December 8, 2013
Today our entire family was assigned to orphanage visits, which was a blessing! We spent the morning loving and holding babies in the only Catholic orphanage in Addis. The rooms were full and the babies were all so happy. There were a lot of special needs children, which was especially hard for the kids to see, but they were all so loving and happy to see us. I think the kids were just frustrated that they couldn't help them as much as they wanted to. The kids were able to help feed the kids and just sit and hold them, which was so fun to see.
After we spent a good amount of time in the first orphanage, we had a break before our second appointment in the afternoon. We took all of the kids to the Sheraton for lunch (and apparently cotton candy!). As nice as the hotel is, I really don't actually like to go there on these trips. I find it so depressing to see such opulence amid such poverty. It just doesn't make any sense to me. We were told that the most expensive room at the hotel (which includes a private entrance, pool and bar) is $5,000 a night. What a waste! You could feed all of these orphans for a very long time with that alone. Luckily, the kids took it simply as an opportunity to refuel and catch up with each other. There's no need for them to recognize this huge disconnect and feel any guilt about it this early in life. They will see that soon enough and should be allowed to enjoy their childhood for now.
After the Sheraton, we headed over to Kebebe Tsehay, which is the orphanage where Sophie spent 6 weeks at the age of 5 months. We weren't allowed to take pictures, but were able to spend lots more time holding and playing with the kids. This is one of the biggest government orphanages and is in pretty rough shape. There were too many kids to count - but again, some of the happiest kids we've seen. We were able to donate lots of formula via Brighton Their World, which makes you feel so much better knowing that these kids are at least getting their nutritional needs met through this great organization.
While we were there I was able to connect with another birthmother of some girls that we had actually met six years ago when we visited the orphanage while picking Sophie up. To get a few pictures for the families and show the birth families pictures of their happy, thriving children is absolutely priceless.
Perhaps the highlight of the day (and maybe the trip!) was witnessing a seven-year old boy receive his first wheelchair. Friends at Global Mobility, who traveled with us last time to deliver hundreds of wheelchairs, had gotten word of this boy's need and sent a wheelchair over with the Alexanders. It was so heart warming to see this boy sit in his chair (and completely master it!) for the first time. He was so elated and his mom was overcome with emotion (as were the rest of us!). She has literally been carrying him around for SEVEN years to get him where he needs to go. He hasn't been allowed to go to school because of his disability and now they will each have their worlds completely opened up to possibility. It was amazing to watch - see below!
Finally, we spent Thanksgiving at the traditional Ethiopian restaurant with lots of injera, traditional dishes and LOTS of amazing dancing. It was a great way to spend the holiday!
Receiving a wheelchair! - Video attached