Sunday, June 7, 2009

Save the Children Ethiopia and the Kids of Adama

June 2, 2009

Fasten your seat belt. I don’t know where to begin and will NOT want to end. The day started with an Indy 500 weaving, bobbing, jolting, soaring, jarring Save the Children SUV ride – with STC driver Seasigh (I couldn’t understand him and after three tries at figuring out what to call him I phoneticized and decided to remember how to say his name by thinking of “sea side”).

We meet with the Save the Children leadership team and Soccer Saves project team in Addis. Dennis, Margaret, Marc, Yeshi and others are bright, articulate and funny. But most of all you can see that they care about the kids very deeply. The told us some statistics that make my head spin. They talk about OVC’s (orphans and vulnerable children) and I think that’s a technical term for what I was – a foster kid, a street kid. But in Ethiopia (the second most populated country in Africa) there are 5.5 MILLION of them. I wonder how many foster kids and street kids were in Michigan when I was growing up. Nothing close to 5.5 MILLION.
Most have been orphaned because one of both of their parents had HIV/AIDS and died. Vulnerable?, yes!!! At risk?, yes!!! Deserve a shot? You bet.

Frank walks through the goals for the pilot program and emphasizes that this is about learning – what can we learn about the program, what can we learn about our partnership and most importantly, what can we learn from the kids, their parents and their coaches. We then get a security briefing which actually made me feel less secure but I guess its standard to do that. Frank looked at me and said “we will be fine” which probably isn’t Office of Homeland Security type stuff but what the hay.

And then we were off to Adama (aka Nazereth). A two hour drive that left me speechless. Is that even possible? A kaleidoscope of people, landscape and poverty that made me think “everyone should see this in their lifetime”. Imagine an Interstate highway with no lane markings and literally thousands of little blue golf-cart taxis – called “budgets” driving on both sides of the street...trucks on the wrong side of the road and goats, donkeys, cattle – tended by no one and miles of rock piles, dust clouds, heaps of garbage everywhere and absolutely construction everywhere. However, the construction sites lacked any high-rise cranes and instead of the normal leggo-straight steel scaffolding every inch of it comprised loosely patterned thin wood poles. Dust clouds and emission spirals thicken the air, burn the eyes and coat the throat! (Poet??)

We arrive in Adama and the very brilliant Save the Children staff takes yours truly to the playing grounds of Adama. Voila. The kids!! The children hanging off Uncle Nubby like overripe bananas on sagging vines! Girls, boys, barefoot, covered with dust, tattered clothing but lit up like the aurora borealis when the Nubber jumped in and taught them cheers, a few moves and why you don’t play with matches when fooling around with dynamite. Language barrier? For sure. But soccer is the world’s game. It’s universal. Now I wish that all my former players and all the NW Soccer Camp kids could be here. It’s been a blast today. From the very impressive Save the Children team in Addis to the kids of Adama.

Off to bed. No Hilton in Adama. Actually electricity is in short supply and the water main just outside our hotel just broke. Sleeping under my first malaria net tonite. Sweet dreams.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Cliff, this is tremendous -- thanks to you for the blog and the wonderful stories. I have a quick question for you if you have a moment. Do you know who runs Save the Children in Addis? I have had some trouble getting that staff person's name, and I'd like to learn more about the program - thanks
    Liz Ryan