Friends of Orphans and Vulnerable Children

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

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!


Shawn said...

No wonder we can't make injera here, we need a herd of oxen to flatten the teff! That is unbelievable. Great pictures, thanks for sharing your story.


Jonas Adoption Journey said...

WOW! great pictures. We leave in 10 days and your images have really inspired us!

Ruthanne said...

Gorgeous pictures, Lory. What an amazing trip that must have been.