Updated: Oct 18, 2022
When I visited the government orphanage 3 years ago, to date it was the saddest thing I've ever witnessed, especially because I didn't have any answers. The most difficult aspect for me was seeing the number of children who had lost their minds. Human babies are not meant to be left in cribs unattended for hours/days/months on end.
Ethiopia is one of my favorite places to visit on earth. While there is human tragedy on a scale I can't fully comprehend, the people there are some of the kindest, most resilient, loving, and faith-filled people I've ever known. They're capable. They're just poor. And I've seen over and over again how a hand up can be used to multiply goodness beyond measure.
Visiting the nannies and the orphanage was THE highlight of my time in Ethiopia.
I could go on and on.
You guys. It's CLEAN. Babies are held, consistently changed, fed, nurtured. There are still a lot of babies (sometimes 2-3 per crib), but they are legitimately being cared for. WELL. I never would've gotten to really know what an impact it was making had I not gone. There's HOPE for those kids. Our nannies radiate joy and they know they are there for a purpose. They love these kids as their own. (I was not allowed to photograph the children, but here is one of our nannies!)
3 years ago I would have said it was the closest to hell I've ever been — today, the presence of God permeates there. You can feel it. No longer did I see children who stared into space or 3 year olds who bit each other fighting for a chance to be held...it was a peaceful environment of order — a place where kids aren't worried that there isn't enough for them. It's become a place where they're learning they can trust. And a child who can trust is a child with a conscience. The goodness from what you're doing literally goes on and on. Your generosity is giving these children a fighting chance.
After visiting the orphanage, I knew these women were making a difference for the children. What I hadn't realized before going though, was how much of a difference having this job has made for the women. They thanked me profusely. One woman shared that she had prayed for 10 years that God would bring her work (she's a prayer warrior and particularly likes to go to the hospital when there's a sick child so that she can pray for and take special care of them — one doctor asked her, "Is this your child?" She said, "No." and he said, "I thought he was an orphan but surely he has to be your child because nobody loves an orphan like that"). We know Jesus doesn't think that way. Our nannies each love Jesus. That was part of the requirement for this specific job. They love like Jesus.
Another woman had recently become widowed when Merheretab (our man on the ground who manages the nannies) offered her the job. Another woman shared that she had been praying and told God she would take any job, even if it was only a small amount — she wanted so desperately to have the ability to provide for her own children. She was so blessed and overjoyed when she got a job making 5 times that amount — a job that was also meaningful and allowed her to make a difference. Also, because of inflation, right now the American dollar is going up in value while the Ethiopian birr is going down. Since they are paid in US dollars, it is as if they are getting raises every month and it is coming at just the right time as many Ethiopians are struggling with daily cost increases due to inflation. Harvest covers the exchange and banking fees, so every dollar you give to sponsor your nanny (or nurse) goes directly 100% to her. Every month, Meheretab holds a meeting where they all receive their monthly wages, and together they pray, support one another and get re-motivated for the work God has given them to do.
When I asked what their greatest challenge was, they all agreed it was when the other nannies who had worked there for a long time would get angry at them for holding the babies because "if you hold a baby, you'll have to hold it again tomorrow". These other nannies had learned to train the babies not to cry so their jobs were easier. Again, I'm not trying to cast stones. I trust they have done their best in very difficult situations. But our nannies now KNOW that they MUST hold these babies — and they ARE.
I also had arranged a special meeting with the nannies we'd specifically hired who were able to get off work that day. My son and I had filled our bags with pediatric occupational therapy supplies to help the kids with any sensory processing needs they may have. I showed them everything I've ever learned about sensory processing delays, the need to make eye contact, physical touch, bonding and helping regulate children's heart rates so they can see the world as a safe place. We laughed. We cried. And mostly we prayed.
I could say so much more, but mostly I want to thank you. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of children you will likely never meet, and women who you would utterly LOVE if you ever had the chance to see them in person. Thank you for empowering them to love like mothers do. So grateful for you! Lacey