Friends of Orphans and Vulnerable Children

Friends of Orphans and Vulnerable Children
What could be better than an Ethiopian welcome, FOVC style?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Will You Pray and Dream With Us?

Hello Friends,

As you are probably aware, Dave and I have been working with a legitimate and worthy organization called FOVC (Friends of Orphans and Vulnerable Children) in southern Ethiopia. (To learn more about FOVC, scroll down a couple of posts.)

For over three years, a young man named Desalegn Daka has been pouring his life into serving orphans and widows in his village and the surrounding areas. To date, he has had no support or acknowledgement from "the world."

It is on my heart to pray and consider planning for a trip to help Desalegn and the children.

For Dave and me, it makes absolutely no sense to try to take this on: We have four kids now. We used all of our money bringing two of them home (smile). Who on earth would consider taking our some combination of our kids while we travel? We are really busy!

I'm sure each of you has the same reasons to not consider going....heck, you probably have even more reasons!

In spite of every excellent reason each of us has to NOT consider taking a trip like this, I am asking you to think and pray about the possibility. I am going to believe the doors of our hearts and our circumstances will open for every one who is meant to take a trip to Southern Ethiopia.

If you do consider going, I promise this: You will see beauty like you have never seen before. You will be filled with joy and purpose. You will grow to love Desalegn and the children. Also, you will be scared and overwhelmed like you have never been before. You will feel very much ill-equipped for the work we would do. You will never be the same!

Thank you in advance for even considering joining us as we pray and dream.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mountain Lion Sighting!!!!

Just received this email from Allison's school:

This is an announcement from Westview Middle School School:

At approximately 9pm on March 18, a mountain lion was spotted about 1 block north of Hygiene Elementary. The Department of Wildlife has advised school officials to remain extra vigilant while outside and to scan the school perimeter and large trees for potential mountain lions. Local residents should remain alert for potential sightings.
Terrifyingly, Allison has a broken ankle and is hobbling around in a big ankle boot these days. My girl could be COUGAR BAIT!!!!

Sunday, March 14, 2010


While we were in Ethiopia, we traveled south for two reasons: To get a glimpse of where Bereket lived before he came to us, and to meet our brother and friend, Desalegn Daka, who runs an organization called FOVC, which stands for "Friends of Orphans and Vulnerable Children."

We had never met Desalegn in person, but we had corresponded considerably via email. Desalegn is a 29 year-old man from a village called Shanto. Shanto is in an area called Damot Pulasa, about one hour's drive from the city of Soto in southwest Ethiopia. Shanto's population is about 8000 people. Desalegn is one of two people in the HISTORY of the village to graduate from University.

Even though Desalegn has an engineering degree, he has chosen to return to Shanto, with the hopes and goals of saving the orphans there.

We experienced so much during our time with Desalegn. The village is in a very remote and beautiful area. Apart from Desalegn's efforts, there is no opportunity for education for the children of the village. We didn't see any vehicles in the village. We were the first white people the children had ever seen!

Dave became acquainted with FOVC after an economist with OxFam (a UK development organization, similar to World Vision or USAID) confirmed it is a legitimate and worthy organization. There is no end to the amount of support and help needed by FOVC. Desalegn has been reaching out to the west since 2006, but we are--to date--the first people who have responded to his pleas for help. Dave is trying to help by serving on FOVC's board, and by trying to get a website going for them.

Desalegn has put together a comprehensive and extremely well-written plan for FOVC. (If you are interested, I would love to send it to you! Please?) He is well-regarded by local government, and FOVC has been given almost 2 acres in Shanto. He has already erected a primitive school building, and hopes to be able to add an orphanage.

FOVC's goal is to keep the children in Ethiopia. Desalegn wants to accomplish this by providing education, health care, job training for widows, stipends for local families who take in orphans and etc. (Much like Hanna Fanta's model for Children's Heaven....but far-removed from Addis, and with none of the connections to people and resources that Hanna has been able to develop.) FOVC is currently serving about 25 orphans and a handful of widows. Of course, there are more children who need help. If Desalegn can find a way to construct the orphanage, FOVC will be able to help many more orphaned children.

Here are some pictures (well, lots of pictures) from our incredible days with Desalegn:

On the way. The farmers tied these oxen together and drove them in a circle to flatten the teff.

The countryside is so beautiful.
A huge difference from the sights of Addis!

The city is Soto. The ferenji is Dave. The habesha is Desalegn.

The chick is me. Everything else explained above!

On the way from Soto to Shanto Village,
this guy really hoped we buy his carrots.

When we arrived in Shanto, the FOVC children came to greet us, singing a welcome song in English.

Here come the beautiful children with their teachers.

In the school room.

Another shot of the school room and the teachers.

Here I am with "Beauty," one of the widows that FOVC helps. (That's Desalegn on the left.)

Dave blowing up rocket balloons,
much to the delight of the children!

Some of the children up-close.

The children performed cultural dances for us while they played a drum and sang. The green skirts are what remains of school clothes from a few years ago. There haven't been funds to buy school clothes since then.

These little girls were--truly--lovingly eating gummy bears, bite-by-tiny-bite. They would eat the ear off a bear. Then they would wrap up the bear and put it in their pocket. Then they would get the bear back out and eat another ear, or a tiny part of a gummy foot. I think they had never had candy, and they made it last!

Sweet little girls dancing.

Because of generous friends and loved ones, we were able to provide a laptop and camera,
as well as some other gifts to Desalegn for FOVC.

Some of the posters outside the FOVC classroom.

Entrance to Desalegn's office.

A teacher showed us  the daily schedule at school.

Desalegn and the staff and the children presented Dave, Bereket and me with traditional Ethiopian clothes.

When we had finished visiting the FOVC project site, we walked through the village. We caused quite a stir!

The view out the car window as we prepared to leave.

After we left Shanto, Desalegn took us to a food market that was a 20 minute drive from the village.

These women are showing off their garlic!

After we looked around the market, Dave and Bereket and I got back into our clean, air-conditioned car and began the journey back towards Addis. Desalegn got on a bus for a long, hot, dusty ride to Shanto. The level of need and beauty we had witnessed was nothing like I have ever seen or imagined. In some ways, I was so sad to leave. Much to my shame, I was relieved to leave, too.

Desalegn and the staff and the children are heavy on our hearts. We would love to organize a trip back to Shanto Village, to take friends or others who are interested, and to try to help these people help these children.

As we drove north towards the Lake Country,
we passed a troop of baboons!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

International Adoption Clinic

Hello from the Land of "Long-Time-No-Post!"

Dave and I took Bereket to the International Adoption Clinic at Children's Hospital in Denver this week. What a fantastic experience! What a blessing to have our son evaluated by a whole team of specialists. Here are the major things we learned:

* Bereket is not four years, four months, even though that is the birth date on his birth certificate. He might even be older than FIVE years, four months....but we are going to go ahead and move his birthday UP exactly one year. So, our son is five, not four years old! (On testing, Bereket flew through every item through the five year category. The inventories are substantially different for six years and older, so they didn't test further.)

* The team highly recommended Bereket start kindergarten next year. They said he will be very fluent in conversational English, but he should still have ESL services, because a conceptual grasp of language is very different.

* They also highly recommended we form a short-term relationship with an Amharic speaker, who could work as a translator for us. They believe Bereket is attaching and adjusting sooooo well, and he is extremely resilient. But at the same time, he has suffered a tremendous loss. And it's a loss we know next-to-nothing about. If we can gain an understanding of his history before he forgets it, it will likely help us parent him in the future. And I think it will be a gift to him, too.

* Regarding his size: He would be an average-size four year-old. He would be a slightly small five year-old. If he is six, he is pretty small. But he will catch up, much as Amelia has.

* They determined Bereket is extremely smart (yup), completely darling (absolutely) and super busy (ditto).

Everything else is coming along just fine. I think the most difficult aspects of our life as a family of six aren't necessarily related to Bereket's adoption. Rather, it's the fact that he's a boy, and a busy/curious one at that. We seem to be on the move more than ever now. Our life was super-busy before Bereket came home. Now we live at warp speed!