In April of this year, Jim Miller, MORE’s President-Emeritus, took his seven-year old daughter, Estella, on a journey of a lifetime! Jim and Estella traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to visit the Medhen Center. MORE is the supporter of the Center’s Orphaned and Vulnerable Children’s (OVC) program.
All told, MORE supports more than 1,000 children in various capacities, including providing the funding for educational programs and infrastructure, housing, trainings, health services, psychosocial services, and meals. The children supported by the many generous MORE donors are between 2 and 18 years of age.
At the start of the first day of the trip, Estella was warmly greeted by Sister Senkenesh*, members of the Medhen staff, Ms. Audrey Dubois (a current Center volunteer from France), and the Center’s three dogs—all of whom seemed very happy to make a fuss over the young guest from a faraway land!
Then the fun kicked into high gear when the bus— 64 very excited children and Estella and Jim—chugged off from the dusty and crowded Addis streets and headed out of town to the Atlas Fun Park. Most of the children (eight to ten year olds) had never experienced a joy-filled get away such as this and the ride was full of singing, dancing and laughter in its purest form. Such outings, as Sister reminded, began during Jim’s first visit to the Center more than 15 years ago. In fact, it was to this same park! These outings offer great enjoyment for the children, to say the least, but also they are proven to assist in helping the children to overcome many of the social stigmas that they face because of being parentless and/or in vulnerable conditions. The children were treated to swimming, lunch and the happiness of the feeling of a special day.
On the following day, Sunday April 5, Sister Senkenesh took Estella and Jim to an international community church celebration of Easter Mass. It was unique because it was Easter in the U.S. that day, but the holiday calendar in Ethiopia is different and on that day it was Palm Sunday in Ethiopia! It was a lovely convergence of cultures and religious festivities.
The next days were spent at Medhen’s Early Childhood Development Center (ECD), a facility that was constructed by contributions to MORE by the J.H. Cohn Foundation. Children from 2-5 years of age attend the school, which has a curriculum based on the Montessori education model. Estella, the youngest volunteer ever to work at Medhen, spent two days with the children making exquisite donor thank-you cards from colorful cut out paper designs and drawings. Of course, there was adequate playtime enjoyed in the school’s courtyard where the Eliyashu Benmosche playground provides a daily respite from the impoverished surroundings that the children endure outside of the ECD Center and where they are able to turn their attention to the swing sets, slides, and the carousel.
Estella and Jim’s visit was short but the memories will last a lifetime, and Estella is already asking when she can go back to see her ‘brothers and sisters’ in Addis Ababa and her beloved Godmother again!
* Sister Senkenesh is the proud birth Godmother of Estella!