has been violence on the border between Gambella and Sudan for many years. Sudan itself can be a little confusing to talk about as the South part of the country succeeded  from the north in July of 2011 and South Sudan is still 2 days away from being a nation that is a month old as I write this.

There is much conflict between the North and the Southern Sudanese nations as one would imagine thus further affecting ones safety on the Ethiopian/Sudan border. In Sudan, we have an oil rich south, but the only   only pipeline and refinery belongs to the north.  There is also an ongoing dispute regarding what will be the official border of the a countries. Northern Sudan seems to be rife with challenges. It is documented that they currently bombing the Nuba Mountains, continuing to support Northern Sudan militia in Southern Sudan, and are continuing their operations in Dafur.

Many of the negotiations between these two countries and African discussions regarding these two countries have been occurring in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  


Meanwhile, South Sudan is currently denying accusations by Ethiopia that a home is being built  in this newly formed country for the exiled former President of Ethiopia, Mr. Mengistu Hailemariam. Americans are requested to not visit either Sudan or Southern Sudan at this time.


Egypt: 
Although Egypt is not a bordering nation of Ethiopia it is currently in conflict with Ethiopia because of
the Dam project announced in March of 2011.  Egypt is staunchly opposed to the building of this dam and refer to a treaty called the British Nile water agreement drawn up by the British in 1929 that provides a right of Veto to any projects that affect the flow of the Nile's water to Egypt and Sudan.  It also includes that Egypt has guaranteed access to 55.5bn cubic meters of water out of the 84bn cubic meters the river provides.

 Egypt's leadership is now campaigning to block any provisions of loans and grants to Ethiopia for the development of any project centered on the Nile.  Egypt is also against Tanzania's plan to build a pipeline from Lake Victoria to support the arid towns and villages of north-west Tanzania.  Due to the Nile disputes at this time many people are concerned over a potential conflict developing in East Africa over the control of the Nile waters.

I was privileged to have been in a  cafe in Ethiopia when Prime Minister Meles Zenawi  announced that Ethiopia was moving forward with the planned Nile Dam project. When  ETV (ethiopian's primary news source)  first showed the news you heard an unusual silence in the cafes... then a loud cheering sound and clapping occurred.  Even though I could not understand what was being said on the Television above my head- I felt the crouds enthusiasm, pride and instant concern.  The news was immediately interpreted to me which I was extremely grateful for when I felt the tension.  Although much of the country was concerned instantly over the potential implications in their relationship with Egypt you could feel the pride in their country and the enthusiasm continued to be contagious throughout March and into early April when Meles Zenawi placed the corner stone of the dam.

 References:
http://www.irinnews.org
http://travel.state.gov
http://www.un.org
http://www.globalmarch.org
http://www.ntz.info
http://www.somaliareport.com
http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/humanitarian_assistance/disaster_assistance/regional/files/east_central_africa_ce_fs01_05-23-11.pdf
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Djibouti
http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1101.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/08/south-sudan-worlds-newest_n_893552.html
http://www.enoughproject.org/
http://afaralliance.com/wordpress/2011/07/17/south-sudan-denies-it-will-grant-residence-to-former-ethiopian-dictator/
http://www.pactworld.org/cs/sudan/promoting_stability_at_the_sudan_ethiopia_border

Next- I'll cover other items like:

The affect the new class C taxation is going to have/having on small business and  I'll try to figure out how the 28% inflation rate  in the past year is affecting people's daily lives.




Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Habtamu is finally sleeping in a bed

It's been 2 years and 3 months since our handsome boy came home. In that time he has learned so many things... but he would only sleep on a mattress on the floor.

As a mom who spent endless hours nesting during our excruciating months and months of waiting-  getting my children's room ready became an obsession! Many of you that have traveled the adoption road can relate this these emotions and you can imagine my frustration.

So tonight we have exciting exciting news.  Using the enthusiasm around H going into school, I tried something.  While he was doing his summer "homework"with daddy, I went upstairs and and put his mattress on a bed-frame and although just 2 months ago he said no to the idea- when he walked in he was very excited.

So... voila.. here we have it. A boy that's (finally) willing to sleep in his bed.  In the house tonight we have a super excited mom..a happy little boy ready for an adventure, an encouraging sister.. BUT.... a disappointed daddy!  See daddy would crawl up against the mattress on the floor and read stories every night.. he's bummed about getting into a chair..and mopping a bit that it feels like our boy is just a little bit older now...

I can't decide what is sweeter... Habtamu excited about sleeping in his bed (off the ground) or Daddy saddened that his little boy is growing up so quickly!

                   Now... here's to hoping we don't find him sleeping on the floor in the morning..laugh!

Sweet Dreams Habtamu

Friday, July 29, 2011

Chuko Ethiopia

In the horn of Africa sits a beautiful village/city called Chuko, Ethiopia.  Take a look around- enjoy the lush landscape and the beautiful people.  Take a peek inside a mud hut- but don't be fooled by the lush green area depicted here. There is starvation here- serious starvation mostly due to the unseasonable rains over the past 3 years.  
video

Saturday, July 23, 2011

This week- we went out for a little "Fresh Air"

My mom, I, the kids, Z and a family friend got out and enjoyed some "Fresh Air" in Western Massachusetts.
Attempting lunch time-Coleman style.  Z'


Z's first trip to a Six Flags

Zonked ... on the way home from the Six Flags water Park. 
 A little pool time before paddle boating at the campground.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Getting a bit of "Fresh Air" with "Z"

Today our Fresh Air friend is coming to visit!

This is his second year. Last year "Z"  left his family for a week to come and stay with us.

Last year,his mom, nervous I am certain put him on a bus to stay with a family she had never met.  "Z" is an African American boy that boarded a bus in one of the roughest neighborhoods in the Brooklyn crossed 3 states and got out in Suburban Massachusetts to spend a week with a family he did not know.

He had never seen pictures of us and had no idea who we were.  There was a short telephone call with his mom-and that was all.  I don't think I'd be brave enough to do this with my son- I don't care what the circumstances were- I don't know if I'd be able to put him on a bus and send him to strangers at his current age.  I look at Habtamu now and think- that's nuts and laugh.  I'd worry about his attention "issues", how he doesn't always clean up after himself, how he leaves his toys out.  How would he sleep with out daddy reading books to him and I admire "Z"'s mom for being so brave.   There's so much focus on the children in the Fresh Air program- but I wonder about the families too.  How amazing they are to start trusting their children at such a young age.  I admire his mom - her bravery, her desire for more for her children-but also for the trust she has in them at such a young age.

As for "Z" (I'm keeping his full name out of this) - he had a tough start with us last year.  He was really home sick for a night- and needed a few days of extra attention-but he stayed, and enjoyed being with us.I was amazed daily with him -and yes in my eyes "Z" is an amazing boy.  The day he left our eyes were full of tears regarding his departure, we were excited about his adventure and busy planning for his next visit with us.

It's not just "Z" that changed and grew last year- we also grew and changed.  He provided us with the insight of a world that I know little of.  Sure his life is full of concrete, police, and guns but it's also filled with lots of kids in a close neighborhood to play with, sprinklers or fire hydrants opened up for the kids to play in and music.  It was amazing to see his home through his eyes having never been there myself.  He also gave me an amazing gift... the gift of seeing our life differently and with much joy.  After all- his adventure-that he enjoy  so much- was simply a week in our home.  Photographing that week, all of the smiles and being able to look back on them- leaves me with a real "life is good" feeling.

He called us through out this past year, we sent him a photo album of his week with us for Christmas and today he returns.  For a young man whom I have only spent one week with- I can't believe my enthusiasm as I await for his bus today.  I can feel my eyes whelming up as I write this and the hair on my arms raise with excitement as I mention the bus.

If you've ever thought about hosting a fresh air child I can only tell you our experience.  We are all in love with "Z" and can't wait for him to get off that bus today!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

a new blog- a new beginning

Fendesha means popcorn in Amharic. It is a name I was given on my first visit to Ethiopia and it very much defines who I am.  This blog will include the adventures of Fendesha's life (mine) and I promise it will be a lot like popcorn popping with many ups and downs!  Life is a constant and ever changing adventure.



For those of you who are interested in adoption or in the process of adopting from Ethiopia- you can find information regarding it and stories of our life as we became parents at the following url:  http://www.calderoneadoption.blogspot.com/.

For those of you who are new to my blogging- Welcome!