I was in Washington D.C. last weekend with some friends. My life doesn’t have the casual pace or free wheelin’ time such that a ‘weekend away’ from my family (and importantly, Blueberry) is about fun and frolic without purpose. Not often. There was plenty of fun and frolic, but believe me when I tell you, there was a reason I was in D.C…there was a reason 3 WI mamas made the trek to D.C. It wasn’t just the awesome seafood and our attentive hostess with the mostest (OK, but the seafood it WAS great and the hostess was determined to have the mostest, for sure!).
AHOPE for Children held their annual benefit event in D.C. AHOPE is an organization in Ethiopia serving HIV infected and affected children and their families. The evening fundraising location was right in the Capitol neighborhood; the soiree was happenin’ in their new ‘DC digs’. It was an awesome opportunity to hang out with the new stateside Executive Director of AHOPE for Children, the Board of Directors of AHOPE for Children, and the Executive Director from Ethiopia. These women know how to throw a party. The event, in fact, spilled over into an entire weekend of talking, laughing, learning, and sharing. (Toss in a bit of drinking and eating for good measure – and meeting some fabulous other women who drove 3 minutes <hi Jen!>, 30 minutes <hi Cindy!> or 3 hours <hi Kim> to join us. You know the saying, “all work and no play makes Jane a dull girl”). Heck, there was even a princess party! The weekend was impressive. It was stellar. 3 days of sackrosanct and Dancing Queen mamas, mix in the DC Divas and some hard core tellin’ tales…hard to beat.
AHOPE: I’m in love. Smitten. Committed for life. Determined. Invigorated. If y’all know me personally you know I’m not a naive cheerleader. I’m probably annoyingly critical to many of you. Ok, most of you. I’m opinionated too. And, I’m into AHOPE. It’s crucial to say that I’m a HUGE fan of the director from Ethiopia. Sidesse is her name. She’s my hero. I need heroes in my life to inspire my own work – she’s made the list. Plus, cute babes – here is the youngest :). And the Exec Director stateside: Julie and the AHOPE entourage are the perfect partner for Sidesse and her team. I LOVE THIS TEAM. Full out admiration for these 2 women and their teams. OH.MY.WORD. Their teams are knock your socks off. They have teams I want to be on. Pick me! Pick me! Seriously, these women know their sh*&. ‘Nuff said.
I’ve always been an advocate for AHOPE for Children. Years ago (2008) I started throwing my support into organizing cooperative full year sponsorships for children at AHOPE. I felt a great sense of compassion for HIV infected and affected children – and it was not hard to encourage others to commit to $42 a year to join a cooperative team of sponsors. $42 felt manageable for the masses; there are no reasons to say no to being a teammate raising $420 to sponsor a child for a full year. I think in 08 we delivered over 26 sponsorships in combinations of full and team sponsorships. But I didn’t know then what I know now. I would have fought harder for more teams – for more children – for more success.
And then I went to Ethiopia. Waffles collected soccer balls and pumps to donate to AHOPE for Children. We packed 2 huge suitcases of donations for AHOPE for Children. We visited AHOPE. It wasn’t enough of a visit to sink in – but I was moved. I wanted AHOPE to do their good in the best way possible for the children of AHOPE. Really. Truly. Every day.
My own passion for AHOPE for Children has translated into continued advocacy for the kids through cooperative sponsorships. That’s been my deal. I haven’t had more to say, or more to give, or more to share. But now I do. I have more to say. Big surprise, huh?
Now I know. I know WHY the children need to have our support so they can do their work. I spent the weekend listening so I could apply myself to being a voice for AHOPE. Read this list of programs that AHOPE has in place. Read these carefully and witness how the programs at AHOPE for Children really set the landscape for success for children. Every single child at AHOPE and beyond deserves a chance to thrive. Read.
- AHOPE has 78 children in care in their orphanage. The home is for children who have no extended family to care for them. AHOPE is their family. There are no extra beds for kids at Big Ahope, and a few extra at Little Ahope. The numbers fluctuate – but they are at near capacity.
- 105 children are being assisted by the AHOPE Child Development Center. The CDC supports HIV kids who live WITH THEIR FAMILIES. Most of these families come to AHOPE for support and services. AHOPE travels to the homes of 35 kids. All of the CDC children and their families receive support with food, uniforms, counseling for families and children, education, medications, and strategies for family sustainability. SUPERSTAR program. Families are SUSTAINED! CDC helps kids where they are – with their families!
- 25 children in the surrounding community are being sponsored for their education by AHOPE for Children. Uniforms. Fees. Tutoring. Supplies. The WHOLE PACKAGE.
- AHOPE has developed a Youth Development Program that will help the children who are 13 and older develop the life skills for aging out of the AHOPE for Children orphanage. There are 21 kids right now at AHOPE orphanage who are 13 and older. They will live in the community in a boys home or a girls home – they will have a team of adults supervising/parenting as they stretch themselves into independence. This program HAS GOT to happen. AHOPE is a mature agency – the kids need to know how to navigate their next step with confidence and success. AHOPE is poised to deliver. More importantly, the Ethiopian Director, Sidesse, is passionate about this program. Have I mentioned that Sidesse is a visionary? She is. Trust me. THIS program is the future. It HAS TO BE!
- AHOPE has recently started some “stigma” programs that promote healthy relationships with negative kids (as in – no HIV) in the community. One example of this sort of effort is bringing community kids into the AHOPE compound to use their excellent library. This allows the kids to see each other in their most essential identities – as children and as playmates. Stigma is a big issue re: HIV in Ethiopia. Programs like this ‘see’ kids and allows them to set the terms for connecting around books, play, school.
Do you need to know more? Because I could tell you more. I could have others come around to this neighborhood and tell you more. I will if you ask 🙂
You know you want to get more involved. Leave me a message. We’ll make another team. Heck, we’ll make 25 more teams. Spread the love. AHOPE FOR CHILDREN is A WINNER FOR CHILDREN. There. Now you know. No excuses.