Summer News 2015

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It’s hard to believe it is already July! We are loving the summer, and have certainly been busy with exciting things!
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June was a fun month for fundraisers – the Medicine Hat Chapter hosted their first ever Hues for Humanity event, as well as the Drive the Wagon golf tournament. Both events were a success, and between them raised enough funds to feed 50 students one hot meal a day for a year at our Education Support Centers.

We are looking forward to holding our next Hues for Humanity event in Virginia this fall!
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We took a great group of students from Okanagan College to both Ethiopia and Malawi in May. It was a wonderful trip, full of great experiences!

The team was able to do medicals, and provide the community clinics in rural areas, as well as introduce some local children to Frisbee – a game they had never seen before!

We have just released the 2016 Schedule of Expeditions – take a look below!
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Guest Post – Shelly Vansbinbergen

Over Their Heads

There are so many stories that are floating around my mind and heart upon returning from Ethiopia. I wish I could bring back something tangible to show you and have you feel and experience and smell and touch what we felt while we were there. Alas, luggage allowances aren’t what they used to be and  even if they were, they wouldn’t suffice so I’ll have to rely on words to bring you as much as they will for now.
 

I’ll start with a photo I shared on Instagram that seems to have touched a lot of people pretty deeply. It’s a young boy, named Teddy, who shyly gathered 7 adults together to thank them for putting a roof on his home.

Teddy lives with his mother, behind a corrugated fence that hides about 6 or 7 families living in small mud and stick constructed shanties. Stepping over the small ditch with sewage and water running freely, into the small compound, I immediately felt claustrophobic. It was a tight little space with piles of tires and bags and plastic on one side of the wall, allowing only about 2-3 feet to walk through to get to the back of the compound where Teddy lives. In the corner, last doorway on the left…a dark little 9×9 shanty where his mother and he share a bed, cook their meals on an open fire with no chimney, the smoke filling their home until it dissipates through the door or the holes in the roof. The mud walls are covered with blackened soot and the floor is covered in ash, though you can tell it’s been swept just recently.

Teddy and his mother live alone, and are only able to live here because their home is owned by a relative who has agreed to let them stay here. The roof is corrugated tin and it has falling into such disrepair that it actually allows the only light into the room that Teddy and his mother share. Sunlight streams through, illuminating the dust in the air, and while beautiful in a photo, imagine it in the rainy season when daily downpours rain virtually unhindered onto the heads of those trying to sleep or eat or cook below. We tear off the roof and there is an indescribable amount of dust, debris and rat droppings that we are inhaling as we go. There is no health and welfare department here to ensure the safety of children in their own homes. The roof comes off, the cross beams are dismantled, nearly dust themselves after years of heat and rain and smoke have had their way with them.
Sunlight through the holes in the roof

They’ve lived with this roof through too many rainy seasons

In the confined space, the guys tackle taking off the existing roof
Frank and Murray and Pete – and a shower of rat feces, dirt and debris that has accumulated over the years

The guys on our team, Frank, Murray, Pete, Keith and Henry work alongside two graduating students from the vocational program, to come up with a plan to support and rebuild the roof, despite the crumbling walls and cramped workspace. We were worried that the guys being on the support beams may in fact cause the walls of not only Teddy’s house to crumble, but also that of the other child headed household on the other side of the wall. We had to move cautiously and constantly reassess the situation. There are no building codes in these slums. Most of the time that the guys were working, I sat outside the pit latrine, on the only free real estate I could find, with my feet up on bricks, hovering above the stream of sewage flowing through the yard. As I sat, I tried to imagine dark nights and rainy days turning the dusty yard to mud. I tried to think of how a mother would keep her son safe and fed and dry when everything around them seemed unstable and unsafe, the very home they shared showering them and the mud walls crumbling into the already cramped space. I tried to think of how I would keep my wits about me if these were the circumstances I was handed, my life to be lived out in this cluttered alley shared by other families, no privacy even in the suffering. I watched Teddy’s mother as she watched the guys rebuild her roof. She was a solemn and serious woman and yet, her hands would touch Teddy’s back when he walked by, she would stand next to him and watch alongside him, her love for him evident in her mannerisms and body language, though her face remained stoic. Apparently there’s no room for emotions in this crowded alley. Maybe they’re a luxury that can’t be afforded to those trying to survive. I know as I watched her and Teddy, my eyes filled with tears several times but I hid them in an effort not to embarrass them or myself. 
Cross beams are cut from local hardwood poles

Keith and Frank spacing out the cross beams for adequate support

Hilo, a recent carpentry graduate is happy to be working and gaining experience. As a result of his work on this site,  we are able to write a credible reference for him to aid in his job search.

Frank learned quickly that you need to oil the nails to allow them to penetrate the hard wood poles.


Teddy pitched in to clear away some of the fallen roof from his home

With the room cleaned out and the roof off, it was still just a 9×9 mud shanty shared by Teddy and his mother.

Teddy’s mother looks on while demolition of the original roof takes place. 

In the end, the guys were able to secure the roof and also to make a place for the smoke from the cooking fire to be vented, without allowing water into the home. Teddy and his mother were incredibly grateful and she shared their gratitude with us after the construction was completed. 
A few days later, when we visited Teddy at the centre where he receives a daily meal and help with school work, he asked the program coordinator, Tillahan, to ask if he could speak to us. Standing there, with Tillahan as his translator, this small boy spoke with such eloquence and gratitude, he moved us all to tears. He told us that in the rainy season, he felt he could never sleep and that he cried each night as it rained. No one should have to live in the kind of conditions that Teddy and his mother live in. Even with the roof fixed, I asked myself if I would feel confident enough to sleep there with one of my boys and I know that I wouldn’t. Although Teddy and his mom have to live in difficult circumstances, I know that when the rains come in the next few months, they’ll know that they will think of a group of new friends who came halfway around the world to do what we could to provide them with a dry place to sleep and the knowledge that they are loved and missed and prayed for by us. 
Teddy and his mother outside their home.

Documentary Now Available to view Online!


Recently a documentary was done about the work that Kids Hope Ethiopia and Canadian Humanitarian are doing in Africa. Originally released on Canadian Television, this documentary is now available to view online.

We hope you enjoy this documentary as much as we did!

Mobile device users please click here if the video screen does not show up below.



Canadian Humanitarian from Rick Castiglione on Vimeo.

Feel free to share this video with your friends on facebook, twitter, or wherever you like to share!

If you have any questions about the work we do, please contact Lyndon (Executive Director), or Rachel (Sponsorship Coordinator).

Making A Difference

We have the opportunity to do a few home visits with our students when with an expedition group. Home visits allow us to meet guardians and to thank them for the support and love they daily give their child or foster child. It is an acknowledgement of their hard work and a way for us to show our gratitude for what they do.

During a home visit a few months ago, our group (Lyndon, Nikki, and I) met a wonderful family in the Kirkos area of Addis. The mother is a market vendor. She has 3 children; an older teenage girl, a mid-teen boy ( in our program) and a younger boy. The family recently moved into their small mud and stick home, offered by local government authorities. This new home got them off Addis streets, and into a space of their own.

However, the home was in deteriorating condition and the front door did not lock. The family had managed to stave off intruders, but there were safety concerns for the daughter. During our February visit, we were concerned for the welfare of this family, and moved by their stories. Our volunteer group tried to get improvements in motion, but due to the home being government property, petitions for improvements had to pass through local government channels before repairs could be made to the home.

Once back in Canada, I thought of this family regularly. I believe that no one should have to live in fear in their own home. Everyone should be able to have a safe place to sleep. We know that this can be a challenge even in our country. The family’s safety, particularly the daughter, weighed on my mind.

With the May Expedition Group, I had the opportunity to meet with Kirkos Education Center staff. They assured me we would do home visits again, and they promised that I would be impressed with the changes for this particular family. On our last day with the children in this program, home visits were scheduled. I was anxious to see this family.

As we came around the street corner, I knew I was in a familiar area, but I never would have recognized the home on my own. The outside structure had been reinforced. There were no longer holes in the walls. A window had been added to the front of the home to allow for more light. A new door had been installed and the lock was functioning. The interior of the home was restructured, with new concrete floor. A proper bedroom had been added, and the roof replaced, so that it no longer leaked.

The family was so grateful for what had been down with their home. As we visited, I asked the daughter how she was feeling. She told me that she felt safe, that she could sleep soundly at night again. Her brother in our program was also able to significantly increase his school performance. I cried many tears of happiness that day. I was grateful to our project managers and partners, who recognized the family’s need and pushed for approval from the government to renovate the house. I was impressed that they acted quickly, engaging both the family and their neighbours to volunteer their time to get the house renovated. What a difference this is making to our student, and the family!

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A nurse’s perspective on a trip of a lifetime to Addis Ababa (Part I)

 “I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up that I was not happy.”
~
Ernest Hemingway~

When I booked my trip to Africa through Canadian Humanitarian (Kids Hope Ethiopia’s sister organization in Canada) I had many misconceptions of what the people of Ethiopia would be like. I pictured a life of poverty, sadness, and despair.  I was mistaken! The people in Addis Ababa were some of the happiest and most welcoming people I have ever had the opportunity to meet. The people in Addis Ababa are genuine and authentically true to their culture, beliefs/faith, and have love for their country. Although the residents of Addis Ababa are happy and peaceful the raw truth is most Ethiopian residents live below the poverty line. It was apparent during my expedition to Ethiopia that extreme poverty does exist and the living conditions were unfathomable to me. Many of the houses in Ethiopia are made from sticks for the structure, with mud walls, and tin for the roof. The houses were no bigger than what most North Americans would use for a shed in our backyards. In many of the homes there is no running water, no bathrooms, and most of the stoves used in the homes have no ventilation. If smokeless stoves are not used in the home the family members often present with respiratory illness and disease. Some of the houses I saw in Addis Ababa had two rooms in the home. The second room in the house is usually used as a market store to sell items to the community (drink, souvenirs, clothes etc.) in order to provide an income for the family. To put that in perspective, there is a mud hut with one or two rooms occupied by a family usually consisting of 5-8 children.  

With over three million people in Addis Ababa there is a major concern regarding overcrowding and overpopulation. Overpopulation can affect a country in many ways: increased spread of disease; increased scarcity of jobs; increased demand for resources such as food; and increased human waste. Many of the residents who do not have a latrine (hole in ground to use as bathroom) will void and defecate outside. The areas outside where children are playing can be littered with human and animal waste. This is a concern as with minimal access to sanitation/personal hygiene products such as toilet paper, soap, and water the spread of disease and sickness is increased.  Many of the citizens of Ethiopia already suffer from malnutrition and poverty, which makes them even more vulnerable to illness. This is a health care concern, as with a yearly increasing population the amount of people living in extreme poverty will increase.  

After spending a few weeks in Addis Ababa I was able to see how daily life is for many of the residents of Ethiopia. I felt culture shock within days of being in Addis Ababa, as the living conditions were unspeakable. It affected me as a mother to see women who survive on the streets begging for money to feed their children; to have seven-year-olds coming up to your vehicle begging for food. I wondered how “we” as humans sleep at night knowing an entire country lives like this? Most of the citizens in Addis Ababa, including orphaned children, have to find daily work by shining shoes, selling random objects (bracelets, necklaces, gum etc.) to get some sort of income. The jobs that are available in Addis Ababa would be offered to those who have an education. People who live in poverty do not have the opportunity to get their education, as they often go to work at a young age doing agricultural or domestic work to help their family survive. Until your basic needs are met (shelter, food, water) there is no way to strive towards higher goals until the most basic necessities of life are met.  

One of the main and special objectives of Canadian Humanitarian (Kids Hope Ethiopia) is the strong belief in providing and supporting children in attaining an education. One of the priorities of this organization is to get the children in their programs to complete school and go on to get technical certification or a college/university degree. What is so special is that Canadian Humanitarian (Kids Hope Ethiopia) forms relationships with the children when they are first enrolled into the program. They support the children through school right up until they are graduating from university and entering into their careers. This is one of the many reasons that after my eighteen-day trip to Ethiopia I felt hope for these children. In fact, while visiting children who are a part of these programs I was able to witness personal testimonies in how these programs have impacted their life. Many of the children expressed how they can see a bright future and are able to openly discuss their dream careers.

During my group of home visits I was lucky to have met a boy from one of the centers who did not have a sponsor yet. I had the opportunity to meet his mother whom was very ill with AIDS. I was shown his tiny home, in which only three of us could fit in at a time. His daily living conditions were shocking. His home did not have running water, did not have a bathroom, and the only meals the child and his mother ate were the leftovers the restaurant next door had given to them when they closed each night. This child has so much potential and this program helps him be able to see a future and have a chance to overcome the obstacle of severe poverty. I am grateful that my family and I are able to support this child and program by becoming his sponsor. I must say that for anyone interested in going to Ethiopia through Canadian Humanitarian (Kids Hope Ethiopia) regardless of your career background it is a trip you will never regret.  It was one of the most eye opening and surreal experiences of my life and I am so happy I was able to have this journey! For anyone who may not be able to make it to Africa please consider supporting the amazing work this organization is doing, it is truly remarkable. Sponsor a child, donate money towards providing education supplies or food, fundraise or invest, however little or large it does not go unnoticed by the beautiful children and families in Ethiopia!  
  ~Colleen Bakke (Registered nurse, Regina, Sask.)

Home Visits

Volunteers had the opportunity to visit some of the homes of the students of Gindo Town. Home visits honour the guardians of the children. The team was able to thank the guardians for all they do to support their child in school, and attending education sessions at the after school center. The students had the opportunity to host volunteers in their home.  It was a memorable experience for everyone.

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