Play Date in Ethiopia – Giving U™

Ethiopia’s children are wonderful — Full of smiles and energy and laughter!

During my 3 weeks in Ethiopia, I was lucky enough to spend some time with several groups of children: at an orphanage, at a childcare center for children with HIV / AIDS, and during an afternoon outing on an island in the middle of Lake Tana.

The Plight of Ethiopian Children

My research shows that there are more than 5 million orphaned children in Ethiopia, and 1 million of these are believed to be orphaned because of HIV/ AIDS.

UNICEF data states there are more than 300,000 orphaned children relegated to living on the streets with more than 100,000 street children in the capital Addis Ababa alone. The average age at which children begin living on the streets in Ethiopia is 10 years old, but 20% of the street children are under age five.

Kingdom Vision International Orphanage

KVI, as it is known, is a private orphanage hosting 62 children. It is a top-echelon orphanage, with a good child-to-caretaker ratio, plenty of food for the children and lots of interaction.

Interestingly, many of the children at KVI aren’t actually orphans, but placed there by a living parent due to struggles with poverty or because the child has a handicap which is difficult for the family to cope with. These children are almost exclusively adopted by overseas parents based in the U.S. and Canada.

As a guest of an adopting family, I spent the morning playing with the KVI kids, who between them shared:

  • 1 jack
  • 1 rag doll
  • 2 jump ropes
  • 1 set of juggling sacks
  • 4 assorted balls (1 nerf football, 1 disintegrating soccer ball, and bouncey balls).

I thought I might be sad to visit the orphans, but it was just the opposite – it was so much fun! The kids are so loving and just craved the hugs and affection we all gave (the visiting adoptive families, our drivers, and the orphanage staff). There were piggyback rides for all!

AHOPE Ethiopia

AHOPE Ethiopia is a child development center that is home to more than 75 HIV+ children. While the nonprofit runs an orphanage, the focus is not on adoption, but rather providing a high quality of life for the children to grow up in a medically supportive and nurturing environment.

In addition to the AHOPE Home, the center runs a Household Support Program that brings supplies – such as nutritious food, clothing and medicine — to children with HIV and their families.

The center also runs a program where HIV+ children are picked up daily from their homes and taken to school and to afterschool recreational programs to provide the extra attention and support that these vulnerable children sometimes need.

Interested in helping an AHOPE child? I am! Join me in giving $35 a month to sponsor an HIV+ Ethiopian child. For more information, contact AHOPE at:  To receive U.S. charitable tax benefits, donations can be made here.

Lake Tana Sticker Party

I spent a sunny afternoon touring the famed monasteries of Lake Tana near the town of Bahir Dar, central Ethiopia. On our last island stop, women weren’t allow to enter the monastery, so I hung around outside.

I started chatting with the children and pulled out my Hello Kitty stickers as a way to make a few friends – and boy did I! They loved the stickers and asked for them to be plastered all over their faces – boys and girls alike. We had great fun – just watch the video of me and my new friends!

Sharing Smiles

My time with these children was so refreshing! Here were little kids with virtually nothing, playing and laughing together. Their curiosity and joy for life was infectious.

And all it took was a sheet of Hello Kitty stickers, a jack and a jump rope! Once again, I learn that most precious thing we can share is a smile.

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This entry was posted on Monday, August 29th, 2011 and is filed under The Giving Guide.

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