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Making an Impact for the Children Left Behind
“Making an Impact for the Children Left Behind”
By Scott and Emily Lydick
We adopted our first daughter from Ethiopia in January of 2008. On that trip we fell in love with our daughter, the country of Ethiopia and the boys of Kolfe. During our visit, we followed Gladney’s itinerary and visited several attractions along with three government orphanages. Little did we know the impact the orphanages would have on us. You may think you are prepared, but until you actually have a chance to see things with your own eyes, do the impressions take hold. It was a very emotional trip, ranging from pure joy to heartbreaking sorrow—the type that stays with you and makes you want to be a better person.
We had heard of Kolfe, a government-run orphanage, from other people’s blogs and the conditions in which the boys lived. At that time, it was the home of approximately 150 boys, aged 8-18. Each boy had their own cot and blanket, but little else. Some of the older boys had a trunk with a few possessions that they kept under their cot.
We were immediately welcomed by the Kolfe boys when we arrived to their orphanage four years ago. They were eager to show us where they slept, their school work, and a tour of their home. I normally associate the word `home’ with a cozy house, loving parents with endless hugs and kisses, warm meals cooking in the oven . . . Their home consists of bunkers with rows of cots, and they do not have open arms of parents waiting to hear about each day’s trials and successes or cookies cooking in an oven after school. What their home does have is an incredible supportive brotherhood. The boys of Kolfe are some of the kindest, most wonderful young men we have ever met. Despite not having material belongings, they have a strong support system among each other.
The boys’ genuineness made such an impact on us that we wanted to do something for them, but we did not know what. Hearing that the boys rarely have a chance to eat meat, we decided to buy a few goats for a dinner the next night. Our dinner turned into a feast and quite a treat for the boys. The boys enjoyed Cokes, injera with the stewed goat, and bananas. The word “grateful” does not adequately describe the boys’ response. By the end of our trip when we had to say goodbye, we had gotten so attached to the boys that I sobbed. I was sad because I did not know if we would see them again. I was sad because many of the boys thought I could come back despite me telling them we didn’t know if we could. I was sad to leave them at the orphanage and to feel like I wasn’t able to help them.
We are now adopting our second daughter, who we hope to bring home soon. When we got our court date, the first thing we wanted to do (after meeting our daughter), was visit Kolfe orphanage again. On this trip, we decided to bring our oldest two sons, aged 9 and 7. We especially wanted to introduce them to the boys of Kolfe. Having been to Addis Ababa before, we immediately became the unofficial tour guides for the other adoptive parents who were in Ethiopia at the same time for their court dates. We shared our past experience with the Kolfe boys with three other families and our desire to throw them another feast. They decided to follow us to see what was so special about these Kolfe boys.
Our first night, we took the other families to visit Kolfe. I think they were like us when we went to the orphanage the first time—uncertain of what we would find at the orphanage and surprised by the genuine warmness of the boys. They were also surprised by the boys’ surroundings of the orphanage; however, the boys would never let on to the fact that the only thing they have is each other. Our first revelation was bittersweet. We were surprised to recognize so many of the boys we had met four years earlier. I don’t know why, but it never occurred to us that we would see so many boys that we had met before. I guess we had hoped they had found adoptive families or miraculously found a better life. We were met with huge embraces from several them, and they even remembered our names. A few even went and retrieved pictures of us they had saved that we had taken and given to them on our previous trip. Our second revelation was how many more boys there were living at the orphanage now. There are approximately 250 boys now.
We had explained to our two sons that Ethiopians are very affectionate with each other, and that the boys of Kolfe would be no different. Several of the boys embraced our sons, thrilled to meet the sons of Scott and Emily. We immediately went to their soccer field to begin a friendly game of soccer, or as they say, football.
It was on the soccer field that the biggest impact of the whole trip occurred. I already knew the boys only had each other, but I had never really thought about how they really did not have anyone else. Our seven year old, Bryce, got hurt on the field and immediately looked up to Scott and I on the sidelines and ran to us for comfort. With tears in his eyes, he just wanted a hug to know that everything was alright. The play temporarily stopped as several of the boys rushed to his side to hug on him and rub his back in comfort. It was then that I realized that this is what they do. They comfort themselves in times of hurt. They comfort each other in times of pain. They comfort themselves because they have no one else. I had to choke back my tears because I did not want to have to explain that I was crying for them, not my own son, who was fine.
With a combination of the three other traveling families and friends from home, we held another feast this year, only much larger, seeing that there were so many more boys. This time an ox was required instead of the small goats. The boys sang and danced for us, showing their gratitude. The feast was wonderful and very meaningful for the boys, but we would like to make an impact that lasts longer than a full tummy.
The boys understand the importance of education and are very proud of going to school. Unfortunately, the opportunities are few, especially if lacking any higher education. We have donated the last couple of years to help out through Gladney’s scholarship and tutoring program, and we wish we could do more. The boys of Kolfe deserve so much more than what they have. They have impacted our lives in a way that is unimaginable to those that have not met these awesome young men. If you ever find yourself in Ethiopia, a visit to the Kolfe orphanage will do more than change your life. It will alter your view of humanity forever. If you would like to find out more about what you can do to support Gladney’s efforts in helping these young men, please go to www.ontheirown.org/make-an-impact/africa. We hope, along with Gladney, that these young men will have a brighter future with your support.
Share Your Story
:We want to make it easy for you to share your stories with us and with other families who are going through this process. If you recently adopted from the Ethiopia program and would like to share your photos and stories, here are some story starters:
- The first time I saw you . . .
- Our placement day . . .
- We chose Gladney because . . .
- Our adoption journey . . .
- Our rollercoaster ride . . .
- Not knowing what to expect . . .
- Gladney helped us . . .
- The trip home . . .
Please email those stories and photos to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!
We accept all submissions. We may publish, at our discretion, any writings, video footage, recorded statements, photographs or other submitted materials but reserve the right to excerpt or edit materials in size or content. By submitting this material you grant the Gladney Center the right to use, publish and otherwise publicly display this material in the manner The Gladney Center chooses, including use in brochures and on the web.