Back to blogging about our trip and only have a couple of posts left! I took a brief break while my mom was visiting. We were busy playing with Tate and going on walks.
To pick up on our trip, we spent the last afternoon in Lalibela with our guide Yosef. Yosef grew up in the town of Lalibela, in a well-respected family. His grandfather was a local legend, being a famous Orthodox priest who translated the History of the Kings and the Bible from the old language of Ge'es (which no one but priests can read) to the Amharic language of the day. This meant that laymen could now read the Bible and the History of the Kings on their own - something that for the western world happened centuries ago. Joseph smiled and said, not only did he and Yosef have the same name, but Joseph's grandfather did a similar thing; a paraphrase of the Bible to modern language (the Living Bible).
Yosef had studied to be a deacon and spent his childhood in much the same way as the boys we saw hanging about the churches. All the boys knew who he was and he spent most of the time we were exploring Yemrehane Christos, talking to the local deacon boys.
Yosef received a good education, went to college to study computer science (also like Joseph), but then after living in the city and sitting in front of a computer day after day, yearned to be back in his small mountain village. He began working with tour companies and receives, for an Ethiopian, a good living. He uses his money not to save up for himself, but to care for street children. As he walked the streets he knew so well, he saw many children sleeping on the streets, begging, and hungry. He and his family decided they needed to do something to care for the orphans. So, a few years ago he began working with the government to run an orphanage for these children. He now spends most of his time caring for these children and works for tour companies for financial support.
The Children's Village currently houses 12 elementary aged kids. They attend school, receive tutoring, play soccer, sell things at market, and study hard. Above is a picture of Joseph, Yosef, a young man who is a house dad, and one of the boys. Yosef employs a couple men to tutor the children and some young women to cook and do laundry for them.
All 12 of the children had both of their parents die and walked to Lalibela looking for food and shelter. When Yosef knows a street child, he will find out where they are from and take the child to their hometown. There, he asks everyone what happened to his parents and if anyone knows this child and can care for him. If found to be a true orphan, not a runaway, Yosef takes them in.
They currently live in a rented, small compound, made of cement, with metal doors and roofs. Each room holds 2-4 children. Above every bed is a handwritten paper in English saying the child's name, favorite activities, favorite subject in school, and vision (what they want to be).
Yosef knows there are many, many more children in need of love and care. He has bought a small parcel of land in Lalibela where he plans to build a modern house that can hold 80 children. The children will go to school and those who want and are able will attend college. Those who get jobs will send money back to help continue the work that made their life possible. Those who do not go to college can stay and be employed by the Children's Village, helping tutor and care for the orphans and the house. He has had Americans ask about adopting a child, but he has no knowledge about how to make that happen and is not inclined to go that route. If he is able to care for the children (most of whom are older), then they can be raised to care for others in Ethiopia.Yosef has been trying to fundraise among businessmen in Addis, but like all of Ethiopia, is still very much in need of money and resources. Construction is very expensive in Ethiopia, especially in someplace as remote as Lalibela. Just finding modern equipment is very difficult. To pay for the land and building (which is built well, will last for years and years), he needs 1 - 1.5 million dollars. He does not have any official liaisons in the western world, only people who have visited, seen his work, and tell other people. As such, he receives occasional donations, but he never knows when or how much he will have. He needs regular supporters, so he can budget and make consistent payments to the work of building.
We have nothing to prove his legitimacy other than our word that we saw his work, saw the land, saw how respected he is in the area and we trust him. Because he works with the government and not a western NGO, getting money to him is a bit tricky. However, if you would like to support him in any way, please do let us know and we can put you in contact with him by email and answer any more questions you may have. (my email is heidibayly at gmail)
I keep thinking about the new, amazing hotel we stayed at in Lalibela, which must have cost a fortune to build. It was built because some Americans came to Lalibela and asked their guide (a friend of Daniel Damtew's) what the town needed. He said a good hotel, as there was nowhere comfortable for westerners to stay. The Americans said, "How much do you need?" and it was done.