Kent Bush: Help me raise money for orphans in Ethiopia

By Kent Bush

(evening tribune)
Sometimes it is hard to give to charity.

Many people worry that they are giving to the wrong charity, their money will be wasted or their donation is too small to make a difference.

I get that. I’ve never felt like I had enough money to make a difference, either. My worst-case scenario was when we faced a long delay in our process of adopting Dawit. We had met him, played with him, and we should have been going back in about 6-12 weeks to take custody of him.

Six weeks turned into six months, and that timeline was quick compared with many of the families we traveled with in January. My wife and I were discussing the delay one evening, and the idea of trying to do something to help the orphans in Ethiopia came up.

We started talking about how and what we could do to raise funds. There was no way to take donations of actual items because airlines charge so much for baggage and cargo on the long flight over. We knew we would need to raise money and buy humanitarian aid inside the country to be as efficient as possible with donations.

When we began forming a plan, we realized how difficult it would be to raise enough money to make a noticeable difference. There are almost 5 million orphans in Ethiopia. If you raise $1 million, that is 20 cents per orphan.

After taking a step back and coming back to the issue later, we realized that our job was not to help 5 million orphans. We had met about 500 orphans on our first trip. The focus became helping those children.

We spoke to churches and other groups and, of course, we included our friends and family. We received donations from $1,200 all the way down to a little girl giving us a few dollars that she had. It was incredible.

The money went to the purchase of toys, diapers and wipes, a year’s tuition for a young man finishing college and a playground built for the 125 kids in the Gladney Center for Adoption foster care system. The children in the state-run orphanages in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, benefited from those donations as well.

The little girl who gave us everything in her wallet could have just held onto her money. After all, what will $4 do? But that $4 was added to all of the other donations and made a huge difference in the lives of kids who have so little.

Nov. 5 is Orphan Sunday for 2011. This is a day set aside to raise awareness for the plight of orphans around the world –– almost 143 million children who have no parental care.

That playground was a scary thing for us to purchase. It took a lot of money, and we used the money our friends, family and church members donated very carefully.

But Ethiopia has basically shut down its international adoption program. At one time, almost 2,500 children found homes with people in other countries a year. In 2012, however, only about 150 children will find homes abroad under the current government policy.

That means that the children –– many of whom lived and played with our son before he came to live with us –– could be stuck in the system for several years. There are more than 70 licensed adoption agencies in Addis Ababa. With only 150 children approved for adoption in a year, that doesn’t leave much hope for the children already in the system.

We were worried at first, but knowing these 125 kids will have somewhere to play while they wait for their families makes the playground seem like a great idea. But the needs don’t stop with toys, diapers and playgrounds. The money to take care of the children in the orphanage system came from fees charged to adoptive parents.

Now, those funds are dwindling as well. So I decided a few weeks ago to give away my birthday this year. Compared to these children, there is nothing I need.

There is a website established through Gladney to facilitate these gifts.
So far, my grand total raised is zero.

Regardless of what other people contribute, I will be making a donation to this project. I hope others will, too. If 15 people give $5 each, that would take care of a child for an entire week –– food, caregivers, housing and medical care. My goal is to raise $3,840 to take care of one of these children for an entire year.

I hope some of the people reading this will go to http://bit.ly/n36moL and make donations. Whether it’s $1 or $100, everything donated will help care for children in Ethiopia waiting for a family to care for them.

My birthday is Monday, Nov. 7, so there isn’t much time left.

This is important to me because these children and their caretakers were close to my son for the 11 months he was in Gladney’s care. If he were still there, I would want someone to help him, so I am just trying to do my part for those left behind.

Sunday is set aside to remember orphans around the world. Monday, I give my birthday away to help 125 of them in Addis Ababa. It doesn’t take much money to make a big difference in their lives.

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