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Christmas at CCC by Nathan Haines

I think it’s probably universal across time, place and culture that food is a central component of any special holiday. Probably you recognized that when you stepped on the scale recently after the past couple of weeks of holiday indulging. It’s no different in Ethiopia. I knew it was holiday time when Yaicob and Ermias walked down the hill from the market to CCC with an ox on Wednesday afternoon.

This past Thursday (Jan. 7) was the Christmas holiday here in Ethiopia. Ethiopians call it Genna. Because Ethiopia follows a sort of modified Julian calendar, like other Christian Orthodox countries around the world, Christmas lands on Jan. 7 of the more internationally recognized Gregorian calendar. I was able to spend several days in Soddo at the CCC Children’s Home this week. In Ethiopia, the special holiday food is always meat. Some celebrate the Christmas meal with a special chicken dish, called doro waht. Others, including the kids and staff at CCC, celebrated with a slab of raw beef, called kort or just teray siga (“raw meat”). In the southern regions such as Wolaita, this kort is eaten with a special spicy sauce called dahta.

But Christmas day at CCC is marked by more than just consumption of raw meat. The staff and kids organize some special activities and programs; this year, the kids took the leadership on organizing the celebration program.

It started on Wednesday. The kids had the day off from school, but they were still awoke early. Even before breakfast, they were sweeping and scrubbing their rooms to make sure everything was spotless for the holiday. After all the cleaning was complete, it was time for haircuts and styling. The older kids each received 10-20 birr (50 cents – a dollar) and they headed to town, the boys for a trim at the barber, the girls for styling or braiding at the salon. By afternoon, everyone had some fresh looking hair. Next came the decorating and organizing. During the week prior, the kids had collected a little money from each of the staff to purchase some decorations and candy for the holiday, so after lunch, some kids headed back to town to make some purchases, while others stayed back to practice their drama skits and their song performances, or to begin decorating their bedrooms. Several of the rooms organized a decorating contest to see which room would look the best for the holiday. This decorating involved paper streamers, cutout hearts and shapes, and hand-colored pictures on the walls, hanging from the ceiling, and posted on the windows.

CCC 1

By late afternoon Wednesday the kids were going around with a hat and having all the kids and staff draw names for a gift exchange. This was a new addition to the program this year and the kids were super excited about it. Everyone was whispering about who had whose name and what sort of gift each would arrange. Without any personal money they had to be creative with these gifts; this kept many occupied for the rest of the day.

Everyone was awake early again on Thursday morning for Christmas. Some were busy practicing for the afternoon program, some putting the finishing touches on gifts and decorations. A few had the idea to wrap their gifts, which spurred all the others to figure out how to arrange some wrapping. By mid-morning, most of the kids were dressed in some nice clean clothes and were off to church for the church Christmas program. The only kids who remained behind were those actively involved in the slaughter of the ox and the food preparations for lunch. The only hitch in the morning was when Ermias, in the process of the ox slaughter, sliced into his finger nearly to the bone and had to be run off to the clinic for stitches. Fortunately, it wasn’t serious and he was back to the ox within an hour.

By about 2 pm the meat was all prepared and each kid received a plate of either tibs (pieces of fried meat) or kort, laid out on a plate of injera, with a good helping of dahta on the side. Holiday meals are also special because, not unlike back in North America, the holidays are a great homecoming time. All the older kids who now live up in town in our transitional program come home to CCC for the holiday. There are lots of greetings and stories and the younger ones enjoy all the attention of these older ones. Even a few of the university students (Nebiyu, Asfaw and Girma) and former graduates (Tesfaun and Assegid) made an appearance. Nearly all the staff came in the afternoon for the program, many with their own kids, which further added to the big sense of extended family that is CCC. After everyone had enjoyed to their fill and the dishes were cleared, the cafeteria was quickly transformed for the afternoon program, MCed by Omodar and Frehiwot.

Some candy, biscuits and popcorn were passed around for the children, freshly roasted coffee for the adults. Balloons and streamers were on the wall, and music played on the radio. Omodar and Frehiwot opened the program with a short drama skit, followed by a holiday welcome speech by Adisu (in both Amharic and English… for my benefit, I suppose). Some of the girls (Konjit, Nani, Mitten, Eyayu, Meskerem and Aster) performed a song and dance routine, followed by another drama skit. Then Omodar and Frehiwot led a Christmas quiz. Several of the kids were brought up and asked questions about the Christmas story and awarded with candies for correct answers. Next were the games. First, one that involved a long string with a lollipop in the middle and one girl on either end with the string in her mouth. The first to draw the string all the way to the lollipop using only her mouth won the lollipop. Mekdas was victorious. Then a balloon popping game: two kids, each with a balloon tied to his ankle, struggled to pop the other’s balloon. Little Wendu and Abi were highly entertaining as they competed in this one. Lastly a blindfold game, where with a little cheating, Mamo was able to beat Titay to the hidden candy bar.

CCC 4

And then finally the gift exchange: one by one, each child or staff came up, received a gift and then gave a gift. Little bottles of perfume, hand-made cards, paper airplanes, bottle-top toys, pens, pencils, pictures, etc. were exchanged; of course, they were all meticulously wrapped (in paper, plastic, pillow cases, banana leaves, etc.). After opening gifts, enjoying some more popcorn (and candy and biscuits), the kids ran off to play (or lie down with indigestion after too much kort). It was a wonderful day and a great celebration; it was made that much more special because of the great initiative of the kids themselves to organize the program.

The kids will all return to school again on Tuesday. Titay and I returned back to Addis yesterday (Friday) and we too must begin back to school and work on Monday and Tuesday. As always, it was great to get down to Soddo and spend a few days with the kids at CCC. Especially at holiday time, it’s always one of my highlights. Titay clearly felt the same way. While driving back yesterday, after waking up from a nap in the backseat, she said, “Dad, when can we go to CCC and just stay for like a month?”

As they say at Christmas time here in Ethiopia, “Melkam Genna” and “Enkwan abero aderesen.”

 

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#Giving Tuesday

 

 

Please join Aerie Africa in celebrating #GivingTuesday, a day of giving thanks and giving back

Give Education!

Give Hope!

Change a life forever!

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In a country like Ethiopia, where only 38% of youth are enrolled in 9th grade and only 10% advance to 11th grade, the impact of education can be profound.  We at Aerie Africa have seen first-hand how a formal education equips children with knowledge, builds self-esteem, keeps them safe, and restores dignity and hope for a brighter future.

Now in our 14th year, Aerie Africa is dedicated to providing a home for orphaned children in Soddo, Ethiopia.  We are committed to creating a safe and healthy environment so the children can attain the highest level of education possible.  We start with pre-school, support them through primary and secondary school and ultimately work with each child to find the right path whether it is vocational school or university.

It costs us approximately $150 to educate one child per year including tuition, uniforms, books, and supplies.  Our #GivingTuesday goal is to raise $10,950 to ensure our precious children get the education they deserve.  Please give today – simply click the Donate Now button to the right.

Thanks to a generous donor, the first $1,000 in donations on Giving Tuesday will be matched.

Please donate NOW!

Thank you!

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Aerie Africa – CCC – ICS

Beautiful post written by Nathan Haines.  Aerie Africa, CCC, and ICS are blessed to have Nathan as a teacher, supporter, and mentor.

April 22, 2015

This was a conversation that happened in one of my 8th grade English classes this past week:

Me: Okay class, we’ve got to submit these LifeBook pages so that we can be done with our Week Without Walls stuff and get into a new unit.

Esete: But Mr. Haines… we don’t really want to be done with Week Without Walls.

Tamar: Yeah. We should plan another trip back to Soddo. We could all go for like two days and deliver these LifeBooks to them ourselves.

Lei: Plus… I want a re-match on the soccer pitch.

The trip in March was absolutely exhausting and I cannot even fathom arranging another trip down there this year, but this interaction with my students this past week was rewarding nonetheless.

March 23-27 was the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work on both ends of my life here in Ethiopia; on the Addis end where I teach at the International Community School (ICS) of Addis Ababa (www.icsaddis.edu.et), and on the Soddo end where I help with the Aerie Africa-funded CCC Children’s Home. Though a culmination in some ways, because of its success it’s also just the beginning of a potentially long-term relationship that I believe can greatly benefit the CCC Children’s Home.

In the summer of 2012, Richelle, Titay and I left our home of one year at the CCC Children’s Home in Wolaita Soddo and moved to Addis Ababa. Since that time, I have remained involved with CCC, while teaching at ICS. My Addis work and life and my Soddo work and life have often felt like two very different worlds, but about a year ago, despite a little trepidation, I decided to slam to the two worlds together and hope it would work.

An important part of the curriculum at ICS is what we call our “Week Without Walls” (WWW) program. Each grade, from 6th-12th, participates in a weeklong learning experience away from the walls of the school, somewhere around the country. As an 8th grade team teacher, I participated for two years with the 8th grade class WWW trip to Axum, an important historical site in northern Ethiopia. These WWW trips go beyond just a weeklong school trip and are integrated into larger curriculum units. For example, our Axum WWW trip was always the culmination of a social studies unit on Ethiopian history. Despite the value of this Axum trip, for a couple of years the 8th grade team of teachers had been discussing the possibility of a new kind of trip that would involve a greater long-term relationship with a particular Ethiopian community and incorporate a service learning component. So it was that about a year ago, not long after our last Axum trip, that I proposed to the team: “How about a WWW learning experienced centered around a partnership between the 8th grade class at ICS and the CCC Children’s Home in Soddo?” After I took 3 other members of the teacher team with me to Soddo to visit CCC last June, we all agreed to give it a try. Both our principal and the WWW program coordinator were onboard, and so the collision of my worlds began.

Our plans were ambitious. We wanted to develop a yearlong relationship between the two sides, one that would not be based on one-way charity, but rather on a mutual learning exchange, beneficial to both sides. We also wanted to fold the weeklong trip into a multi-disciplinary, authentic learning experience for our ICS 8th graders. So…

In science class, our 8th graders, in the midst of a unit about clean energy and electrical circuits, built solar-powered, LED-light, desk lamps for the purpose of helping the CCC kids study and do their homework on the evenings of power outages. These lamps were quite ingenious. Students repurposed electronic waste such as wires, resistors and magnetic toroid rings from used CFL bulbs. They boosted the voltage from two ‘AAA’ rechargeable batteries using a nifty circuit design called a “joule thief” in order to power double LED lights. They did all their own soldering (with only minor burns). And they participated in a lamp stand design competition.
lamp

Lamp 2

Also…

In English class, as part of their learning about reading and writing memoir, students created LifeBooks for the kids at CCC. Memoir is a genre that involves the author making meaning of an important moment in his or her life and communicating that meaning to others. The LifeBook is an idea that comes from those who work in foster care in the US. A LifeBook is basically a scrapbook of a child’s important moments, not unlike the scrapbooks that many parents keep about their children with baby pictures, first words, first steps, and lost teeth. A LifeBook, though, is designed so that the child can be the “author”. For children without parents, or without one consistent adult care-taker, a LifeBook can be something that allows them to take control over the preservation of their own life memories. Like memoir, it can help a child make meaning of important moments in his or her life. Creating these LifeBooks involved ICS students getting to know a partner at CCC and developing page templates, peppered with lots of pictures, of a book that their partner can complete further for him or herself in the future.

Lifebook cover

And finally…

In Social Studies class, ICS students conducted research into issues related to Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs), developed a community needs / asset survey for CCC, interpreted the data after the survey was completed by the children and staff at CCC, and then developed their own project proposals of ways to contribute positively to CCC. The three winning student proposals were: a) a remodeling of the CCC library to create a more conducive space of reading, studying and homework, b) developing academic tutorial materials, including instructional videos and learning games, and c) creating some home-made toys and drama materials so that the kids at CCC had some different kinds of simple props and toys for imaginative play.

Library

The actual week we spent at CCC in Soddo started on Monday morning with an early bus departure from ICS, followed by a 5-hour drive southward. After arriving in Soddo and getting settled into a hotel, ICS students received a tour of the CCC home and introduction to staff. As the CCC kids began arriving back from their school day, there was time to meet and get to know each other, ending the afternoon with some soccer on the CCC soccer pitch. On Tues. and Wed., while the CCC kids were in school, ICS students remodeled the library, built a shade over the CCC stage, visited the schools that CCC kids attend, created tutorial materials, and made toy cars and sock puppets. Each afternoon when CCC kids returned from school, the time was filled with organized games together and demonstrations of the solar lamps. Each day ended with some organized sport: Tues. was “dimo,” a type of tag / dodge-ball game often played at CCC; Wed. was volleyball, after we set up a temporary net on the soccer pitch.

Volleyball Toys

In order to take in a bit of the beautiful Wolaita countryside, Thurs. morning involved an ICS hike. One group went up Mt. Damota, the 9000 ft peak just north of Soddo town, while another group hiked into the Damota Cave, a large cave in the side of Mt. Damota that includes a cascading spring over the mouth of the cave. Thursday afternoon included two culminating championship soccer matches, one boys and one girls, ICS vs. CCC. Both matches, though competitive, resulted in CCC victories. ICS players learned that there were some unique skills involved in playing on an uneven, dusty, red-dirt pitch. Thurs. evening was our ending celebration with lots of roasted goat, speeches, gifts, a bonfire, some Wolaitan dancing, and a few tearful good-byes. Friday was our return travel day, with a couple of hours stopover at Lake Langano for some Rift Valley swimming, before battling the Friday afternoon traffic back into Addis.

Damota

It was a remarkable week. It turned out to be a deeply rewarding and beneficial experience for both sides; both ICS and CCC agreed that it’s a relationship we want to continue into future years. Since returning from Soddo, ICS students have presented their experience to parents and finished the LifeBooks (which will be delivered to CCC next week), and the 8th grade teacher team has already begun plans for next year. We haven’t eased off the ambitious ideas either. Among some working ideas so far: factor in an additional trip early in the year where ICS students and the CCC kids meet part-way for an overnight of camping at Lake Langano, have some of the older CCC kids visit ICS in Addis for a couple of days and attend classes, schedule our WWW trip next March for Thurs. through Mon. so that we have a full weekend with the kids at CCC while they’re out of school.

Soccer

So no, Esete, Tamar and Lei, we will not be making another trip to Soddo this year as a class of 50. That thought exhausts me. But, I’m grateful the experience went well, I’m happy my two worlds have collided and benefitted each other, and I’m looking forward to continuing the relationship into next year.

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

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

roof final

The new roof painted with new gutters

 

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.

DSC_0872

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