It’s almost midnight here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. My body wants me to go to bed but my heart feels compelled to share a few thoughts about my first day here.
Eager to step off the plane after a long and restless 14 hour flight, any feelings of denial this trip was actually going to happen seemed to fade away as I looked out the windows of the airport. Finally, we were here.
Invited by the Mary Joy Development Association, our team was welcomed to this non-profit organization center for a time cultural community building as well as a presentation on what this organization does. As I listened to Mary Joy’s directors share the stories of the people they serve, my heart sank.
Imagine you are a young child, perhaps with siblings, and your parents die of HIV/Aids. Already destitute, you are now orphaned to live on the streets within a shanty town. What do you do? Where do you go? You become a child-mother to your siblings or pregnant for reasons that are unspeakable.
Through community organizers and outreach, Mary Joy DA tries to reach these children as well as seniors and provide them with assistance for health care, education, nutrition, and a form of adoption within the Ethiopian community.
As I looked around to all these beautiful faces, it was so clear how far beyond their ages most of these kids were. What they’ve had to endure is beyond what I am able to comprehend. Beyond the obvious language barrier our, time at Mary Joy DA was spent bonding over dancing to native beats with the women and children Mary Joy DA serves. Our time with them was precious, unforgettable, and bittersweet.
I stared out the window of our van the entire time back to the hotel taking in the realities our time at the Mary Joy DA. And for every child we interacted at the center, I saw at least a hundred more homeless wondering the streets during the ride back.
Back at the hotel had a quick moment to Skype my family back home. So happy to see them, I showed pictures and video clips from my iPhone to my husband and kids. I was caught off guard by the momentary break-down I had during our conversation because it hit me so hard that many of the kids I saw earlier in the day were the same ages as my kids. For the orphaned children, they used to be someone’s kids. As a mom, my heart was still clearly breaking for the children I had danced and played with just hours earlier. I’m still processing.
If you haven’t already, I would like to invite you to add your voice to the ONE Moms campaign. By signing up with ONE, your voice advocates on behalf of children impacted by the HIV/Aids crisis through government leadership. ONE is not asking for donations, just your voice.
To learn more about Mary Joy Development Association and how you can support them, please visit their website.
To follow the #ONEMoms journey this week, our updates will appear on the ONEMoms web page. Most everyone will be using the hashtag #ONEMoms on Twitter, #ONEMOMS on Instagram, ONE MOMS Facebook, and other social media channels. We also invite you to amplify the message of ONE by using the hashtag #ONEMoms on your social media channels. Collectively, we can use our voices to make sure the government continues to provide aid and assistance to countries dealing with extreme global poverty.
Disclosure: #ONEMoms is a ONE campaign encouraging moms everywhere to collectively make our voices heard to make a global impact. I was invited on this trip to Ethiopia courtesy of ONE to share with you the stories of the Ethiopian people.
Top photo by Karen Walrond