I have been trying to write about AHOPE for a week now, and I just can't seem to do it. This little bit will have to suffice for now.
If you go to Addis and don't visit these kids, it is a huge mistake. Not to take anything away from the other kids, but in a country where so many are orphaned by a disease that has left its mark on everyone, these kids were not only orphaned, but left to live a life with the constant reminder of what ravaged their families and home. They are the full story of what has happened in Ethiopia and most of Sub-Saharan Africa.
The biggest difference between Layla and AHOPE was the feeling of hope you feel at Layla, other than that they were all the same wonderful children, full of life, and eager for just a little attention, a kiss and a hug, a few moments in your lap or arms, and they are yours forever.
But there is a difference in the spirit of the place compared to Layla, and I have to think that it is the result of not having a steady flow of families passing through, of gift bags and t-shirts announcing to the world and their peers that they have been chosen, and regular going away parties. They just don't know these things well enough yet.
This lack of hopeful excitement is real and tangible, but will begin to change over time as more and more families are realizing that these beautiful kids need families too, and that the presence of HIV in their bodies is really not that big of a deal. And when you walk in and see the meds table full of Retrovir, you know that there is hope for these kids, they just don't understand it all yet.
Don't take this the wrong way. I'm not saying that AHOPE isn't a good place, or isn't well run. The staff at AHOPE does a great job, and it is a wonderful place. They are doing their part, we just need to do ours. Layla is full of life in part because of families going there and adding hope and excitement, and even pizza to the mix. So here is the pitch. Sponsor some kids. Get other people to sponsor some more kids. Go see them if you travel to Ethiopia. And lastly, find out if one of your kids is currently living there, and then do something about it.