In recent years, I have travelled to Ethiopia several times to evaluate the situation and the programs we have running there. About 150,000 orphans and vulnerable children live on the streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. About 80 percent of families in the city live in crowded, dirty slums. Children and families are extremely vulnerable due to famine, drought, conflict, and AIDS. This has left Ethiopia with one of the highest orphan populations - over five million - in the world.
We believe that we are one family under a single creator God and that when a child suffers anywhere in the world, we all suffer. A friend, Mike Hammond, just travelled to Ethiopia as part of the Bethany One Family Campaign so he could relay the challenges facing families in Addis Ababa to those living in East Tennessee – check out this short video about a family he met.
- In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, most of its 2.8 million people live in slums and have few resources to call their own. Knoxville has a monthly average income of $3,636 and Addis Ababa is just $27. People earn a living, but are just barely surviving.
- As you know for your family, getting a full education is necessary to improving one’s life and future. Knoxville has a 6th grade graduation rate of 95%; Addis Ababa 6th grade graduation rate is 40%. Providing the opportunity for proper education to the children will go a long way to helping them rise out of poverty and giving them hope for a future.
- In the city of Knoxville, 100% of the homes have a toilet. In Addis Ababa, only 29% of the homes have a toilet! Can you imagine being in that situation yourself?
Reaching out together is the only way we are going to make life improving change for areas that are facing such hopeless conditions. Knoxville and East Tennessee can reach out and change lives in Addis Ababa and surrounding cities, by sponsoring children and families. We provide sponsorship, because it is a way to enable a child’s life to be changed forever. Through a family sponsorship model, we are able to provide the child’s family with individualized care and support, including very real and basic needs like: food, medicine, shelter, and school fees. Additionally, we give job skills training to help parents and caregivers support their family and move toward self-sufficiency.
These kinds of family preservation opportunities are important solutions to the orphan crisis at hand. No family should be faced with the decision to “keep” their child and face starvation or send their child to live in an institution for survival. We must act together if we are going to see a world where every child is cared for in a loving family. One Family Campaign is an opportunity for “sister cities” to help form a circle of loving support around families in need, to help them rise out of poverty and despair. It’s the best gift you can give a child: a loving, healthy family.
I am in Africa right now, travelling to Ethiopia and to Ghana. I am meeting some amazing people: Even after many years in social services, I am still so moved and amazed at peoples’ stories and the firsthand accounts of how lives are being changed through the work we are doing. I will be sharing more on that with you soon, but right now, the city of Knoxville and East Tennessee invites you to join the One Family Campaign, June 3 – 8. Help children and families in Addis Ababa and surrounding cities to change their lives today. The reward in knowing you have changed a child’s life and kept a family together is absolutely amazing.
Appreciate your prayers as I am travelling, and thanks for being part of the Bethany community! I look forward to sharing more about my experiences in Ghana next time.