I’m Selfish. And I’m Not.

When we first started the adoption process, I had no thoughts about the “orphan crisis.” I just wanted some more kids. (Actually, at the time, I just want ANOTHER kid, but that’s another story.) I wanted a larger family. I liked being a mom, and I wanted the chance to do it some more. It was all about me and what I wanted. I wasn’t aware that there are 147 million orphans around the world or that 5 million of them are in Ethiopia. I just wanted more kids. So there you have it…I’m selfish.

Since then, though, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve opened my eyes to the world outside of the sheltered view of life that is presented to us by the media. I’ve learned that around the world there are children living in poverty. There are parents who desperately love their children, but are forced to give them up because they can’t feed them. There are children who die every day because they didn’t get a vaccination or medication that we buy on a drug-store shelf.
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So what am I going to do about it?

I don’t know.

Since we came back from Ethiopia, I have known that I need to do something. (No, this is not the part where I announce we’re adopting more kids. Adoption is not the solution to this problem.) I want to make a difference. I want to help those kids, those families. But I’m stuck. I don’t know how. The need is overwhelming, and frankly, there are too many choices. I have considered them all. Yes, we could sponsor a child. That would help one family. Yes, we could raise money to build a well. That would help one village. We could donate to a school, to a group supporting girls, to a hospital, to a medical mission, to a library, to an orphanage, to a group that rescues unwanted children. We could sell necklaces or buy a pair of TOMS. Those things would all help. But it doesn’t feel like enough. It doesn’t feel like I’m doing my part as a world citizen.

So maybe I’m not so selfish anymore. I’m looking for suggestions. What have you done since coming home with your kids to help support their birth country? What would you do if you could do anything? What organizations are REALLY making a difference? And, if you know of anyone who works for an NGO active in Ethiopia who needs a part-time, telecommuting worker, I’m open to going back to work.

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13 responses

  1. Unless we are a Bill and Melinda Gates or a Bill and Hillary Clinton, our contribution is going to be small. But isn’t saving even ONE life a huge accomplishment? (And I’m with you; adoption is NOT the answer, and I also adopted for selfish reasons). I go by this maxim: “He who saves one life saves the entire world.” (translated from the Talmud.) If each and every one of who is capable does our piece, then we will save the world. I used to be in charge of pledge drives for public TV and radio and we would start our campaigns with seemingly impossible goals: $100,000 for radio for instance. And we knew there was not going to be one person who would call up and give us a credit card number for $100,000, but by the end of the week we would have reached our goal one contribution at at time. Some large gifts, many small gifts. But they add up. You can’t be intimidated by the size of the problem. Do the part you can do. (that was one of my favorite lines when on-air — “What part of $xx can you do?”) So what part of this problem can you solve? What I have done to date is to sponsor one girl, which is helping her entire family, which, as I understand it, helps the entire village. And I regularly contribute to water.org, where $25 provides clean water for one person for life. That feels powerful. Eventually I would like to do more, but right now I’m limited. I did submit a “reward your passion” grant request through work to try to get a $500 contribution toward a hospital being built, but it was rejected, probably because they don’t really consider raising an adopted child to be “volunteer work.” (Yeah, YOU all try it!) And as a fundraiser with a proven record of success, I too am open to tele-commuting work in support of changing the world. :o)

  2. I don’t have anything helpful to say. I had my organizations that I contributed to regularly before we adopted, and I continue to contribute regularly. They are not focused on Ethiopia: IRC, Doctors Without Borders, Partners in Health, Unicef and domestically, Planned Parenthood.

  3. Great post! We feel the same way. One of my close girlfriends works for water.org and has for years. She’s traveled to see their works in Ethiopia and Bangladesh; we donate to them. We also donate to Partners in Health (LOVE Paul Farmer) and Nothing but Nets. My parents donated to WHFC and their efforts to build a hospital in Sidama. We plan on sponsoring a child… but like you said, it never feels like enough.

    On another note, I am intrigued by WHFC’s efforts to help families maintain contact with birth families…

    • I’m reading a book about Paul Farmer right now. I think that’s what is making me feel like I’m not doing enough. Those darn do-gooders who dedicate their life to this stuff always make me feel inferior.

  4. I resonate strongly with your post and your desire to do MORE. Yes, Partners in Health is doing great work, and many other organizations. Yes, being able to give like the Gates family does would be amazing. Remember that each time we do anything, including in our own communities we ARE making a difference. If we raise awareness with our own kids, our friends and neighbors, then we are making a difference. We make a difference with the ways we choose to spend our time and money. I know this doesn’t help your desire to do more. Clean water, access to family planning, adequate health care/nutrition/housing…the list is overwhelming. Look up the blog Never Seconds and read about Martha Payne (age 10) and what she has done with her blog about her school lunch. She built a kitchen in Malawi with help from her blog readers…

  5. We’re moving to Sierra Leone, Africa to restructure an orphanage. Boom.

    Wanna help? 🙂

    My kid’s from Bulgaria, but Sierra Leone held the same abandonment stories, the same heartbreak, and the same hopelessness. We don’t currently do anything about the orphan situation in Bulgaria because our contacts there are limited. We’re teaching Nasko the importance of helping other orphans – just not ones who look like him.

  6. I have the same struggles you do, in terms of figuring out how I can do my part to make a difference. We are going to sponsor a child in Ethiopia (just last week I was looking at various options/avenues for doing so) with the thought that we’d like to help one family stay together, since our daughter did not have that option. I have supported the Fistula Foundation for a few years now; I donate enough each year to help one woman have a fistula repair. And I have made small donations to a variety of organizations/causes that I hear of through my AP friends: Ethiopia Reads, Mudula Water, etc. But none of it seems to be enough.

  7. Because Every Mother Matters is another good one — and Soles for Souls. And I saw a quote yesterday that reminded me of your posting…something along the lines of “it’s a mistake to do nothing just because you can’t do everything.” I agree — Paul Farmer — wow. And Jane Goodall. And Rick Hodes. These people who have made changing the world their lives’ work. I do feel inadequate next to them. But it might have been Jane Goodall who is responsible for the quote above. Every small change has a ripple effect. Who knows who will read your blog and feel inspired to step out of their complacency?

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