At 9:30 a.m. our faithful driver Dawit arrived to take us to Kidane Mehret the orphanage our 3 yo had lived for most of his life.
It was a gray, chilly, and drizzly day.The drive took us through some pretty harsh scenes. The shacks were heartbreaking as were the many homeless people on the streets. I noticed that there were many blind people. I guess there is little hope afforded those born with a disability. We passed a young mother laying on the side of the road. Next to her was a tiny little baby. I wondered where they had been during the torrential downpours that had ocuured the night before.
Dawit pulled up to a gate where a yellow building could be seen in the distance. I was thinking this looks nothing like the pictures I have seen of Kidane. The bewildered look of the lady who answered the gate confirmed we were at Kbet Teshaye the government run orphanage, not Kidane. Dawit was VERY embarassed that he had brought us to the wrong place. I assured him over and over that it was FINE. He called Selamneh to get directions to Kidane and then drove furiously through the streets of Addis. He was driving so fast that my dd and I got the nervous giggles. I didn't have the nerve to ask him to slow down as he was already mortified.
Soon, we came to a gate and Dawit honked and a child opened it up to reveal the large brick and concrete structure that is Kidane Mehret. Dawit let us out and we headed towards the building. They were having some serious sewer problems the day we arrived. I won't even begin to tell you what we saw everywhere. There was a man working on it and I felt so bad for him to have such a job. The smell was indescribable. Kidane is rather famous for it's odor but somehow I have to believe on this day it was more than the usual stench.
We were told that Sister Lutgarda was expecting us and we should go to her residence and her servant would let us know where she was. We walked back the way we came and headed down the path to her residence. On the right of the building I noticed a room where a lady was working on an old sewing machine surrounded by piles and piles of children's clothing.
We knocked and a lovely Ethiopian Lady opened the door and then went to get Sr. Lutgarda. Sr. Lutgarda is a very short lady but what she lacks in size she more than makes up for in presence. She said, "You, Yohannes Mom?" Have pictures?" I handed over the photo album I had made. She looked at the pictures and said, "He is SO big, he is SO fat!" She puffed out her cheeks for emphasis and then asked "He is glutton now?" I giggled nervously and was immediately taken back in my mind to my Catholic High School Days.. I wondered silently if I could get a detention for having a tubby toddler.. I nervously answered," He does like to eat." Satisfied she said, "Come, I take you to Sr. Camilla."
We went upstairs to the baby/toddler floors where we met Sr. Camilla. She grabbed me and kissed me three times. Sr. Lutgarda gave her the photo album and she studied it very carefully exclaiming how happy Yohannes looked. She said he was a sad boy at the orphanage and she was so glad to see him smiling and laughing.
She took us to show us the rooms where Yoahnnes had lived. He was there for some time so he had spent time in several of the rooms. As we walked down the hallway crowded with highchairs and baby equipment I noticed a movement in a stroller. It was a baby girl with a severe case of hydrochephalus. Her poor little head was grossly swollen. I looked into her little eyes and saw LIFE. In that sad little body in the hall of that orphanage was a precious little girl who had been made in the image of God. It was as if her very soul was speaking to me and saying "I am in here!" I wanted so badly to hold her and comfort her but I was afraid to move her would cause more pain. Sr. Camilla noticed I had stopped and told me they had tried surgery and then shook her head. This little one would be with Jesus soon. Oh the unfairness of it all I thought. Any child dying is a tragedy but a child dying in an orphanage and not in the arms of a family seemed unbearably cruel to me. I took her picture. I will never forget that little one. She mattered. She may die in obscurity but she will live in eternity with Jesus free from pain..
We went into the baby room. On the floor were the sweetest little rolly poly babies. It looked like the famous sugar milk at KM was doing it's work. Sr. Camilla took me around the room and told me about the babes in the cribs. One had just lost a twin...one little boy was 5 months old and maybe weighed 5 lbs. He was so tiny and his face was drawn. "If he makes it"...Sister said.."will go to a family in Europe". The word hung in the air.."if". I thought back to the day before when Gail told me of a little one who had died at Layla on Monday. The reality of Ethiopia is that babies die..children die.. mommies and daddies die. That is the reality people there live with every single day.
She then took us to a room with metal white cribs all pushed together. She told me how the toddler like to climb from crib to crib to crib. She told me one day they heard Yohannes screaming and they came running to find he had gotten his feet caught as he was climbing and he was stuck hanging upside down! I immediately thought how much he hates to be held upside down. Our other children think it's great fun but it scares him so..
Sr. Lutgarda then took us up to the courtyard where the young childrens' play area is. We had to step over a river of questionable liquid that had invaded the play area..it seems it was more fallout from the sewer issues. The toddlers weren't really playing just kind of wandering. Sr. Lutgarda said something in Amharic to the caregiver and she immediately put them on the merry go round. A lady was standing holding a little one looking out over the city. Sr. Lutgarda told her she needed to put him down lest he become spoiled. I looked at this little boy with sad eyes, dirty clothes, and matted hair and thought he may be the least spoiled little child on the planet. I asked the lady (hopefully) if she was his mother.. no, she was a volunteer from Belgium.
Sr. Lutgarda pointed out a little boy in a pink shirt and told me that his name was Efram and he and Yohnnaes were good friends. She showed him the photo album and he smiled. I wondered what was going through his little mind. I was so thankful to meet this little one...I think of him everyday and pray he finds a family soon.
We went to Sr. Lutgarda's office to see if she had info we didn't have about Yohannes' past, but there was none.
It was time to leave. We walked out chatting with and photographing a little group of children who were following us. They were so sweet. I just wanted to hold each one and thell them that their parents would be coming soon.. but I didn't know that to be true.
Our hearts were so heavy from all we had seen and heard. I thought about our sweet Yohannes at home and how God had taken a sad, scared, shut down little boy and brought joy to his heart. I marveled at how blessed I am to be his Mama.