We visited a school yesterday right in the area that Bella was born and lived her first two years. The school was recently taken over by the adoption agency as one of their many charities. This school services 200 children from four until only 3rd grade. There was an average of 50 children per classroom. These children are 100% orphans, many, many are also HIV positive. They live in a very desperate area, lacking in even basic clean water. Here's the clincher....none of them are adoptable! They are not adoptable because their extended family or neighbors that care for them refuse to sign adoption papers mainly due to the fact that although they don't care for them adequately, they require them to work on their behalf. Many are working after school cleaning homes or selling products on the streets (remember, these are four to nine year old children; older ones than that work all day). Here's the other heart-breaking fact - these children are attending school without being fed due to the high cost of food in Ethiopia. (It is way, way expensive here - far more than America to buy any kind of food!) I found out upon leaving that they also have zero school supplies - ZERO; there is not even a pencil to be found in the school.
My agency is working on a database of the children so that they can start being sponsored. It will provide them with one decent meal a day, two uniforms a year and hopefully some basic school supplies. Beyond that, medical care will probably fall to volunteers that come. I doubt that HIV meds. are even a remote possibility at this point.
I have a dream...I want to bring 200 back-packs that have a few notebooks, pencils and crayons in each. My difficulty will obviously be transporting them, but I'm going to talk to Ethiopian air to see if they will not charge the extra baggage charges. We need good quality back-packs as it realistically will be the only one that these children have ever receive.
Here's one of the 200 sweet-hearts that broke my heart -