Abdi’s New Life – Part 1

CAROLYN_MILES_HEAD_SHOT_062001 Carolyn Miles, President & CEO-elect

Hagadera Refugee Camp, Kenya

August 17, 2011


Today we traveled to one of the camps to meet with Abdi, a shy 13-year-old boy with bright dark eyes and a tough story with a happy ending. I thought how young and small he looked, remembering my own towering son at 13.  We sat outside on straw mats, huddled close to the mud wall for some shade from the afternoon sun and spoke wIth Abdi and the woman who lived here about his journey from Somalia and his new life in Kenya.

With his head hung, he told us that both his parents had died in Somalia, first his mother and then his father.  An uncle had taken him in and then in a desparate bid to get Abdi to a better life away from famine and civil war, had paid for him to travel alone for several days on a truck, packed with other Somalis, along bone-jarring roads.  He arrived at Hagadera camp on his own knowing not one single person.

We had met Abdi the day before at the registration center where Save the Children staff meet unaccompanied children and help get them food, supplies, clothing and most of all a foster family where they can stay while we try to trace parents or any relatives.

We got him what he needed and then staff started to work to find him a place to stay.

As we heard today from his kindly new care giver, it turns out Abdi thankfully had already started his new life with some luck

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Ibrahim’s Kindness

CAROLYN_MILES_HEAD_SHOT_062001 Carolyn Miles, President & CEO-elect

Dadaab, Kenya

August 15, 2011


As I meet with children and families here in the sprawling refugee camps of northeastern Kenya, I hear amazing and harrowing stories.

Yesterday we visited the original refugee camp called IFO – a part of the camps that has been here since 1992. We drove up a dusty red sandy road to a thick fence made from gnarled tree branches. Inside the fence was a family of 10, living simply in two tiny mud and stick structures with few possessions. But this was no ordinary family.

It was led by Ibrahim, a thoroughly generous and engaging man with much hardship in his life. He came from Somalia in 1991 during horrible fighting in his country.

Ibrahim

He settled in the original camp with his wife and young son after a tough journey of hundreds of miles. Ibrahim later lost his wife and four of his children to disease. He remarried though and had 6 more  children. He and his wife also care for many more children in his area of the camp.

As we talk, his children come to sit on his lap, next to him on an old can or peek out from behind his back. You can tell how much they love him. He tells me, "God gives back to those who do something for others, especially children."

But what makes Ibrahim such a special man is that he and his wife, despite being very poor, have taken in yet another two childrenA 13-year-old mother and her newborn baby girl who arrived two months ago from Somalia after their own grueling journey. Ibrahim and his wife agreed to be a foster family for the teen mom and baby as part of Save the Children's child protection program.

Despite having so little, they share what they do have with others.

More to come tomorrow…

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Fast-A-Thon for Save the Children

"Experiencing Vicarious Empathy"

Ettore Rossetti

Ettore Rossetti, Director, Internet Communications & Marketing

Westport, CT

August 8, 2011


I work for Save the Children in the Westport, CT office. The situation caused by the droughts in East Africa is dire for children especially. Though I serve the mission of children professionally, I thought to myself ‘what can

I do personally to help even more.’ So last month during the heat wave here in the U.S., I was voluntarily working through lunch and I started to feel a late afternoon hunger pain. So, I walked downstairs to the lunchroom at about 2:45 pm in the afternoon. The door was closed, so I missed a meal. I pulled a dollar out of my pocket and tried to buy a snack from the vending machine…but it only takes exact change and I did not have 90¢, so I skipped a snack. Feeling thirsty, I walked back upstairs to the nearest coffee station but the coffee ran out, so I settled for water. I settled for water.

That’s how easy it is in Westport, CT or Washington D.C. or in much of America to find food when we are hungry or water when we are thirsty: Walking a few yards inside an air-conditioned building. But these children in East Africa walk for miles under the desert sun to get to food or water.

Sofia carries Suada on her back Every week, six year-old Sofia, carries her two-year old sister, Suada, on her back for miles to a Save the Children feeding center in Kenya. I am a parent like many of you and even if you are not a parent, we were all children once.

Imagine a child having to endure this…imagine if Sofia was your child? It is unimaginable. And in that moment I realized that there is something I could do about it. I could voluntarily fast to feel empathy. We could all fast to feel empathy and then tell our friends about it. We can be sympathetic to the plight of those children but we cannot feel empathy unless we experience some of their pain. The hunger pain around the lunch hour is a very small glimpse of their pain. And so Save the Children’s Fast-A-Thon was born in that moment of inspiration.

Sofia feeding Suada some water in the desert Some of my colleagues in the field can experience empathy directly. But through the power of the Internet, we can all experience empathy vicariously. And it is this vicarious empathy that connects us all. As I was just about to close my laptop at about 3 a.m. last night, I received a chat message on Facebook from a woman in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia thanking me for all we were doing for her country.

Some people say that social networking demonstrates the theory of “six degrees of separation” — the idea that everyone is on average six steps away from any other person on Earth. I believe that these friend-to-friend networks do not separate us but rather connect us. Perhaps we should rename this theory to the “six degrees of connection." If we all ask 10 of our friends to donate $10 – the price of a meal – that’s $100. $100 can help us feed 1 child for 100 days, until the rains come back. That’s the power of social networking.

Thank you to all of you who are participating in Fast-A-Thon by fasting, friendraising or fundraising. But most importantly, I would like to recognize those children in East Africa who are fasting involuntarily.

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 About Fast-A-Thon: Fast-A-Thon is a voluntary, 24-hour fasting marathon organized by Save the Children to show solidarity and to demonstrate empathy for the millions of children suffering from hunger and thirst in East Africa due to the food crisis.

About Save the Children: Save the Children is the leading, independent organization that creates lasting change for children in need in the United States and around the world. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Easing Fatima’s Pain

David Klauber David Klauber, Save the Children Intern   

Melkadida Refugee Camp, Ethiopia

August 1, 2011


I looked into her eyes and if only for an instant, I was able to feel something of the weight of her pain.   The look of despair she wore has aged her far beyond her years; and yet she’s only a girl of thirteen.  When she told me, “the pain is so bad sometimes, I can’t sleep at night,” I found it hard to remember the next question to ask her, let alone to say it. 

When she lifted up her long patterned dress just enough to expose a foot, ankle, and shin that swelled to more than double the size of her other leg I realized that the look on her face doesn’t even begin to describe a modicum of the hardship she has faced in her short life.

Her mother told me that her daughter’s condition began nine years ago when she was only four years old. This condition began in a previous life in Somalia, and has followed her into the refugee camps of Ethiopia. She has been living in the Melkadida refugee camp for the last 16 months.

I can’t walk because it hurts so much,” she told me. “I can’t go to school. I stay around the tent.  Sometimes I wash clothes.”  She concentrates deeply for a moment and then for a second she brightens: “Oh, and I help look after my little brother and sisters.” But her stare then returned to the ground by her side, and her smile dissolved.  

Fatima and her family fled their home in Balad-Hawa, Somalia, because of the growing violence in and around their town. “That, and there was little food,” adds Fatima’s mother, Kada. “But we were lucky- we didn’t have to walk to Ethiopia. We rode on a donkey cart.  It took three days.”  Kada says. “Thanks to God, first that we have peace here in this place, no conflict, no war, no fighting. But again, the first thing that we require is treatment for my daughter. If she can’t get treatment here it would be better to just go back to Somalia.”

You’ve met Fatima because Save the Children’s child protection volunteers identified her a month and a half ago and have been conducting household visits ever since. The Child Protection program (operating now in three of the refugee camps) works to identify and register unaccompanied minors, separated children, and extremely vulnerable children to provide them with emotional support through linkages to foster families, counseling, and referrals. In Fatima’s case, Save the Children will refer her to proper outside medical treatment, funding her transport and medical bills. 

“I just want to get medicine and treatment for my leg,” Fatima told me. “Only that. Then I can go to school.” My heart sunk and my throat tightened.  But I do feel hope for her…there is definitely hope.

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