"The drive through the more rural part of Ethiopia honestly made me feel like I was driving through a movie set at times. I had to pinch myself to remind me that we were actually here, and this was real. It just seems so crazy to think that we all live in the same world, yet here are tons and tons of people whose lives are almost completely untouched by technology or any modern amenities (washing machine, dishwasher, etc.) that we rely so heavily upon in the U.S. I have traveled to a developing country before and have previously had my eyes open to this reality, but I think that unless you are surrounded by it you tend to forget just how different our worlds really are. In many ways, it was calming to be in a place where people were just living for the moment, and not rushing about with cell phones, laptops, ipods, etc. In the U.S. you can walk down a street and just "feel" the stress that people carry with them... almost compounded by the fact that we are always connected due to technology (you can never just get away!). But here, that isn't the case. Life is simple. People are just genuinely happy, even though they have so little material wealth."
"The sad, heartwrenching side to this, is that in many rural areas of this beautiful land, the poverty is so extreme that people are starving. They have no idea where their next meal is coming from, and the current crop famine is not helping the matter. Our drivers explained to us that although the land near Durame looks so fertile, it's very deceiving. The land is barren and people are not able to grow the food that they need to survive."
One of the reasons we chose Holt as our adoption agency, is because of the holistic care that they are offering for the Ethiopian people and communities in the area of Durame. Holt currently has in place a child sponsorship program, a family preservation program, and a recently renovated medical clinic (which we visit on Day 6). These things are in addition to the two intake centers for children who are available for adoption, as well as the transitional center in Addis. Holt believes that poverty alone should not justify international adoption, and we wholeheartedly agree with that stance. There has to be, if at all possible, ways to help a family stay together first and foremost. Holt has in-country social workers who provide aide/counseling to families and offer services to assist parents in raising their children, even in the midst of extreme poverty. Unfortunately, even with these services in place, there are so many situations that families/parents face in such a harsh environment (death, illness, etc), and children are often abandoned or relinquished due to no other options existing. It is in these situations, where Holt's intake centers exist to take in children who are orphaned, providing them safety, food, shelter, and love... with the eventual hope of uniting them with loving adoptive families.
"We had the chance to visit Holt's intake center in Durame, which was our daughter's home for about four months when she came into care. The facility itself was quite lacking, in comparison to the facility in Addis. But the love of the caretakers and nannies was abounding! Currently, there are 74 children in this particular center... waiting to be matched with families, or waiting for the families they have been matched with to be assigned court dates. It was pretty unreal to see so many children living in this environment. My heart broke for them, and it was difficult to leave and not want to scoop them all up and bring every one of them back home."
The gate to Holt's Durame Intake Center:If you have ever considered international adoption from Ethiopia, please consider contacting Holt International and looking into their program. Right now, families with completed home studies are being matched with children immediately because there are more children in care, than there are families waiting to adopt them. Feel free to contact me if you would like to ask any questions!
While in Durame, we had the amazing privilege of meeting Mikayla's birthmother. Holt provided this option for all adoptive parents and birth parents whether to participate or not. We chose to do so, and are so glad that we did. The meeting was incredibly precious and dear to our hearts. Our goal from the meeting was to find out anything we could that would benefit our beautiful daughter in the future, and soak up every small detail to one day tell her about it.
Many people ask why our daughter was relinquished, and want to know about her birth family. We understand the curiosity, and we do appreciate that people love Mikayla and are interested in her past. However, out of respect to her, we are choosing to keep all of this type of information private. We are creating a "Life Book" for her, which will document anything and everything from her past that we know of... similar to a scrapbook (which will also be made), except that a Life Book is private. We feel that it is healthy for her that we keep this information to ourselves, because she came to us owning nothing of her own - except her name and her story. You all know we are keeping her beautiful Ethiopian name, Aynalem, as part of her legal name... out of respect for the fact that it is her name (not to mention we love it!!). In the same way, we want to respect that her story is her story. It should be left up to her who knows about it and who doesn't. Since she isn't old enough to make that decision right now, we'll just keep quiet until she is :) Thanks for your understanding!!
Streets in Durame...
All in all, this day was one of my favorite and most-treasured days of our time in Ethiopia. Probably second to the day we met Mikayla :) Stay tuned for Day 6... the day we finally took custody and for the first time slept under the same roof as our little princess! Yay!