July 14, 2011
Mother Teresa Orphanage
Last Saturday Sr. Mary and I had a very nice discussion over breakfast about women in these parts and pregnancy. I learned that there are several women here that get pregnant, can’t do anything about the pregnancy so they carry it to full term and give birth. Right after birth they throw the babies away in the bushes. It’s so hard to hear about these things. Seyoum even told me how hard it is to hear the tossed baby crying.
Sr. Mary works on a project called “The Caring Project”. This project is to assist women and families who are in desperate need. It is connected to the Kavaleh (school districts) and to help mainly orphaned children get school supplies, uniforms, and their education paid for. Of course any project like this immediately expands into so many areas. One of the areas this project has expanded into is helping the prostitutes to stop giving birth to babies and throwing them away in the bushes.
As this visit has been difficult I have spent more time in personal reflection and meditation on my purpose with the flute school and the work I’ve done at St. Lucy’s. One evening I attended mass with Sr. Mary. The Deacons of Don Bosco, together with Abba Mirdoch (Polish priest who trains the deacons), has the deacons help with the mass. They help with saying the gospel, giving a sermon, and communion. One deacon decided to discuss about faith. He related it to the story of Abraham. Abraham was told by God although he was 90 years old, that he would be given a son by his wife who was 80 years old. Abraham told God this was impossible but God told him that if he has faith he will give Abraham a son. Abraham chose to have this faith and to trust in God and God’s will. This sermon spoke deeply to me as the deacon expressed our need to have faith in God. From these difficult times I really felt that I needed to do like this and have faith. I really need to trust that my purpose, although at times I can’t see my path, that I trust in God in what is going to be right for me. I took this sermon into my heart and really meditated on it.
At the breakfast with Sr. Mary and learning about this one prostitute of 19 years, she had a baby. Sr. Mary and her assistants went to her to help her not throw the baby into the bushes. So she gave the baby to Sr. Mary. Sr. Mary and her assistants took the baby to the Mother Teresa orphanage in Mekelle. As I listened to the story of this young woman, who has an older child already too, I felt something within me calling me about this baby. I learned the baby is 7 months old and that after its second birthday he will be put into a boarding school until he is an adult and can get himself to high school. I was deeply sad to hear of this child’s fate. I asked Sr. Mary what the mother is going to do. She shared that the project is going to work hard with the mother to rehabilitate her, get her an education, and get her into a job so she can take her son back. But Sr. Mary also explained that after working with this woman, she said, “yes I can do that but I can also keep on doing what I’m doing now.” Which means this woman is perfectly happy being a prostitute. As I listened to Sr. Mary I was very sad for this little boy. What is going to happen to him? What if the mother can’t rehabilitate herself? How many more pregnancies is she going to have and throw away the babies? I asked Sr. Mary; since I was in Mekelle can I visit the child? “Of course you can Celine, just go to the orphanage and ask to see him.” “What’s his name,” I asked. “It’s Abraham.” “Interesting,” I thought but I wasn’t sure what this meant but I knew I had to see this little boy.
After I finished with everything at the University, I asked Seyoum if I could go to the MT orphanage. It took us several trips to several different bus stations to finally find the bus to take us there. We were about to give up then luckily for us the bus driver we found was Seyoum’s relative. Seyoum asked about the MT orphanage and which bus we needed to take to get us there. His relative responded, “My bus goes there specifically. Come with me and I will take you there.”
Within a 15 minute bus ride outside of Mekelle we reached the MT orphanage. I knocked on the gate and was greeted by a very pleasant MT sister from India. I asked about the baby and she wasn’t sure who I was talking about. She said, “Come back this afternoon when the other sisters come back and you can talk to them about it.” “Oh, I have to leave Mekelle this afternoon because I have to be back in Adigrat no later than tonight.” Then she said, “Let me go see if I can find someone to help you.” We walked together across the yard and the place was beautiful. Full of flowers and fruit trees surrounded the courtyard. We turned a corner and I was met with several severely crippled children. One was even crawling on her stomach because her legs and arms didn’t work at all. The little girl about 6 years old was happy to see me and she eagerly crawled closer to me with a big smile wanting to say hello. Around this area were also several women with small babies and obviously extremely poor. Many of them also had handicapped children. Seyoum became extremely sad. Mebratu was also with me and he also was having a hard time seeing these children. After a short time the Indian sister reappeared and she said, “Come, the baby you are inquiring about is in here.” I entered a room. The room was lined with cribs. In the 6 six cribs I saw were three little baby boys. The one I inquired about was the first of the three. He was asleep with a bottle hanging out of his mouth. The second one was awake and the third which looked no more than 4 months was fast asleep. I asked if I could hold the little boy. They prepared some blankets to wrap him up with and the sister handed him to me. What a beautiful little boy this was. He was obviously a mix of Ethiopian and foreigner because he had soft thin black hair rather than curly tight hair. His features were also of a white man instead of an African and the skin was more mocha than black. As I held the little baby he woke. He was very alert when he opened his eyes. He looked at me first not sure what to think then he began to coo and smile. As I visited this little guy Seyoum and Mebratu were talking to the other little boy awake in his crib. Then Seyoum came over and took several pictures of me holding the boy and him smiling at me. I continued to coo with the little baby. I must have sat there for 30 minutes just talking to him and he was laughing and cooing back to me. It looked like he had a cold or something because his lungs had a little rattle in there and his eyes had some mucus in them. Seyoum and Mebratu couldn’t stand it anymore and they had to step outside. Seeing little babies abandoned was breaking their hearts. As I played with little Abraham several other children approached me in the ages of 12 months to about 4 years. They all came to say hi and give me a hug. How sweet they were. After a while they were kissing the little boy and calling me “ama” which is “mama”. It was hard to not cry but also such a gift to sit amongst these babies and give them some love.
The sister asked me how long I was staying. I shared my new position at the University and that I will be here for a while. She became very happy. We discussed the issue of little Abraham and I said, if the mother doesn’t want the little boy to let me know and I will do something to help this child. Then she asked if I would be willing to come and teach the children songs and I gladly accepted the offer when I return back to Ethiopia.
By God’s will I hope to help this little guy. There are more people and families that are extremely desperate in this village that I can’t even count. I get asked by more people to give them money. I help each case as I see fit. Often times it’s just to buy food for a family for the month or get a mobile for a priest or something like that. One of my most recent assistance has been to Sr. Mary’s guard. He is a father of two young children and a wife. He doesn’t make enough money to feed himself and his wife. So I give to help in that respect. I believe I am directed to give to the people I am suppose to give to. This is one of those cases. This little baby has no one right now. The rehabilitation of his mother is still very uncertain. So for me, to help him have some kind of life, this is what I believe I’m being called to do. As I have said in so many benefit lectures I’ve given, Mother Teresa said, “To look to the masses is overwhelming and one cannot help. Look to the one child and help that child.” For this, I’ve said these words more than once I believe it’s not coincidence of this meeting. I believe this little boy made known to me so I can help him.