New Year – A little late

Following is a blog post written by Nathan on New Year’s Day.  We are a little late posting but this is definitely worth reading.  We are so blessed to have Nathan as part of our network of volunteers.  He is terrific and so dedicated to the children at CCC.

2014 in Review

This is not New Year’s Day in Ethiopia, and it hasn’t just rolled over to 2015. Because Ethiopia functions on a unique Ethiopian Orthodox calendar, today is actually the 23rd day of the 4th month (Tahsas) in 2007. However, the New Year holiday still feels like a great time to reflect back on the last year at the CCC Children’s Home. As we close out 2014, I must say that since I’ve been a part of Aerie Africa and CCC, I have never been more pleased with the accomplishments at the home. Below are just a small list of the highlights:

  • We currently have 6 students succeeding in government university programs. This is the most we’ve ever had.
  • For the first time for Aerie Africa / CCC, two of these 6 government university students are female. We count this as a tremendous accomplishment given the social-cultural obstacles to education that exist for girls.
  • One reason for the improved success of our university students has been because of generous sponsors willing to help provide laptops for our university students. For the first time ever, each of our government university students has a functional laptop computer to help in his or her studies.
  • Also related to girls’ education, we were excited that 2014 saw CCC with two of our girls accepted at the Liqa School in Soddo, considered an elite academic school for Soddo since it only accepts those who can succeed on its rigorous entrance exam.
  • In addition to government university students, we also had 6 students in private higher education programs in 2014, two of which recently finished diplomas in nursing.
  • Fall 2014 also involved two CCC students starting government vocational programs in skill fields with promising jobs for the future (auto mechanics and construction management).
  • Five new boys joined the CCC home in 2014 (Abi, Mamo, Paster, Tege and Wondimu). Though the circumstances that bring children to the CCC home are not usually reasons to celebrate, in the case of these 5 boys, who came to us from another orphanage, we are confident the CCC home can provide them with a more stable and healthier home, and we do celebrate that they are all strong and thriving.
  • This year finally (huge sign of relief personally from me) saw the completion of our deep borehole well project. We were able to get it functional last spring with the installation and some repairs to an old diesel generator. We were able to get it fully operational this fall after finally receiving and installing our 3 phase electric transformer, and setting up some additional water storage capacity. The CCC home in 2015 will be completely self reliant for water.
  • With the completion of the well project, our next priority was to overhaul the home’s plumbing. With the help of the head plumber at the International Community School in Addis, we were able to replace all toilets, showers, sinks, fixtures, drains (including installing smell-traps for the first time) and pipes in the dormitory house at the end of 2014.
  • We had 6 new students transition into our 3 year transitional program in 2014, bringing our total number in this program (including those away at university) to 17, our largest number yet. We are very proud of this program, which involves kids transitioning out of the CCC home around age 18 to live in pairs in rented rooms in town. They are provided with money for rent, food, clothing and school, while they develop the skills to live as independent adults.
  • Some students and teachers of Renewable Energy Engineering at John Brown University in Arkansas recently reached out to us about partnering around some energy related projects at the home. This fall a group of students completed a solar power assessment and proposal for the home. Though at this point, it’s just a proposal, we’re hoping it may lead to some future innovations that could reduce CCC’s dependence the costly and unreliable electric grid.

We have many things to look forward to in 2015. Just to name a few…

  • We have high hopes for our three 12th grade students who will be taking the 12th grade national exams in 2015.
  • We are eagerly anticipating the graduation of our first government university student, who will graduate in June with a health officer (public health) degree.
  • We are looking forward to another wedding in 2015, the third of our CCC kids to grow up and get married. Though we are clear that marriage is not a goal in itself, because of the high cultural value of marriage in Wolaita, we see these weddings as successful examples of the social and cultural integration of our kids; this is important given the institutional nature of their childhoods. Until the date is formally set, we’ll keep the name a mystery.
  • Now that we have the CCC home completely water self-reliant, we hope to extend the privilege of our abundant and clean water source out to some of the immediate community around CCC. The final step of our vision will be to install one last pipe and a tap for public access to the water. We plan to set up a controlled distribution schedule that will allow local households to get water a couple of times per week.
  • March 2015 will see the fulfillment of a partnership that has been developing between the 8th grade class at the International Community School in Addis and the CCC home. The school in Addis will make a trip with about forty-five 8th graders to spend a week with the kids at CCC. This week will involve lots of projects and activities together, including the making of some really cool solar powered lamps, using some re-purposed electronic waste and reused plastic water bottles.
  • The students in Renewable Energy Engineering at John Brown University are planning to develop a proposal for the CCC home during the 2015 spring semester for a biofuel digester that could provide biogas for cooking at the home. This could be a great means to reduce our reliance on cooking with charcoal and firewood, which have both negative health and environmental consequences.

Of course, nothing in 2014 could have been possible without the help of donors and sponsors through Aerie Africa. 2014 saw the on-going commitment of long-time sponsors; it also brought in new sponsors to the Aerie Africa family, and included a successful fall fund-raising campaign, putting Aerie Africa in a strong position for the new 2015 budget. It’s been a great year for Aerie Africa and CCC, and we are looking forward to another great year in 2015. Thanks again for all your support. Happy New Year and blessings to you in 2015.

– Nathan Haines

Give the Gift of Education This Holiday Season! #Giving Tuesday

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Please join us for a special day of Giving Thanks and Giving Back!

From Tuesday, December 2 through Wednesday, December 31, 2014, the Board of Directors of Aerie Africa is celebrating it’s supporters and #GivingTuesday by matching the first $2,000 in charitable contributions during this time. 

Thanks to many generous donors, our 2014 annual fall campaign is off to a great start.   However, with one month to go, we still need to raise $8,000 so that we can continue to care for and educate the very special children of Aerie Africa.

It costs approximately $145 per year to educate one child in the private school system in Soddo, Ethiopia.  Our children are not eligible for international adoption so education is the most powerful means of helping them achieve their dreams and improving their quality of life.

Every dollar raised during this final month will go directly to fund our education related expenses. 

We are very proud of all of the children’s academic accomplishments and each one deserves their own story but today, we would like to share some of the amazing accomplishments of our girls.

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The access and achievement gap between boys and girls in Ethiopia is well documented and despite that, our girls are thriving and breaking new ground every day:

  •  We currently have 3 girls in in the selective Liqa School in Soddo, which is nationally known for its high academic standards (only accepts top 5% of students based on grades and a rigorous entrance exam).
  • Three of our older girls are currently enrolled in University degree programs.  They are studying engineering, business administration and humanities.
  • At the end of the 2013-14 school year, we had 16 of our children, including several girls, rank in the top 10 of their respective classes, which could be as large as 60 students in the lower grades.

These are truly remarkable accomplishments and none of this would be possible if we were not able to pay for the school tuition, textbooks, uniforms and other school related supplies.

Please make a year-end gift to Aerie Africa so that our children can continue to get the education they deserve.

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No gift is too large or too small.  You are making a life changing investment in these children.  We cannot replace their family but together we can show them love, support and hope for a brighter future.

Above all, thank you for your time and interest in our children.

Please click on the Donate Now button on the right hand side of this blog to easily make your donation.

Sincerely,

The Aerie Africa Board of Directors

 

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.

 

The new roof before painting

The new roof before painting

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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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