I don't know when I first found out about AHOPE for Children in Ethiopia, but I've been going to their website for a long time.  AHOPE is an orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for children who are HIV+.  They have a nice website.  

Take a look and then come back: www.ahopeforchildren.org

I saw this nice website and I assumed (and we know what happens when we assume) that they had plenty of money, donations, and sponsors... 

On our last morning in Ethiopia we decided to visit AHOPE.  Logan, Willow and I were let out of a van under the AHOPE sign all alone.  We knocked and knocked at the gate and finally someone let us in.  We walked through and inside the walls we saw the same worn out playground, same small offices, same small living quarters we'd seen all over Ethiopia.

We waited outside, so obviously out of place, standing out in the sun with Willow strapped to me in Ergo, for the program manager to give us a tour.  He took us around the facilities.  They were nice... but no nicer, no fancier, no better than the likes of the other orphanages we visited.  And the "pharmacy" shelves were bare except for a few small and carefully labeled shelves with each child's ARV medication.  

Every day we've ever spent in Ethiopia we have had moments that were unbelievable.  Moments when I can't believe that I'm actually seeing what I'm seeing.  And after two trip I can say that standing inside this orphanage, looking at the shelves of ARV medication, that was one of the bigger moments.  

It's one thing to hear about "AIDS orphans in Africa" on television, to read about them on a blog, or watch youtube videos about them, like I've done over and over.  But to stand in their presence, to see their little names printed on the bottles of medication that are saving their lives.  Saving their lives, while children like them are still dying on the street in Ethiopia.  Standing there and seeing that with my own eyes... if only I had the words to tell you how that felt.

The program manager left us alone in the Salon, like a living room, to meet some of the children.  They were healthy and happy and friendly.  We were talked to, climbed on, slobbered on, whispered to, held hands, gave hugs and played.  Every single child had HIV and there was absolutely nothing that separated them from being normal, happy, healthy children and zero risk to us, as HIV is not transmitted by casual contact.  

Until 2005, AHOPE was just a hospice for children dying from AIDS.  Now, with ARVs the children are living, growing and even aging out of AHOPE.  They've had to create a transition home for the young adults to transition to independence.  You can read more about the history of AHOPE, it's future, and current HIV/AIDS statistics here.  

Back home, before taking this trip, I had assumed they had a pretty steady flow of American money coming into AHOPE.  I thought, surely they didn't need my help.  So when we've brought or sent donations to Ethiopia in the past, we haven't sent a thing to AHOPE.

But I was wrong.  They need our money and our donations as badly as anyone else.  We did have some crib mobiles and crib toys with us and we left those there.  But I would love to encourage any family traveling soon to bring them donations.  Here is an up-to-date list of their current needs: http://www.ahopeforchildren.org/2012_supplies/

The AHOPE website lists a whole bunch of ways for literally anyone, anywhere to give them support.  Check out the list to see if there is something you can do: http://www.ahopeforchildren.org/how-you-can-help/

Here are some of our photos from that day.  Out of respect, we did not photograph any of the children.

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