Four years ago today, our little Leyla arrived in Seattle to join her two brothers and complete our family. Many years prior on this same day, I was born. These two events are forever linked for me and as the years go by it becomes more apparent how appropriate that is.I find the passing of a year a time to reflect back – both on the preceding 365 days as well as on the years lived so far. Now I also reflect back on the years since a little baby girl born in Ethiopia came home to us. This year I find myself with two overarching thoughts. First, for me the world is getting smaller and more interconnected each year. Second, the need I feel to contribute to equalizing opportunity, especially as it relates to children and Ethiopia, gets bigger and more powerful with time.
This year, we accepted an international assignment and now reside in Luxembourg. Our volunteer efforts for Ethiopia Reads needed to be adjusted to address this geographic change. Amazingly, with another leap of faith, we were able to make this possible. And in doing so gained more Ethiopia Ties and the world shrunk a bit. My colleagues and friends here across Europe supported our efforts where I had not thought to ask before. I reached out to an Ethiopian supporter living in Dubai who introduced me to another living in Indonesia, the country where my father was born and spent much of his childhood. As I exchanged information with her and discussed visiting my dad’s birthplace, distances and differences seemed to fall away. We titled our event Open Hearts Big Dream Last Year because we believe children's dreams should not depend on where they were born. This year the theme is Open Hearts Around the World because so many amazing people hailing from a diverse set of cultures and countries have been part of making it happen.This summer, watching the Olympics from Greece, where my husband was born, was a special experience. My daughter is becoming old enough to enjoy and understand the event. We were all cheering for the American, Greek, Dutch and now Ethiopian athletes. Our family cultures are well represented in the games. Leyla loves to run and has since she learned to walk. Now she tells us one day she will be an Ethiopian runner. We hope she does whatever her little heart desires. Interestingly, she could likely compete as an Ethiopian, an American or a Greek should that be her path. I feel the world shrinking beneath me and inter-connections drawing me closer to those far with their warm and welcoming embrace.
Seeing the dreams of those Olympians realized and watching my amazing daughter grow, feeds my desire to be a part of equalizing opportunities for children in her birth country. I saw two things recently that made the disparity of opportunity as well as the potential in those youth hit home in a way I could not turn away from easily. The first was a YouTube video of a fifteen year old girl born in the same town as my daughter. It was titled “Too Young to Wed.” She spoke wistfully of her hopes to become a doctor, absent-mindedly turning the pages of meticulously taken notes from the years she was able to go to school. At fifteen, she was a married woman with a child to care for now. She wed at eleven and those dreams evaporated. So much in her story hit me. I too had dreamt about becoming a doctor as a girl. I had my chance although I was not able to achieve it. My eldest is fifteen and thinking about his future. I can’t imagine him raising a child instead. My middle child is eleven and marriage at that age is unthinkable to me.Then I saw the article of tablet computers dropped in parts of rural Ethiopia. Within hours, illiterate children had figured out basic functions and within days were using the computers to teach themselves. There were no instructors and they had never been exposed to electronics before. The promise in the power of children’s minds they demonstrated, was compelling. All they needed was for someone to provide them an opportunity to unlock it. I see that powerful potential every day in my petite, firecracker of a daughter who excitedly started formal school this year. She comes home most days and tries to teach me the French she is learning. She wakes up asking with enthusiastic anticipation, “Do I have school today?” She has friends from Israel, Denmark, France, India, Japan and many countries and cultures diverse from ours. She, in the opportunities she grabs each day with both hands, is learning the world is a small place and completely interconnected. She is also beginning to be more aware and curious about our efforts. And one day, she may fully understand she was a catalyst and inspiration for many efforts and connections that brought opportunities to children on the opposite side of the globe. Below I share some of the my favorite memories over the last four years.
|Arrived in Seattle on my birthday|
|First days in Ethiopia|
|My chubby toddler already had a sense of style|
|Enjoying her first trip back to Ethiopia|
|Sunset on a Greek Beach|
Since it is my birthday, I am going to ask you to indulge me and consider if can help. Anything makes a difference.
To give you a sense, $2 equals average pay for 2 days in Ethiopia. Thank you for considering.
Happy Birthday to me! Happy Homecoming to Leyla who every time she calls me "Mama" makes my heart sing with joy!
|Celebrating our anniversary in Murano, Italy|