Making a Difference 2014

This fall, we are raising funds to supplement our sponsorships (which cover 70% of the operating budget), upgrade the plumbing, and rewire the CCC home for a safer electrical system. Our goal is to raise $30,000.  Please consider donating $365 – just a dollar a day to make a tremendous difference to very special children.

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 Donate Now!

Aerie Africa supports 74 children – nine students in university, two students in nursing school, 10 young adults in the Aerie Transition program, and 53 children in the CCC Children’s Home in Soddo, Ethiopia. The CCC orphanage is a bright airy home specially built for the children with 8 big bedrooms, a library, a dining hall, two kitchens, two play areas, a futbul (soccer) field, a huge vegetable garden, and six acres for our three cows. We employ a staff of 19 to care for the children from House Mothers to Nanny Nurses to a Dean of Students.

The children attend school, Saturday church school (instead of Sunday school), and church. They love singing, futbol, arts and crafts, and games. They learn life skills by assisting in the kitchen, working in the vegetable garden, and helping tend the cows.

We are making a pronounced difference in the children’s lives. Please take a moment to read about our terrific kids.

 University Students

Mindahun, Adanech, Assegid, Asfaw, and Asrat are our current university students. They have completed between two to three years of university and are all doing well. Assegid who is studying to be a health officer had a special internship this summer in Mekele and Mindahun took a special course in Awassa. All students were able to come to Soddo for a few weeks this summer to check in and visit with their CCC family. They are great role models for the teenage and pre-teen students.

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New University Students

Serkalem, Girma, and Nebiyu had excellent scores on their 12th grade examination and will begin university next month. Messeret Y had a good score on her examination and will attend night university in Soddo. We are proud to have three young women attending university. According to USAID, only 19% of Ethiopian girls starting first grade finish 8th grade and 6% complete 12th grade.IMG_1661

 

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Nursing Students

Yodit and Damanech have completed nursing school in Addis Ababa. Both passed their level 2 certification and will be soon taking the test for their level 3 certification. Both are actively looking for jobs and will graduate from the Aerie/CCC program in December. They have done great. We are sad they are leaving us but happy for the wonderful women they are.

Aerie Transition Students

Abayneh, Chernet, Binyam, Mesganu, and Helen F are currently in the Aerie Transition program. Abayneh completed 11th grade at Bethlehem Prep School in June and was in the top 10 of his class. Mesganu and Helen F also completed 11th grade. They will all be starting 12th grade on September 15. In October, Chernet and Binyam will begin vocational school.

Later this month, Michael, Tesfanesh, Habitamu, Asnakie, America, and Mimilla will be graduating into the Aerie Transition program. Michael, Tesfanesh, and Habitamu did very well on their 10th grade examination and will be attending Bethlehem Prep School for 11th and 12th grade. Asnake, America and Mimilla will soon start 10th grade.

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8th and 9th Graders

Meseret L and Dawit took their 8th grade examination in May. They both scored over 90% and will be moving to 9th grade.  Tsganesh completed 9th grade and will be soon starting 10th grade. We are having Helen B repeat 9th grade to give her a little time to catch up.

 

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5th and 6th Graders

Abeba and Tesfahun completed 5th grade and Samirawit, Weynishet, Zinash, Omodar, and Firehiwot completed 6th grade in June. Weynishet, Firehiwot, and Omodar were in the top 10 of their class. Omodar is attending Liqa School, a private school in Soddo that is very competitive and was recently recognized nationally for excellence. Samirawit, Zinash and Abeba are hard workers who spend a lot of time helping in the kitchen. Abeba also takes a responsible older sister role in the lives of her two younger sisters.  Tesfahun enjoys playing futbul on the CCC field.

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4th Graders

Biniam, Mekdes, Addisu, Sebsibe, Merdekyos, Banchiwosen, and Birknesh completed 4th grade in June. Merdekyos was number one in his class! Banchiwosen, Biniam, Mekdes and Addisu were in the top 10 of their classes. Banchiwosen and Mekdes were accepted and will attend Liqa School this fall.

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3rd Graders

Dushure, Aregash, Hanna, Ammanuel, Meaza, Asnakech, Agene, Fitsum, Melkamu, Habitamu M, Selemawit, Berket Y, and Zalieke completed 3rd grade in June. We have a lot of 3rd graders! Aregash, Asnakech, Agene, and Zalieke were in the top 10 of their classes.

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2nd Graders

Addisu, Ayenachu, and Adegu completed 2nd grade in June. Adegu and Ayenachew have both adjusted well to CCC (they joined CCC last year).  All three, as with many of the boys, love playing futbol.  They watched the world cup very closely this past summer.  The boys at CCC were split over whether or not they were happy about the German victory.  Some had been cheering for Argentina and Mesi… others had been cheering for Germany all along.  The boys are also getting excited about the next round of qualifying matches for the African Cup of Nations futbol competition.  Ethiopia plays it’s first match in the qualifying rounds against Algeria this week.  In addition to watching futbol, all three of these boys play regularly on the CCC futbol field… Adegu and Ayenachew also play on the CCC team, which also includes players from the community in Soddo.

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1st Graders

Belan and Faris completed 1st grade in June. They were both in the top 10 of their class.

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Kindergarten Crowd

Ammanuel A, Aster, Yabsera, Yinun, Berket J, Konjit J, Abitie, Meskerem, Eyayu, Johannes, and Yamanesh (Mitten) all attended kindergarten the last school year. Kindergarten is two to three years in Ethiopia. This is a great group of kids. They are smiles, laughter, and high energy.

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Our Littlest Ones

Metasebya and our five new boys – Paster, Tegenu, Abenezer, Wondimu, and Mamush are our youngest children. Metasebya and Paster will start kindergarten later this month and the others will attend pre-school at CCC starting in October. The new boys are adjusting well and are much more healthy than when they arrived. The older children are giving them lots of attention and love.

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Facilities

The deep bore water well is functioning and providing clean water. The children are much healthier and the compound is much cleaner with a constant supply of water. We are very grateful to all our donors who enable us to drill and equip the well.

We received the three-phase transformer for the water well pump in August. This was great news – we had been waiting for it for over two years.

We will now use the generator for emergency power when the Soddo electricity goes out.

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Next Projects

Both the plumbing and the electrical systems need a major overhaul at CCC. Constant use by over 50 children for over 10 years has taken a toll on the bathrooms and showers. We have many leaks (both major and minor). The electrical system needs to be rewired to update it for both load and safety issues.

We need your help! Help us continue to make difference!

Please donate today at www.aerieafrica.org or by clicking DONATE NOW.

Aerie Africa is a 501(3)c tax exempt organization (Tax ID#27-0382888).

Five New Boys – We Need Sponsors

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Five boys ranging in age from 2 years to 6 years have recently joined the CCC/Aerie Africa family. These boys were previously living in an orphanage in Soddo under difficult conditions. The orphanage has lost in funding from a US agency and is being funded in a very limited way by an international organization.

We are happy that we can bring these boys into CCC and provide a warm loving home for them.

Please consider making a difference and sponsoring one or more of these precious children. Sponsorship is $900 per year. We also ask that you send a package in August to your child for Ethiopian New Year (Back to School) and occasionally send letters or cards.

The boys (from left to right) are:

Mamush – Three years old. Mamush is from Gidole, a small town south of Soddo. His mother had a disability and was unable to care for Mamush. His father was unknown.

Tegenu – Five years old. Tegenu was found abandoned at the Soddo bus station. The police searched for his parents and family for three months. No one could be found.

Paster – Six years old. Paster was also found abandoned at the Soddo bus station. The police also searched for his parents and family for three months. No one could be found.

Abenezer – Three years old. Abenezer’s father is unknown. His mother abandoned him when he was an infant. The Department of Women’s Affairs in Soddo tried to locate the mother but she was never found.

Wondimu – Two years old. Wondimu was found abandoned in the town of Soddo. The police search for his parents and family for three months. No one could be found.

If you are interested in sponsoring, please email aerieafrica@comcast.net.

A New Roof for the Aerie Africa/CCC Home

The current Aerie Africa/CCC Children’s Home was constructed during the year of 2005. The home includes 2 main buildings. The smaller of the main buildings houses the cafeteria and kitchen for the home. The larger of the main buildings, the residence building, houses 8 dormitory-style rooms for the children, 2 storage rooms, offices for the Dean of Students and Head Nurse, a library and the main organization office for CCC.

For about 7 months out of the year, Soddo is quite dry and receives very little rain. The main rainy season is between July and mid-September. These months are very wet, often with heavy rains daily. These dry winters and very wet summers, combined with issues of erosion and it’s location on the hillside, caused some minor shifting of the building resulting in some gaps between and under the metal sheeting, thus allowing rainwater to leak through the ceiling on the west side of the building.

After consultation with Jeff Potts, a US architect with experience designing and overseeing construction projects at the Soddo Christian Hospital, it was determined that the roof should be replaced.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Dorothea Haus Ross Foundation, we were able to replace the original clay tiles with a metal sheet roof that is durable and typical for Ethiopian buildings. We were also able to repair the damaged ceiling, paint the roof and install new gutters to improve drainage.

This improvement would not be possible without the leadership of Nathan Haines and our partners Jeff Potts and the Dorothea Haus Ross Foundation. The rainy season has begun in Soddo and the new roof has meant dry rooms and happier kids! The new metal roof not only keeps the rain and moisture out but it has also improved the appearance of the building where the children reside.

 

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The new roof painted with new gutters

 

Melkam Genna from Wolaitta Soddo

This post was written by Nathan Haines.

This week on Tuesday, January 7 was the celebration of the birth of Christ in the Ethiopian calendar; it’s the Ethiopian equivalent of Christmas.  The actual date here in Ethiopian today is Tahsus 29.  The difference between the date for Ethiopian Genna (Christmas) and the date in the “western” (Gregorian) calendar, is a combination of two factors:  first, Ethiopia follows a different calendar, similar to the Coptic Christian calendar, and somewhat based on the old Julian calendar (12 months of 30 days and 1 “month” of 5 days); second, traditionally Ethiopian Christianity has been Orthodox Christianity, and many Eastern Orthodox Christians around the world celebrate Christmas on January 7.

Though Ethiopians don’t celebrate the New Year on January 1, I thought, since it is a holiday here in Soddo, and since it’s now a new year for our sponsors in the US, I’d take a few minutes today, while in Soddo, to reflect back on 2013.

2013 was a good year for Aerie Africa and the Children’s Home.  Here are a just a few of the highlights for the year:

  • We were able to admit little Inatu to the Children’s Home after the closure of the orphanage where she was living, uniting her with 6 of her older siblings.
  • Terri Sebree and Suzanne Hanlon ­from the Aerie Africa board of directors visited with some sponsors and friends of Aerie in March.  The group was able to apply some fresh paint to the kids’ dorm rooms, replace some mattresses, pillows, and mosquito nets, do some medical checkups, and put in a new fence for the kids’ soccer field.
  • With the help of many generous donors and our partners, Water of Life International and Myungsung Christian Development, we were able to drill, case and test a beautiful new well that will soon be providing abundant and clean water to the Children’s Home (see below for explanation of “soon”).
  • Over the summer, we followed up on the new well by purchasing a submersible deep borehole pump and motor system, installing the necessary pipes from the well to our water tank, and building a small storage shed as our pump control shed.
  • All of our kids finished a good year in school in June; 17 of the kids ranked in the top 10 in their respective grade levels.
  • We had all 5 of our 8th grade students pass their 8th grade national exams in June.
  • We had 3 students qualify for university preparatory school based on their 10th grade national exam results in June.
  • We had two lovely volunteers (Megan and Laura) spend the summer at the Children’s Home.  Among other things, they did some academic enrichment and led some book groups with the kids.
  • All the children enjoyed an annual summer trip; this year we went swimming in some hot spring pools in Wendo Genet, followed by lunch next to the lake in Hawassa.
  • We were able to admit 3 new boys in August.  They had been living in temporary conditions at another facility in Soddo.  We are able to provide them with a better long-term home environment.
  • We welcomed a couple of new staff members to the Children’s Home.  Almaz took the position of Head Nurse after Eden moved to Addis, and Addisalem is our new store-keeper and librarian, replacing Mesgana who took another job in Hawassa.
  • In September we had one student (Helen F.) graduate out of the Children’s Home into the Aerie transitional program.
  • Also in September we had one student (Tesfaun P.) graduate out of the transitional program; he was accepted to Aerie to receive some higher education support to help him finish his surveying vocational program.
  • In September we had two students (Yodit and Domenech) graduate from nursing college.  They are now completing their national exams and nursing practice.
  • We had one student (Omodar) accepted for 6th grade in September into the elite Liqa school (Liqa accepts, by invitation only, students in the top 5% in Soddo and surrounding area).
  • In September, we celebrated the birth of baby Nazrawi, born to Meaza Gizaw.  Meaza grew up at the Children’s Home, graduated from the transitional program 3 years ago, was married two years ago, and now works in the kitchen at the home.
  • In October, Dr. Cynthia from the Aerie board of directors visited the Children’s Home.  She was able to complete some medical checks and do some follow up on some medical issues with the kids.
  • In December, the Children’s Home played host to the wedding of Afework Tekele (aka Binyam).  Afework also grew up at the Children’s Home, graduated from the transitional program 3 years ago, and now works making eye glasses at an eye clinic in Soddo.
  • In December, after many months of frustration trying to get a 3 phase transformer from the electric power utility, we were finally able to find an affordable pre-owned 3 phase diesel generator.  This generator has now been installed and properly connected to the submersible pump / motor control panel.  Unfortunately, because of holidays, we were not able to get the pump / motor installed before the end of 2013, but it’s scheduled for next week, after which we’ll be able to pump and use the water from our well.

Overall, it has been a very good year.  Despite some frustration about delays beyond our control, in getting the well up and running, we are greatly relieved and excited, to finally be nearing the completion of this project.  After the pump installation next week, beautiful, clean water will be flowing.  We hope, through persistence on the utility corporation, to still acquire the 3-phase transformer. In the meantime, though, we’re very happy with our generator set up.  I tested it with the electrician just this morning and it’s working perfectly for us.

I’d like to express a big thank you to all the supporters and sponsors who supported the Aerie Africa project, financial or otherwise.  From this side of the world, it is obvious that your support is making a difference in some lives.

Happy 2014 and, once again, Melkam Genna!

Afework’s Wedding

This post was written by Allie Sebree.

On Sunday, December 1, ­one of the CCC graduates, Afework Tekele, was married at the CCC compound.  Afework is 25 years old and graduated from the CCC – Aerie Africa program in 2010.  Afework joined CCC in 2003.  He attended public school through tenth grade and then attended vocational school.  He has worked at the eye clinic as a technician at Soddo Christian Hospital since he graduated from vocational school. He has attended training courses offered by MMI (Medical Ministry International) including one in the Dominican Republic. Afework provides important eye care services to the local community.    He married a young woman named Meseret

Traditionally in Ethiopia a wedding can go on for up to two weeks with several different celebrations.  The first part is the actual wedding, usually hosted by the groom’s family.  A few days later there is a melse that is hosted by the bride’s family.  Sometimes there is a third party called kelekel that is a mixture of both families.  Either family can host and only very close family and friends are invited, maybe 30 people, to mingle and get to know each other in a more private environment.

The day before the wedding was a busy time at CCC:

  • A tent was delivered and put up at the CCC compound.
  • The house mom’s were working diligently to prepare all the food.
  • Some of the CCC children were preparing a small song and dance number to preform for the wedding.
  • At Ethiopian weddings there is usually a stage inside the tent for the bride, groom, and their bridesmaids and groomsmen.  The CCC staff and older children were working hard to decorate this stage perfectly for Afework.
  • Special chairs are brought in for the bride and groom.

On the day of the wedding, the groom, along with his groomsmen and close friends, go to the bride’s house to pick her up.  The groom’s family and other friends wait at his house, which is where I was.  When they arrive at the bride’s house, there is usually dancing with the groomsmen and the bride’s close friends and family.  Then the bride and groom get into the designated wedding car.  They usually stand with the doors open and reach over the top of the car and take a few photographs before proceeding to town.  The rest of the people then load into cars, vans, or buses to drive through town.  The party then drives through the town honking and singing to show off the bride and groom.  There are usually quite a few motorbikes driving in circles around the caravan of cars.  When the party reaches a traffic circle they drive around it four or five times.  All of this is video taped and photographed.  The video man is usually riding backwards on a motorbike or in the back of a pick up truck in front of the wedding car holding the bride and groom.  The driving and honking usually takes about 45 minutes.

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The driveway down to CCC is long and unpaved, making it difficult for cars to go all the way down.  So Afework and whole wedding party arrived at the top of the driveway and walked down to where we were all waiting.  All the CCC children were singing and dancing at the bottom of the hill to greet the wedding party. Behind Afework and Meseret were her friends and family who were also singing and dancing.  Once they reached the bottom of the hill, there was a line of “elders” sitting in the first row of chairs.  The elders are usually made up of parents and important “elder” people in the family.  The bride and groom, and their bridesmaids and groomsmen, then went down the line and kissed the knees of each elder.  Then they went up to the stage and sat in their chairs.

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DSC_0871Once the wedding party was seated on stage, there was a bit more dancing and singing. Then everyone was seated.  Chu Chu, the CCC dean of students, then got up and spoke.  He congratulated Afework on behalf of all of CCC and gave a blessing.  After that 12 of the CCC children preformed their prepared song and dance.  Then a preacher came up to the stage and blessed the marriage.  After that the food was served, consisting of traditional Ethiopian food made for holidays and special occasions.  One of the special foods served is raw beef served with a very spicy dipping sauce.  Spicy chicken stew is also a delicacy here and was served.

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Once everyone was finished eating, the wedding party went down below the CCC compound, where there is beautiful mountainous scenery, for the cake cutting ceremony and to take pictures.  After that they returned to the stage for the presentation of gifts.  Each person was called on stage one by one to give Afework and Meseret their gift.  This signaled the end of wedding.  They loaded up all the gifts into the car and everyone began to head home.

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What’s Going on at CCC

September is a celebratory month in Ethiopia.  On September 11, the children celebrated Enkutatash (New Year’s Day) and welcomed in the year of 2006.  Ethiopia follows the Ge’ez calendar which is based on the Coptic calendar.  The children celebrated with a special meal and received new clothes for the new school year.

Most of the children will go back to school this week.  The university students will start in early October.

Meskel is September 27 and commemorates the finding of the true cross by Queen Helena in the fourth century.  Integral to this holiday is the burning of large bonfires with firewood decorated with Maskal daisies (which are beautiful yellow flowers that cover the fields this time of year – end of the rainy season).

We have many other reasons to celebrate.  Following are 71 of our precious blessings:

First “Grandchild”

Meaza, one of our graduates and a current employee, had a baby boy in early September.  Nazrawi and mom are doing great.

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Nazrawi – Two days old

Three New Children

In August, three new boys joined CCC.  Yehun will start kindergarten this week and Adegu and Aynachew will start second grade.  These boys had been living a small orphanage in Soddo for two years.  They visited CCC often and knew the children.  It has been an easy transition for them.

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Yehun, Adegu, Aynachew

University Students

 Our five university students, Adanech, Asfaw, Asrat, Assegid, and Mindahun, are just awesome.  They all go to university several hours to several days drive from Soddo.  They are thriving and learning both valuable life skills and their chosen course of study.  We are especially proud of our first young woman in university – Adanech.  All the university kids came home for summer break and have enjoyed seeing their friends and family at CCC.

Nursing Students

 Our two nursing students, Yodit and Domenech, will soon be finishing nursing school.  They have six more months of classes and practicums.  Both recently passed the government examination for nursing!  These two young women have lived independently in Addis and worked extremely hard for the last two years.

Eleventh Graders (2012 – 2013)

Our four eleventh graders are doing very well in school.  Eleventh grade is preparatory school for university in Ethiopia.  It is a very competitive process to gain admission into the school and is hard work to do well in school.  Both Girma and Nebiyu are ranked fourth in their classes of 75 and 80.  Serkalem and Meseret Y are ranked 11 and 13 in their classes of 78 and 70.

Meseret is one of our cardiac patients.  She came to the US in 2006 for heart surgery.  She had a health scare this summer but has recovered and is gaining her strength.  Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers.

Tenth Graders (2012 – 2013)

Two of our tenth graders, Abayneh and Helen F, scored very high on the 10th grade national examination and will be attending preparatory school (11th and 12th grade).  Abayneh did especially well and received a score with distinction.

Helen is graduating from the CCC program this week and will be entering the Aerie Transition program.  She will be living in Soddo with Serkalem (who graduated last year).

Mesganu and Chernet scored well but not high enough for preparatory school.  They will be attending vocational school starting in October.  In addition, Mesganu is training and practicing with the Soddo professional football (soccer) team and is currently playing on the amateur team.

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Ninth Graders (2012 – 2013)

Our four ninth graders, Habitamu T, Binyam, Michael, and Tesfanesh all passed ninth grade and will be entering tenth grade next week.  These four students have to work very hard in school and will be busy this year preparing for the 10th grade national examination.

Eight Graders (2012 – 2013)

The exciting news for the eighth graders is that all they passed the national examination and will entering high school next week.  The new high school students are Asnakie, Tseganesh, Helen B, Mimilla, and America.  Asnakie scored a 96% on his test and Tseganesh scored a 91% (fantastic scores).

Fifth and Seventh Graders (2012 – 2013)

 We have seven kids who were in fifth or seventh grade last year:  Weynishet (5), Omodar (5), Zinash (5), Samirawit (5), Frehiwot (5), Dawit (7), and Meseret L (7).  Five of the students were in the top 10 of their class:  Weynishet, Omodar, Frehiwot, Dawit, and Meseret.

Omodar recently passed an entrance examination for the elite Soddo school called Lika School.  This school only takes students who are ranked in the top 5 percentile in the city.  Omodar will be able to attend the Lika School through 12th grade.  She is very excited.

Zinash worked hard this summer helping Megan and Laura, our summer volunteers, with the summer camp.  Zinash always loves to help.­

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Samirawit – 13 years old

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Zinash – 13 years old

Third and Fourth Graders (2012 – 2103)

Our third and fourth graders are a remarkable bunch.  They all did great in school:

Student Grade Rank 
Merdekyos 3 1 of 27
Mekdes 3 2 of 27
Banchiwosen 3 3 of 27
Addisu Ayele 3 6 of 27
Biniam Y 3 9 of 27
Birkenesh 3 12 of 27
Sebsibe 3 13 of 27
Tesfahun A 4 7 of 34
Abeba 4 16 of 34

These students are competitive with each other.  It is a friendly competition but they are all striving to do very well in school.  They will be a fun group to watch as they progress in school.

This summer in the summer camp program these children read Shiloh with Megan and Laura.  They enjoyed the book.  The kids especially love books about animals.

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Abeba – 12 years old

First and Second Graders (2012 -2013)

 We have 15 first and second graders.  They are high energy, happy, and love school.  This summer they read Tikki Tikki Tembo and did projects themed around the book with Megan and Laura.

Ammanuel D (2), Zalieke (2), Berket Y (2), Fitsum (2), Asnakech (2), Agene (2), and Aregash (2) are ranked in the top 10 of their class of 56 students.

Addisu Alemayew (1) is all boy.  He loves to play and especially loves football (soccer).

Melkamu (2) and Selamawit  (2) are both a little shy and quiet.  When they get to know you, they have beautiful smiles that lit up the room.

Meaza (2) is sassy in the best way possible.  She loves to make people laugh and is a beautiful singer.

Hana (2) is a smart, silly kid with a very tender heart.

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Hana – 10 years old

Dushure  (2) marches to the beat of her own drum.  She is a wonderful artist.

Habitamu M (2) is a silly kid with a million dollar smile.

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Habitamu – M – 10 years old

Nanni (1) is a lovable, cuddly kid.  She will observe from a distance until she gets to know you.

Kindergarteners

We have 10 children in kindergarten.  They are balls of energy that love to cuddle, hug, and sing.

Aster is thoughtful and observant.  She intensely watches things.  She still loves to sit in laps and cuddle.

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Aster – 6 years old

Ammanual A is very much all boy.  He loves to play and build things and knock them down.

Meskerem is quiet.  She likes to listen and learn from her surroundings.

Yohannes and Abite are the CCC class clowns. They are lovable and mischievous.

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Abite, Yohannes, Ammanuel, Yabsera, and Bereket J cheer for the girls while they play football

Konjit and Bereket J are twins.  Both are very smart and expressive and speak good English.

Yabsera is a quiet, sweet, gentle soul.

Faris is an excellent student who loves school.

Mitten is all smiles, cuddles, and hugs.

Preschoolers

Metasebya (Inatu) is two years old.  She is the baby and everyone wants to take care of her.  She is fast learning to be one of the kids and is developing awesome confidence.

Eyayu is four years old.  She loves to color, jump rope, and be one of the big kids.

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Eyayu – 4 years old

I am so proud of these kids.  When I rea­d this over,  this post seems outrageously braggy and boastful but I want to let you know how great the children are doing.  These children have not had easy lives – they are orphans in a country without many options.  Despite the hardships, we have young adults in university; two girls soon graduating from nursing school; and our graduates thriving in the Soddo community.  Nine years ago, people said it wasn’t possible – not to expect a lot.  Well, our kids have proven the doubters wrong!

None of this would be possible without the support of our dedicated sponsors and donors.  I am extremely grateful to all of you who allow us to continue work in Soddo with these 70 awesome young adults and children.

Blessings,

Terri

Summer Activities

Following is a post written by Megan Messano.  Megan is a school teacher in the US and is spending her summer volunteering at CCC in Soddo, Ethiopia.  She is running a summer camp/school program.  This post was written after Megan’s first full day at CCC.

 

I slept  in until 7:00 this morning, long after the sun rose and the choir of birds and children started to sing.  I’d been up late finishing lesson plans for my first English class, which was made more complicated when the power went out and I had to feel my way in utter darkness out of the kitchen, through the living room, and into my bedroom where I’d fortunately had the foresight to hang my flashlight in an obvious place.  With it I located the candles and matches and carried on.

I got up and had breakfast in the cafeteria, then played with the kids until it was time for class.  The first night here was very overwhelming, but I’m already learning many of their names and figuring out how to communicate in English, Amharic, and smiles.

tumblr_inline_mp0kd72JuV1qz4rgpI’ve learned to answer to “Ferenge,” which means “foreigner.”  It’s basically my new name.

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I was prepared for class, but a little nervous that the lesson would fall flat, or the kids would resent being there.  I needn’t have worried.  We finished my lesson plan in under an hour and when I told them we were done, they protested.

“No! We want to learn!”

“Ask us questions!”

“About the story!”

Shocked and pleased, I launched into a more in-depth discussion of the first three pages of Tikki Tikki Tembo.  There’s only so much you can talk about, but they ate up every word.  From there I had them all tell me about their favorite things: colors, foods, sports, and when they still didn’t want to leave after that was done, I had them put up labels I’d made for classroom objects (table, desk, chair, bookshelf).  We finally stopped around 10:30 when a nurse came in asking me to unlock my room because she’d left a book there.

I wandered out to the soccer field and watched the kids kick a ball around, and then was called to join a jump rope game.  They’d abandoned the frayed hemp they’d been using and the rope of choice today seemed to be some type of wire.  I’m getting good at jumping in and out, which is crucial to the way they play.

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When I got tired I sat down on the bottom of a slide, and several kids joined me.

“Maygahn,” one said, “You like to sing?”

“Yes, I love to sing,” I answered.

Instantly, the sing-along began.  They taught me three Amharic worship songs, and helped me sound out the words to write them down.  They were SO patient with me, and happy to help me not just sing the words, but understand what they meant.  These kids are incredible, they really are.

After a lunch of rice and bread I was quite desperate for a vegetable, so I went back to my room and made green beans.  Afterward I crashed.  I’d had no idea how tired I was until I realized I’d been dreaming but didn’t remember closing my eyes.  I set my alarm for 2:00, an hour before my next class, and lay back down.

ChuChu, the dean of students here, came to my door moments after the alarm woke me up.

“There is a lot of people in town. You have heard about the football match?” I’d heard murmurs about football (soccer) since I arrived, and told him so.  He explained that they have a National League and a Premier League, and a team from Wolaita (the region/people group we are in) had just made it into the Premier League.  Apparently, they were the first to do so. “Come, they are waiting for the team to pass by.  See how the people are acting.”

ChuChu and I walked up to the main road.  There were tens of thousands of people in the streets, many in red, yellow, and black striped Wolaita cultural clothing.  All were expectantly milling about, watching, waiting.  ChuChu explained that there was no telling when the team would pass by, because they were going through many small towns where they would be obliged to stop for coffee.  Some people had been standing there since early this morning.

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We waited for maybe two hours, talking and meeting people.  Finally some motorcycles started blowing through, decked with Wolaita colors and leafy branches.  At first I thought this was the team, but people only seemed mildly interested.  Later more motorcycles came until they filled the street and took laps around the traffic circle.  People started to get amped up.  After this came a sea of people on foot, running and cheering, and finally a bus crawled its way through the crowd.  Soccer players in light blue shirts held trophies out the windows.  People sang and danced and chanted.  It was a very emotional display.  “Wolaita is a small zone, one of many with their own people and language and culture.” ChuChu explained.  “The prime minister is from here, and now this has happened.  It doesn’t give sense for you, but it gives sense for us.”

“I think I can appreciate it,” I replied.  “It’s pride.  This is clearly about more than football.”

“Yes,” he smiled.  “Pride.  That song they are singing, it says ‘Now is the time for Wolaita.’”

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We came back exhausted, having inherently cancelled the afternoon class because all of the children were in the street somewhere.  I sat down and rested for a minute, thinking I could just stay in for the rest of the night, but something nudged me out the door.  I played with the little ones for a bit, and then one of the young girls asked me, “You go to church?” I said yes and she took my hand. “Come. Church now. Sing and pray.”

She led me into the youngest girls’ room, where kids were already gathering. They were all between the ages of four and maybe twelve, and in the end there were twenty-six of them there, fully half of the children who live here.  They sat on the beds that lined the walls and waited for Banchiwosen to lead them.  This was clearly a regular thing.

They all began to sing.  The first three songs were the ones I’d learned this morning, so I sang with them.  I cannot fully express what I felt.  They were worshipping.  REALLY worshipping. Entirely on their own.  It was beautiful.  They followed Banchi and moved into some English songs (This Little Light of Mine, Joy to the World) that they didn’t know many of the words to, but they fully enjoyed trying.  After this I had to drop out because the longer Amharic and Wolaitinya songs began.  I just sat and listened and melted.  I was in the Throne Room.  More than once I wished for my camera, but at the same time it felt too sacred.

When they stopped, Nanni stood up and sang a song by herself. Apparently it was solo time, because it continued down the line until it came to me.

“Maygahn! Sing! In English!”  I was startled and let little Meskerem go ahead of me, but then I stood and sang a verse of “Forever Reign.”  Solo time continued all around the room and I listened intently while Meskerem held my hand and leaned her head on my shoulder. So many thoughts chased each other through my head.  If it were possible, I would love so much to take any one of these children home and raise them as my own.  But what of the others when certain “chosen ones” are whisked off to America?  And how could I replace this?  There is so much that these kids are lacking, but they also have something very special here that I’ve never seen at home.

When the last soloist sat down, all of the kids started talking again and I made out my name amid the chatter.  “Maygahn!” “Ferenge pray.  Then finish.”

“Abba Father, thank you for this special place and the chance to worship You tonight, and the way You’ve blessed me through these children-” a perfectly unison “AMEN” interrupted my train of thought, but every head remained bowed. “We ask you to help us with the things we need, and we thank you for the food we have, the beds we sleep in, and the love we have for each other.”

“AMEN.”

“Thank you for Jesus Christ, who came to save us from our sins so we could know You and love You.”

“AMEN.”

“Amen.”

“AMEN.”

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