Friday, February 16, 2007

Thursday in Ethiopia - Part One

We had an appointment to meet Miriam, a social worker from Layla at 9:30 AM. She was going to take us to Kebeb Tsehay (“K.T.”), the government-run orphanage Eftalem was originally taken to. We were hoping to get any additional information about Eftalem’s first few days, where he was found, and who named him.

Dawit picked us up around 9:10, and we headed down the now-familiar route to Layla. Traffic must have been a little light because we figured we would arrive a little late, but actually arrived right on time. Miriam wasn’t quite ready when we arrived, so we enjoyed spending a few minutes with some of the older kids who were playing in the courtyard.

We all piled in Dawit’s van and headed out for K.T. As we got near the orphanage, the surroundings looked a lot more like what I had envisioned Addis to look like. The roads were mostly dirt, there was a mixture of lots of small houses and makeshift shacks, and there were people immersed in their daily activities: hand-washing clothes, making mud for bricks with their bare feet on the side of the road, weaving cotton fibers into fabric for traditional clothing.

There is a gate at the entrance to K.T. with a sign stating the orphanage name, written in both Amharic and English. Dawit honked his horn and some kids came running up and opened the gate. We were told that Layla would look like a paradise compared to this orphanage, so I think we were braced for the worst. The compound is very large, and at first almost feels like summer camp, with the huge yard and outdoor play equipment. There are buildings all around, and we were told the metal shacks were school rooms, where most of the kids currently were.

Miriam took us to the entrance of a specific building, where a woman sat with some young children around her. The children were completely filthy and unkempt, yet lit up with the biggest smiles when they saw us. Some of them immediately started saying “amaye” and “abaye” to us, which means “mommy” and “daddy”. It was heartbreaking.

Miriam finally led us through a building to the baby room. We opened the door and walked in, and were met by an almost unbearable smell from urine and feces. There was one large room, with a sea of cribs taking up half the space, and babies and workers littering the floor of the other half. Most of the babies were on a makeshift “island” made of mattresses and blankets, laying practically lifeless. Except for one little baby who was clearly not comfortable, and was desperately trying to wedge himself into a better position. None of the caregivers got up to help this baby, and Miriam finally knelt down and turned him over. There were other babies sitting or laying randomly on the floor, and even one on the changing table, seemingly forgotten. I don’t recall for sure how many workers and babies were in there, but I would guess about four workers and maybe 20 babies. One worker looked like she had a full time job trying to force-feed milk with a cup to a baby who couldn’t suck. The sound of that baby choking and gagging was quite unnerving.

After spending a few minutes in the baby room and realizing no one in there remembered Eftalem, we gratefully retreated back outside where more little kids had gathered. The head Mistress of the orphanage was out at court, so we weren’t able to get any new information on Eftalem, since she is the one who likely would have received him and named him. Before we left Kathy asked if she could hand out Tootsie Pops to the kids, so they all lined up and one by one received their tasty treat. One little kid dropped his into a little storm drain with a grate over it, but those kids were bound and determined not to let it waste, and within no time had sticks poking in, doing what they could to get the sucker out.

We dropped Miriam off again at Layla, spent some more time with the kids there, then went to lunch at the Paradise Garden restaurant at Adam’s Pavilion. We sat outside again, and I had Ethiopian food again, while everyone else had Italian – again. After lunch we went back to the cemetery to see if Meskerem’s head stone was completed.

We walked up to Meskerem’s site just as two men were putting the final touches on the marker. They managed to fit a very large monument-type headstone into that tiny space, and we were pleased with the results. We took pictures of the surrounding area, in hopes that we will be able to locate the site in the future.

We told Dawit we would like to do a little more souvenir shopping, so he took us to a fixed-price store that even had a parking lot (you don’t see a lot of parking lots in Addis). Dawit hit the mark with this store, and we ended up spending probably an hour and a half in there, picking up lots of little treasures. We also met some missionaries in there from Texas, who started a feeding ministry called Manna Worldwide, which has feeding centers all over the world. Finally it was time to leave so we could get ready for the ice cream party we planned to throw for AHOPE.
Sign at entrance to K.T.
The sweet children who called us "mommy" and "daddy".
The babies on the "island".
Kids enjoying their Tootsie Pops
Men weaving fabric.
Meskerem's head stone.


owlhaven said...

Oh, all the just makes me cry....we are definitely going back.


Anonymous said...

You have a very beautiful little daughter!!
We are a family from Belgium. We just adopted our son, Matteo from Ethiopia. We came back one month ago. He was also staying in Kebeb Tsehay Orphanage for two or three weeks in june 2006. We have not visited this orphanage because we have got the information the last day of our staying in Ethiopia. We were very surprised to see this pictures and we want to ask you if you want to share more information or pictures about this child home.
My email is
Our website is
My Englisch is not so good but I hope that you can read it.
Lamont - Wauters Wim & Virginie
Zoé Dongshuang (China) & Matteo Fikru (Ethiopia)

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