by Joy Casey written on 5-6-16

Jeff Burns and I landed in Addis Ababa yesterday and immediately headed south for the five hour ride to Shashemene where our orphanage is.



After checking into our hotel, we left for the Mana Gammachuu (Joyful House) orphanage because I couldn’t wait to see all the sweet little ones God has entrusted to our care.  I was glad to have a few hours getting reacquainted before heading to dinner and bed.  Ah, bed!   By 8 o’clock I could hardly keep my eyes open and fell into a deep sleep until 6:30 this morning.



Thirteen unique personalities greeted Abebe, Jeff and I this morning.  Some smiled, some cried, others were stoic … each one responding to new faces according to their personality and/or age.  It was good to see them comfortable with familiar nannies and slightly uncomfortable with us strangers.  By noon most of them had warmed up … with a few exceptions.   Photographer Jeff was on the floor taking video and pictures while I had some time with our nurse getting updates on each child.  All but one is doing well.  There is one little girl who was born malnourished and has not been able to gain weight.  She is 7 months old but is as tiny as a newborn and her arms and legs are like sticks.  Very concerning.  Usually when we get malnourished infants they respond dramatically to formula … but this little one has not.  She is very responsive and smiley, but far too small.  They have tried everything to get her to eat more but her appetite is not big and she is not putting on appropriate weight.  What to do?

We definitely have future soccer stars in our midst.  21-month-old Mr. T has a mean kick and he and his best friend, “D”, play and play in the courtyard kicking a soccer ball while Miss G holds her dolls and sits quietly on the stairs watching.  I wouldn’t describe her as a cheerleader … she is far too quiet for that … but she enjoys the action and sometimes puts down her cuddlies and joins the boys.  They are super fun!

There are four 1-year-old babies.  Two commando crawl everywhere and one crawls on hands and knees and is fast.  They pull up to furniture but none of them have the strength or balance to walk or stand alone.  This is not uncommon in Ethiopia and I quit worrying a long time ago about the seeming lack of strength in children’s legs.  I have been involved in orphanages for seven years, and all of the children eventually walk and run just fine, albeit later than is generally accepted in the U.S.  Sometimes we find adopted children behind in gross motor skills (sometimes not), but they catch up quickly.  One of our year-old babies was a preemie and is slowly catching up but is not yet crawling.





Three new cribs were delivered today by donkey cart.  The orphanage is at full capacity now … every inch of space utilized.  Four of the children are in the final stages of their adoption process to families in the U.S. and two children will be ensconced in their forever homes here in Ethiopia.  They are just waiting for one more step in the process to be completed.



I wish I had a “long-suffering” award for our orphanage director, Ephrem.  Working with all the government entities necessary for local and international adoption is just plain hard.  Even for Ethiopians who expect things to take a long time, the unavailability of the people who can facilitate adoptions has worn his patience thin.  Ephrem is understandably extremely frustrated with all the delays and excuses as to why they are not available to work.  Tonight Abebe and Ephrem will meet with several from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to see if we can’t get both local and international adoption paperwork unstuck.  No matter how good an orphanage is, being raised in an institution is not optimal for anyone.

These children need to be with a family!