Tag Archives: ethiopia

Build a Clean Water Well in Ethiopia

I’ve been trying to raise $5,000 to build a clean water well in Ethiopia through charity: water.

We’ve raised $580 from sales of Addition by Adoption.

Another $2,275 has come in from direct donations.

But we need another $2,146. And I’d like to raise it by Sept. 30.

charity: water puts a limit on how long these campaigns can go on, and I’ve already extended this campaign twice. I want to get this money to the field as soon as possible. So let’s build that well!

Of course raising $2,146 in 15 days is no easy feat. I can’t do it alone. I need your help. Will you help me spread the word?

I’ve learned that’s the most important thing. I can’t do it alone. Most of my friends already know about this. But your friends don’t. My friend Julia proved how true that is by raising nearly $800 for this campaign in one week. I couldn’t do that—but Julia could. Can you help me out like that?

Here’s How You Can Help
Post this to your blog, Facebook or e-mail it to your friends and family:

Help my friend Kevin build a well in Ethiopia. Clean water=life. He needs to raise $2,146 by Sept. 30. You can help:

  1. Make a donation to charity: water. Any amount helps.
  2. Buy a copy of his book, Addition by Adoption:

You can post this to Twitter:

Help @kevinhendricks build a well in Ethiopia. Clean water=life. He needs to raise $2,146 by Sept. 30. Donate: http://ow.ly/2EEWm

Every little bit helps. Thanks.

Operation Moses: Rescuing Ethiopian Jews

I’ve been reading a lot of Ethiopia-themed books lately (I was pleasantly surprised at how well stocked our library was for kids’ books), as I’m trying to thoroughly embrace our family’s new heritage. One of the books I came across is called The Return by Sonia Levitin and it tells the incredible story of Operation Moses.

Operation Moses was a covert evacuation of Ethiopian Jews (also known as Beta Israel) in 1984. Facing religious persecution and famine in Ethiopia under the dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam, some 13,000 Jews escaped Ethiopia on foot and made for Sudan. Israel then airlifted the refugees to safety with the secret cooperation of the Sudanese government. It’s estimated that 4,000 died on the way trek to Sudan and another 1,000 were left behind when operation became public and other Arab nations pressured Sudan to stop the secret evacuations.

Many of those left behind in Sudan were later brought to Israel as part of the U.S.-lead follow-up mission, Operation Joshua, in 1985.

The situation didn’t change until 1991 and the Ethiopian revolution when Israel took advantage of the political instability to evacuate the remaining Ethiopian Jews as part of Operation Solomon. More than 14,000 were evacuated in a 36-hour period on 34 different flights. Today there are still several thousand Ethiopian Jews remaining in Ethiopia.

It’s an incredible story and bit of history you don’t really hear about. The Return tells the story from the perspective of a teenage girl who evacuates Ethiopia. The book gives a pretty detailed portrayal of the life of a rural Ethiopian Jew. You actually don’t get much of sense of what was actually happening with Operation Moses until the very end, which for me just prompted more research (and I’d love to do more beyond Wikipedia and a few random articles).

It’s another layer to the incredible history and people of Ethiopia.

My Family is Ethiopian

We were talking with some fellow adoptive parents the other night about the issue of embracing our children’s culture of origin. One mom made the comment that having a child adopted from Ethiopia means that her entire family is now Scottish and Ethiopian. There is no distinction—the Ethiopian child is now Scottish and the Scottish parents/children are now Ethiopian.

Saying it doesn’t make it so, but it’s a helpful attitude to have. Ethiopian culture isn’t some add on we endure to humor a child. And it’s not simply that child’s culture to the exclusion of the rest of the family. The entire family needs to embrace that culture. Likewise the adopted child needs to embrace the family’s culture. We blend, mix and share.

This is the kind of cultural blending that happens when people get married or when step families are formed—of course some families require more mixing that others. It’s natural that we embrace the culture and background of our loved ones.

I’m not sure why but in adoption there’s a temptation to leave that culture one step removed. We definitely want to embrace it, but we think of it as the child’s culture and not our own. We’ve mistakenly done this to some extent with Milo, thinking that we’ll dive into Ethiopian culture classes when he’s older and can appreciate it. But the rest of the family should learn that stuff too and there’s no need to wait for Milo. Heck, we could have been doing that before he came home.

Not that we haven’t been embracing Ethiopian culture. We were already doing a lot, but this brings it one step closer. For me, I think it’s about internalizing it. I always seem to be one step slower on this stuff, but I’m getting there. I even started an Ethiopia page to begin collecting the helpful resources I’m finding (most of which my wife has found; See? One step behind).

What I love about this approach to blending cultures in a family is that it’s not the child’s responsibility—it’s the family’s responsibility. So when a child is struggling with identity issues and wants nothing to do with their culture of origin (which is pretty common for internationally adopted children) that doesn’t mean it disappears from the family entirely. The stubborn kid doesn’t want to go to a cultural event? That’s fine. But I’m going because I enjoy it. It’s my culture, too.

Interview with Author Jane Kurtz

Photo credit Jonathan GoeringYou can’t explore books about Ethiopia without coming across children’s author Jane Kurtz. She grew up in Ethiopia with her missionary parents in the 1970s and has published dozens of books, a number of them focusing on Ethiopia. Her latest success has been with the American Girl series Lanie. Jane currently lives in Lawrence, Kansas, and is planning a trip to Ethiopia next month.

1. What’s your favorite memory about Ethiopia? What’s the most distinctive thing about the country that clearly says to you, “This is  Ethiopia!”?

I lived in Ethiopia for most of my childhood—in the countryside and in the city, as a toddler and as a kid and as a teenager, with my family and in boarding school—so I have a tangle of memories from all that time. I love the sense of connectedness and relationship. People pay attention to their families and sometimes even strangers in intense ways. I love the sensory richness: the smell of bere bere that soaks into everything, the unexpectedness of donkeys on a busy street.

Continue reading Interview with Author Jane Kurtz

Let’s Build a Well in Ethiopia

A year ago today we were in the midst of the Bald Birthday Benefit. We’d already shattered the $600 goal and my baldness was imminent. You pushed on and raised $2,605 for charity: water, giving clean water to 130 people for my 30th birthday. I’m still in awe and incredibly grateful for that.

This year I’ve released my book, Addition by Adoption, and a portion of the proceeds go to charity: water to build a well in Ethiopia. That’s a goal of $5,000. It’s a big goal. So far almost $1,000 has come in, most of it from donations.

I thought about doing the Bald Birthday Benefit again this year, but I’m not sure shaving my head is such a big draw anymore. But I still love celebrating my birthday by giving back.

So here’s the deal: My birthday is in 10 days. Father’s Day is in 15 days. All I really want is a well in Ethiopia. Help me get there.

There a number of ways you can donate, from straight cash to buying a copy of my book. We’ve set up a few special options with the book where more money can go to charity: water, from an Awesome Edition to a 10-copy package. I’m also willing to give you a free digital copy of the book for making a donation. And yes, if somebody wants to see me shave my head again, I’m willing to do it (for a price).

More than buying a book or giving some cash, you’re giving life. 70-80% of Ethiopians don’t have access to clean water. It ends up killing 300,000 Ethiopian children every year. It’s the number one cause of infant mortality.

So help me celebrate my birthday, let’s celebrate Father’s Day—heck, we can celebrate Flag Day too!—by building a well in Ethiopia. Give water. Give life. Thank you.

Adoption Isn’t So Lucky

Sometimes as the parent of an adopted child you get a lot of comments that are spoken innocently but come from a place of ignorance. Education is part of our job, but sometimes it gets a little frustrating.

This mother reached that point of frustration over people expressing how lucky her son must be.

“What a lucky little boy.”…

Lucky? Lucky. Lucky to have been born on a continent terrorized by war, corruption and greed? Lucky to have been born in a country where 25,000 women and girls die each year due to pregnancy-related complications? Lucky to have been born in a country where more than half the population has ZERO access to basic medical care? Lucky to have been born in a region reliant upon rainfall and devastated by drought?
And on it goes.
The rescue and lucky mentality people have with orphans so easily overlooks the very real pain and trauma inherent in it all. It engenders a need for gratefulness and payback among the children that’s just unhealthy. It turns a blind eye to the reality of their situation and turns adoptive parents into superheros that we’re definitely not.
It reminds me of another recent comment from an adoptive parent: “Are you kidding? I’m the lucky one.”

More Adoption Stories

I came across this exchange between a mother and her son on another blog from an Ethiopian adoptive parent:

“Mama, what time of day was Philip born?”

I answered, “I don’t know honey.”

He replied, “You don’t know?” He looked slightly befuddled as he said, “How can you not remember?”

I am sure I looked slightly befuddled as I said, “I wasn’t there…”

A light dawned in his eyes and he said, “Ohhh… yeah. He was born in Ethiopia.”

A gentle reminder that the how of a family isn’t always so important.

Kids Traveling Back to Ethiopia

Reading adoption blogs is always interesting because you usually have piece together the story. The format of a blog doesn’t give you someone’s life story right away and unless they have a handy about page that lays it out for you, you generally have to read a ton of blog posts to piece their life together. Even then it can still be difficult. It’s kind of a challenge. A creepy, stalker-like challenge.

Anyway, I’ve been reading some blogs from fellow Ethiopian adoptive parents and it’s been interesting trying to piece the stories together. One especially interesting story comes from the Knutzen family in Washington. They have five children, two older children who have graduated high school and three children adopted from Ethiopia who seem to be around 14 years old.

Earlier this year half of the family traveled back to Ethiopia to be in a wedding and connect with birth family. The father, oldest daughter and two of the adopted children went on the trip.

The girl, Meron, was a junior bridesmaid in the wedding of a family who had cared for her for the first five years of her life (like I said, sometimes the story is hard to figure out). From the pictures it looks like an incredible moment to be a part of.

The boy, Joseph Abel, was able to meet his birth family and hear about his birth parents (“Joseph also was impressed to learn his birth father was a professional soccer and volleyball player!”). His grandmother thanked God for Joseph’s visit because she doesn’t think she’ll live much longer. Joseph was also able to get a photo album of some of his baby pictures and was able to determine his actual birthday from a banner in one of the photos. I can’t imagine what a treasure that would be.

They also visited the care center where they had lived and heard local history about donkeys.

I don’t know this family at all, but it’s cool to read about their story and the opportunity for these kids to travel back to their homeland. These children were adopted when they were older and have a greater connection to Ethiopia with families, memories and even language, but traveling back to Ethiopia is something we’ve always wanted to do with Milo. I hope someday when he’s old enough and prepared for it we can do that. Maybe even more than once.

Water in Ethiopia

Women in Kenya walking to collect waterThe April issue of National Geographic has an in-depth story on water in Southern Ethiopia. This hits home for a number of reasons—including our continuing commitment to clean water (we’re trying to build a well, remember?) and the fact that Southern Ethiopia is Milo’s birthplace.

I’ll pull out some especially poignant moments, but I’d suggest you read the whole article (read the printer version to avoid pagination)

  • The article follows Aylito Binayo, a 25-year-old woman who lives in the village of Foro, in the Konso district of southwestern Ethiopia. Her life story can be told around watershe dropped out of school at 8, in part to help her mother haul water. Today she spends 8 hours a day hauling water for her family. And the water she brings home is dirty and unsafe.
  • Hauling water is women’s work. The only time a man hauls water is in the few weeks after a child is born.
  • Here’s an incredible picture (second picture in the flash slideshow—silly National Geographic, not giving direct links to pictures). Villagers digging a trench for pipes to bring water to their village. They sing while they work: “We can do anything!”
  • The author carries a jerry can of water (weighing 50 pounds) with Binayo, but can’t make it up the hill. The author switches with a child, who has half a can of water, but the child can’t make it up the steep part of the hill: “Binayo takes the heavy jerry can from the girl and puts it on her own back, on top of the one she is carrying. She shoots us both a look of disgust and continues up the mountain, now with nearly 12 gallons of water—a hundred pounds—on her back.” I carried 40 pounds of water last year—it sucked.
  • The average American uses 100 gallons of water a day in the home. Binayo uses two and a half.
  • She washes her hands with water “maybe once a day,” but not with soap, since her family can’t afford it. She bathes “only occasionally.” They don’t elaborate on what ‘occasionally’ means.
  • She washes clothes once a year: “We don’t even have enough water for drinking—how can we wash our clothes?”
  • Another incredible picture. A group of women in Northern Kenya walking across a desert to get water—they’re carrying the same yellow jerry can I did last year. Let me tell you—it sucks.

The article ends on a heart-breaking note:

“She has never dared think that someday life could change for the better.”

That’s a brutal reality we’ve left our fellow brothers and sisters in. That’s why a portion of the proceeds from my book are going to build a well in Ethiopia. I hope you’ll buy a copy. Or forget the book—make a donation directly to charity: water.

Book Update

I’ve avoided blogging non-stop about my book, so it seems safe to talk about it again (go buy a copy!). There are a few cool things to report:

  • First and foremost, we’ve officially raised $784 for charity: water. That’s clean water for 39 people. Only $4,216 to go. But unofficially another $96 has been raised by books sold that I haven’t been paid for yet, which brings us to…
  • My jaw dropped the other night when I saw this tweet: “I LOVE your book. I just ordered 40 copies 4 gifts in my adoption classes.” Wow. That’s just incredible. (Speaking of which, if you’re interested in multiple copies of my book, let’s talk—I can make you a deal.)
  • That massive order, plus the other books sold and our pre-order, puts us at 114 copies of Addition by Adoption sold. I’m now in the top 21% of the publishing industry (if you like facts that don’t mean much). Not too shabby for a self-published collection of Twitter posts.
  • I’ve also signed up to have a booth at the annual Ethiopian picnic in the Twin Cities, the Summer Mehaber. It’s put on by the Ethiopian Kids Community, an organization that serves families with Ethiopian American children, so it’s a lot of adoptive families. I’m hoping it will be an ideal audience for the book, but I’m also a little freaked out about what to do with a 10′ x 20′ booth. I’m also hoping to hire some people to run the booth for me, both because sitting in a booth all day and hocking my book is something I’d be terrible at, plus I’d rather be at the picnic with my family all day. It also means diving deep into the real world of marketing—spending money to make money. It sounds ridiculous, but I don’t have a lot of first hand experience with marketing and direct sales (i.e., how many books do I need to sell at the event to cover all my expenses and make it worthwhile?). I’m just a writer!

At any rate, the book project keeps marching on.