Monday, July 25, 2011

A Mud Hut and a Green Marker

It was not lack of ability that limited my people, but lack of opportunity. - Tatomkhula

Everywhere we went in Ethiopia, children recognized and knew that the "farenj" would/could give them something. Candy. Shoes. Clothes. Food. Blankets. Diapers. Formula. Maybe even a little money (though we didn't really do this.....much). Over and over again we heard, "cahndee", "choc-o-late", "gum", "give me", "shoes", "sister, hungry".

But not at Korah.

At Korah, the children approach you with one intention, one need, one desire. They want a sponsor. They KNOW that education equals hope; hope for a better life outside of the trash dump. And they know that that opportunity (for them) will only come through sponsorship.

Project 61 is the conduit of that hope as they provide the structure through which sponsorship can occur. You and I can be the deliverer of that hope through a commitment to sponsor. The cost of sponsorship for a child attending boarding school (Shashamane) is $750.00 annually; for children attending Bright Hope, the day school at Korah, the cost is $350.00 annually. The price of sponsorship in both of these programs ensures that these children not only get an education but also are guaranteed one meal a day. As much as we don't want to accept it, they may otherwise not have a meal.

As we began to mingle with the children of Korah, they began to ask, "You sponsor?"; they were buzzing like little bees from one to another to find someone willing to sponsor. Many of our team found children to love and sponsor on this day.

As I sat talking with some little ones, my sister Ashley appeared with a whole crowd of boys. One was a young boy that she'd agreed to sponsor (Kumalachu), one was his friend (who we believe still needs a sponsor); and then the other pair was an impressive young boy and his quiet friend, Teraku. The friend has a sponsor and attends Shashamane Boarding School but, on this day, he was advocating for his friend, Teraku (who seemed sad and shy). He said, "he is my best friend; he needs a sponsor; he is a clever student".

(Ashley and her sponsored child, Kumalachu)

(Me and Teraku)

How could I say no to that?

I told Teraku that I would sponsor him and, from that moment on, I don't believe that the child ever let go of my hand. He was very protective and continually making certain that my backpack was zipped and no one was bothering it or my camera. He wanted to see pictures of my family which I was able to show him on my phone. He would shoo others away and just kept looking at me and squeezing tighter on my hand. It was closing in on time for me to leave so I began to try to explain to Teraku that I would return on Friday. He asked me to show him, using my fingers as a guide....Monday was my thumb, Tuesday (the current day we were in) was my pointer finger, Wednesday was my middle finger, Thursday was my ring finger and Friday was my pinky (and the day we would return). When I was sure that he understood, I said goodbye to him with promises to see him again.
Back at the guest house, we all packed our newfound friends a backpack filled with some of our donations. For Teraku, I packed an Amharic childrens Bible, jeans and a shirt, a pair of shoes, some school supplies, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a frisbee and some underwear. I threw in a few snacks and some play jewelry for his sister.

Thankfully, we were able to return on Friday as promised. We'd been told to be discreet in passing out our gifts so as not to "rub it in" to the other children, still without sponsors or otherwise ineligible for the program. As soon as we got out of the van, Teraku made his way to me and insisted on helping carry my extra load (his backpack though he had no idea it was his at the time). He handed me a handwritten letter that he'd written in green marker on a piece of notebook paper.

It said, among other things, that I was his gift from God. Teraku has so much to learn. : )

As we were sitting and I was reading my letter from him, I noticed that he had something written on his arm in that same green marker, so I raised his sleeve to take a peek. This is what I found:

Be still my heart.

Teraku invited me to his home and so we walked deep into the village of Korah for a visit.

His mother was at a neighbor's when we arrived but as soon as she realized that we were there, she rushed in and began scurrying around (the same way that I do when company's coming) tidying up their (tiny, one room, dirt floor, mud walls) home. She went out the door and came back carrying a bench for Ashley and I to sit on and then.....THEN.....she slipped a dress off of a hook on the wall and placed it on over her clothes. For me.

Our translator helped me as I passed out the items in the backpack. He would describe each item and then translate for me their deep gratitude for each and every thing. After all of the gifts had been viewed and placed back into the backpack, I handed Teraku's mom, a single parent, some birr to help her out. She thanked me profusely, talked of what a gift from God I was and how thankful she was for me and how the children's father was gone and she was alone.

(Teraku's sister and his mom)
The love of that mother to this one has forever changed me.....and it all took place in a one-room mud hut.

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