On Wednesday, we visited the kids we sponsor through Compassion International. We and our friends, Kevin and Denise sponsor boys from the Hossana region of Ethiopia. We all did this by design as this is the area that Mihiretu and MJ are from and gives us another connection to this area.
We left early in the morning to make the 4 hour journey south to the town of Hossana, where we would first meet Ayano, Kevin and Denise's little boy. We'd meet our 2 sponsor boys next, as they are at a different Compassion project in the area.
The above picture is the church where Ayano's project is. The kids attend school at a local school but come here for many activities the church offers. A sponsorship through Compassion allows the child to do all of this. It is a great benefit to them as they get their school fees paid, all their school supplies (which can be a huge expense for a poor family) and so, so much more. It was wonderful to see how much they do for the kids and mostly that they learn about Jesus' love for them here. As you can see, it is a big and beautiful church they have.
In this building, we found dozens of young mothers and babies taking a class on parenting. They are at-risk mothers, and so therefore they qualify for the program. I wish we had a picture of their faces when we walked in! We were the first ever Western people to visit this site. I wouldn't be surprised at all if we were the first white people they'd ever seen in the flesh. I know very little Amharic but I do know how to greet someone properly and when I did, they women burst out laughing. They must have though, "How can this white lady know our language?" The women were warm and kind but when I squatted down by a little toddler to say hello, he screamed in terror. Poor little guy! He ran back to his mommy and all the ladies giggled.
We sat in the office Compassion Director there and he told us about the area and how they were able to help the children in that region. It was impressive and they took us coming very seriously. You would have thought we were dignitaries from the U.S. with the speech he'd obviously spent hours preparing. So sweet.
Above you can see Denise and Ayano. He is holding the letters that he'd received from Denise and Kevin.
Kevin, Denise, Ayano and Atkelt. Atkelt was the representative and interpreter from Compassion. He stayed with us the entire time, explaining many things about Ethiopia and it's culture. At one time, he himself had been a sponsored child through Compassion. He told us about his sponsors, an elderly couple from Germany who wrote him letters and encouraged him in his faith. He is a college graduate and a very, very impressive young man with perfect English. It was an honor to have him with us.
We were able to present our kids with backpacks full of gifts. Ayano received this soccer ball from Kevin and Denise and honestly would not put it down the entire day! He's pretty proud of it.
After visiting the Compassion project, we were graciously invited into Ayano's family home. It was a wonderful experience. We were warmly greeted, pampered and spoiled rotten by his family. This is Ayano removing the gifts from his backpack. As he pulled each one out, he raised them above his head, all to the cheers and clapping of his family! It was hilarious!
Ayano got Smarties!!! Yea!!! Just look how adorable this boy is dressed! I think the church bought him this suit since we were the first to ever visit a Compassion child at their project. He was the sweetest boy and he stole all of our hearts from the minute we laid eyes on him.
Kevin and Denise presenting Ayano's parents with a new set of sheets and some utensils. They clapped for that, too! Just look how happy his mother looks.
Atkelt led the kids in a Bible song in Ayano's house.
This is the outside of Ayano's home. Notice the sheep (that looks like a goat) all curled up under the window?
This family had gone ALL out on us. I cannot imagine what it cost them to put this spread out for us. We were unable to eat the uncooked items, but the scrambled eggs and carrots were delicious. Popcorn is a traditional item that Ethiopian's eat with their coffee ceremony, which she did for us. We were blown away by their generosity right down to them buying each one of us a bottle of pop. For people who didn't have much, they shared ALL they had with us.
Most of the family. I think there were 4 older brothers missing from the picture. Doesn't the dad look like Lionel Ritchie? Yes, there is a funny story behind that one!
My absolute favorite picture!
So you see, when you sponsor a child through Compassion International and you write them letters, they get them. When you send a Christmas gift or Birthday gift (money) the people in the project really do use it to buy the child a gift. Many people mistakenly believe all the money you send goes into a pot and is split between anonymous children and the picture they send you is just one child in a project. Not true! They are real, living, breathing, beautiful children with hopes and dreams.
What an incredible honor to get to contribute to that in a small way.
Next, post...our Compassion boys!