Today we spent time with the beautiful children at Kebebtsehay state-operated Orphanage in Addis Ababa. This is our 4th mission to spend time at the orphanage and the children were as expected – hopeful, spirited and loving. The baby room had in some cases 3 babies to one crib and the babies were so quiet which always strikes us as such a stark contrast to what we are accustom to at home. The good new is that every time we return to this orphanage, conditions are improving and while the “sick kids room” remains incredibly heartbreaking, the other areas make marginal progress.
In the sick kids room, the kids remain in the cribs all day except for short periods in the shared wheel chair of outdoor time. One child had a brain growth and his head was at least twice the expected size. Lots of the kids have brain damage, cerebral palsy or other issues that leave them blind. One child in particular broke Haleigh and my hearts when she realized that we have been visiting this blind/deaf and unable to walk child each time we have come to the orphanage and there is never any improvement. In spite of these conditions, the children were clean, dressed and eager to touch and be touched.
The babies in the infant room were smiling and making eye contact which was a great sign. There was an Ethiopian family there taking home their adopted 3-month-old gorgeous baby and that was heartwarming to see. The family was so hopeful and happy. The caregiver told me that less than 1/3rd of the babies would be adopted and the rest would spend their lives at some form of state-run facility until they are 12 years old.
The toddler rooms were my favorite – full of kids asking to be taken out of their cribs. Playing peek-a-boo or trying on a baseball cap gave them wild joy and it was so energizing to feel their gleeful emotion bursting from their tiny bodies. One little girl in a red top and huge smile that I played with was radiant. I thought she might be 10 months old. When I asked her caregiver how old she was I was told she was 2-years old. Wow.
Our next stop was the school aged kids who were between the ages of 4-6 and also a ton of fun. This was the most encouraging visit because the 3 classrooms the children are using were full of visual aides, English AND Amharic books and wall art. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that every concept they were teaching were life survival skills. They taught hygiene, anatomy, basic math, weather and farming. As a group, we participated in recess with the kids and they were delighted. Every child wanting to be held, a piggy back ride, to be swung in the air by the guys, and to braid our hair – any activity that required physical contact. They were overjoyed with the attention and I could not help but think that while the supplies we deliver are useful, the biggest benefit to these kids is just showing up and being present and I wonder why I don’t do it more.