So I left California on Sunday at 6am, and after stops in Houston, London, Amsterdam and Sudan, I finally made it to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at 9pm on Tuesday. WITH baggage, thank goodness. I was picked up at the airport by Eyob, one of the staff at Mercy Home (where I am volunteering). For some reason though, his sign read “Melissa Fammke”, so it took a few confusing minutes (and a helpful local who let me use her phone) to realize that apparently I was Melissa Fammke. Who knew?
By the time we got to Mercy Home, it was about 10:30pm, so after some quick hellos I pretty much went straight to sleep. So it wasn’t until this morning that I learned what Mercy Home was about and how I’d be helping.
Mercy Home is kind of like a cross between a group home and half-way house, except for kids. I don’t know their exact ages, but I would guess it’s between 5 and 10 years. There’s about 15 kids, and they have been living on the streets. Mercy Home takes them in for a year and basically rehabilitates them– teaches them living skills, basic education, gives them food and shelter. Meanwhile, they look for family members, and after they are here for a year, they send them to live with their family. But even after they’re gone, Mercy pays for their education (including books and uniforms) through college and makes sure their lives remain stable.
It seems like a really good program. The problem with a lot of typical orphanages is that once the kids are 18 they are on their own. Here, because they go back to their families, they have a better chance at having a normal life through adulthood, but still with a safety net in case things don’t work out.
My role here is to teach them basic English and math skills, along with the two other volunteers that are already here.
They transition the kids in and out of the program in September, so the kids here now are very new. Apparently the ones leaving knew English really well, but except for one super-smart little girl who seems to have picked up English in 2 weeks, most of them are still only communicating in Amharic. Fortunately there is a staff member who translates, or it would be very confusing.
That’s about it for now, since it’s only the first day. Tomorrow we go to volunteer in a food bank downtown, so more on that later.