Happy Friday, friends! Welcome to part two of my recap of my trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I’m not going to lie, I had the hardest time finding the words for this post. After all, how can I possibly describe an organization that is doing such incredible things?
Last week, you met The Archibald Project—the organization and the team that I traveled to Ethiopia with. Today, I am excited to introduce you to The Selamta Family Project, the organization that we visited and learned more about during our time in Ethiopia. This time last year, I was eating family dinner around a table filled with, once strangers, that soon welcomed us into their homes with open arms like family. I was playing card games over buna while watching translated soap operas on TV. I was editing college essays and photographing bright smiles and I was meeting some of the strongest people that I will ever cross paths with. This time last year, I got to spend a week with the Selamta Family Project.
Now, I am going to try my best to keep this post short because what Selamta really is incredible and revolutionary and I could go on and on about how much I love them and their model and what they are doing to change the world for so many kids…. so, let’s get to it!
They just had a brand new video launch yesterday, made by the Archibald Project, and it shares what they do so much better than I could ever articulate.
When you think about orphan care, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Adoption? Foster care? Something similar? What if I told you that there is another incredible option for orphan care that could change the world we live in? What if I told you that it was possible to keep kiddos in their own culture, their own communities and with their own families? I truly was so moved when I started to learn more about Selamta's model, and I am so excited to introduce their work to you today.
Y’all, this group is doing BIG things, and the kids and the families that they are supporting are doing even BIGGER things. In a nutshell, Selamta works to create bright futures for orphaned children and marginalized women by developing forever families and by giving them the resources and support needed to live independently. They work to build up each and every person that their program benefits, to be independent and successful members of their community. Selamta keeps them connected to their home. They ensure their education is a priority. They shower them with love and show them the importance of respect and honesty. Selamta gives these kids, many of which have grown into young adults, the resources they need to stay healthy in body, mind & community.
We were welcomed into a community of such seemingly normal families that have been brought together under not-so-normal circumstances. It is so amazing to see how they love each other unconditionally. To see them work harder than anyone I have ever met to achieve their dreams. To see them laugh together and play cards together and dance to Justin Bieber together. To see them be KIDS together. They fight for their futures together. THIS is a model that has the power to change the world we live in for the better.
When it comes down to it, the roots of this entire operation are the Selamta moms. Selamta has empowered marginalized women and has given them the resources to successfully bring together and raise a family of 10-12 children. Some of them are their biological children. Some have been orphaned and left to fend for themselves, seeking out Selamta as a refuge. Some of their children are biological siblings that have been reunified or came to Selamta, seeking help, together. They deal with some pretty heavy family dynamics with grace and faith each day. In short, the moms of Selamta are such incredible women. Seriously, every single child that I talked to had nothing but glowing things to say about their Selamta mom. Most if not all said that they truly viewed their Selamta mom as their real mom and that they were so incredibly thankful to have her in their life. You can tell that each Selamta mom truly loves their children as their own, they are proud of what they are accomplishing, and they work so incredibly hard to create a home dynamic that helps each child reach their full potential.
I’ll admit… before visiting Selamta Family Project, I wasn’t super familiar with other ways to care for vulnerable or orphaned children, and this trip was so eye opening. It showed the beauty of keeping kids in their culture. It showed me just how important and life giving love is. It showed me just how vital it is to empower dreamers to chase their dreams.
Selamta always strives to preserve families above all else, which I think is incredibly beautiful--and so challenging. They support families at risk of breaking apart in their local community through an outreach program, they’ve worked to reunify siblings, and they give marginalized women the support and the resources they need to raise a stable and loving family. Many Selamta moms have their own biological children in addition to their Selamta kids. Most of all, Selamta is paving the way for each child they support to have the skills and resources needed to raise their own happy, healthy and successful families in the future. They are creating productive and engaged citizens that know love.
I love this organization so much and truly believe in all that they are doing. This model of orphan care really does have the power to do big things for many people that truly deserve a chance to live and succeed.
In the last year, Selamta has done SO much... gosh, I wish I could list the accomplishments of their organization and their kiddos, but it truly is SO much better to hear it from them! I highly encourage you to pay a visit to their blog to read more about their recent efforts and accomplishments. I have absolutely loved following along with their blog and email newsletter pieces. It means so much when I see familiar faces succeeding & doing big things!
I chatted with Marisa, Selamta's Executive Director and all around fabulous lady (more on her in a minute!), the other day, and she let me know a few ways that you can help Selamta today!
The first: just yesterday, they launched a campaign to fully fund the Selamta Community Center and all of the programming that takes place there for a full year. $50,004 is the goal! The Community Center really is the heart and soul of this organization. Its front door is constantly open, there are kids on the stairs using the WIFI to check in with friends and homework assignments, there are soccer games going in the front courtyard, laughing and dancing and lively conversation. It is such a safe haven. It is home. The community center also acts as a place for the families to receive the care they need to stay healthy in body and mind. They have a nurse and a psychologist onsite to provide any support that is needed. The community center really acts as a HUB for all of Selamta and YOU are invited to help keep operations running. Click here to join in fundraising.
Selamta has big dreams to grow their family! But first, they need to make sure that each child and family is taken care of. Heart & Home Child and family sponsorship is ALWAYS where they have a huge need! Their goal is to have every child and family fully sponsored in 2018. YOU will be able to help provide a child with the resources to propel them into a successful and healthy future. Make Selamta's vision a reality & learn more by clicking here.
Support and follow Selamta on social. You can see the incredible work that they are doing each and every day! I so love seeing familiar faces go by in my feed!
Now for the fun part! Keep scrolling to see some images from our time with Selamta.
The community center is truly the heart and soul of all of Selamta!
Look at that crew!!
The smiles at the Lucy House filled my heart up with so much joy!
In addition to equipping their kids with tools and resources to be self sustaining, Selamta also works to give their moms resources to become self sustaining themselves. While we were in town, the moms were learning to make soap, and I was lucky enough to purchase some to bring home! It smells delicious, and it was so incredible to see how proud and empowered these women were to share something that they created themselves.
Like I said above, the community center is truly the heart and soul of Selamta. At any given point, you can find a soccer game going on out front, someone working on homework at a computer, music going from speakers, conversation buzzing.
Meet Selam. I have so many things to say about this girl, but I'll keep it simple. Girlfriend is a total badass. She is strong and resilient and intelligent and caring and so incredibly inspiring. During our time in Ethiopia, we sat down to edit an admissions letter that she is working to send to schools in the states, where I quickly became known as the Comma Queen. It was such an honor to hear this girl's story. Selam has dreams of obtaining her degree and working in the medical field in Ethiopia to provide proper care for her people. She is currently enrolled in University in Ethiopia and is hoping to come to school in the US to make her dream a reality. I think about her and her dreams and the stories that she shared with me almost every day and so hope that she is one day able to come to the states to study.
Oh, I just miss this place so much!
The afternoons that we got to spend in the homes with some of the families made for some of my favorite memories. It was so special to see the Selamta families going about their daily routine and to see the mom's pride in their children as they showed us family photos and shared memories, over buna.
See that gal in the middle there? That's Marisa, the executive director for Selamta Family Project. She was also one of my roommates during our stay in the community center and is one amazing woman. She is strong and faith driven and is filled with so much love for each person that is involved with Selamta. It was such a blessing to get to know her and to get to learn from her all week long. She understands what these kids need, and she works and prays tirelessly to make sure these needs are met.
I miss Ethiopian food SO much! Mealtime in Ethiopia is something that I don't think I will ever forget. I love how communal the entire process is.
This post wouldn't be complete without highlighting these two lovely ladies that took such good care of us while we stayed in the community center. They cooked such delicious meals and made sure that we felt right at home. Truly, they have the kindest hearts and the sweetest spirits (they also make the best potato chips!).
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