Clean Water, Living Water


Dogachow and Zerihun Tebebu with Charlie

October fifth 2010 Ethiopian Child will embark on a journey to Ethiopia. There Charlie will meet up with Alayu Kebede. The two will deliver clean water by introducing Sawyer Point One water filters to the people of a small, remote village. Mr. Kebede is an Ethiopian man who works for Blair Foundation to introduce the word of God to villages in his native land. He will introduce the “living” water of the gospel (John 7:38) and interpret for Charlie who will deliver and demonstrate the filters for “clean” water.

The village is near Debre Tsige, North of the capital city of Addis Ababa in the heart of the area where the Oromo people live. Three teen age boys, Zerihun, Wondeson and Dogachow Tebebu have lived there eight years with no mother or father.

It is also planned to honor the people who have helped the boys survive by sharing a traditional Ethiopian meal with them.

It is a ninety minute walk to Debre Tsige and there are times when the Jemma River valley is flooded and they are not able to cross to town. Half way to town is the dirty stream where all their drinking water comes from.

Zerihun, now nearly eighteen, has expressed a desire to open a “shop” in the village, where he can sell needed goods to people not only in the village where they live but to others in the vicinity. We will help make that happen if, when we explore the possibilities, it seems feasible.

We will also deliver story books, clothes, medicines, bandages, school supplies and visit LeaMcD Educational Services for the deaf of Ethiopia.

Successful Deaf Adoptions: Blitch Family

Happy Family

Vernon, Rebecca, Yonatan, Fetlework

“How do you fall in love with a picture?”

That is the question friend Kari Gibson asked Rebecca Blitch after she saw a picture of newborn Zoie sent via internet to the Gibsons who have now added Zoie to their “forever” family.

How indeed! After several years of searching unsuccessfully in the U. S. Vernon and rebecca  Blitch searched the internet, saw some pictures, and several months later they flew to Addis Ababa Ethiopia and “brought home” Yonatan and Fetlework.

Yonatan’s birth father had become ill and died. Widowed and unable to care for a “special needs” child  his mother reluctantly made him available for adoption. She does not regret the decision.

Unable to communicate successfully at age six, Yonatan, now eight, is popular in his second grade class and plays on a basketball team. He has many hearing and deaf friends, enjoys riding his bike and “kidding around.” He communicates well in sign language and when least expected, he will display very innovative thinking.

Fetlework, who was born in a mud hut, is ten. She is in the top of her fifth grade class, is a star basketball and soccer player, and basically excels in whatever she does.

She lived several years in an orphanage, the only deaf child among the one hundred or so hearing children.

Both children have learned basic responsibilities by helping at home.

The future is bright for these happy, well adjusted children. It is the intention of “Ethiopian Child” to chronicle more successes of the adoption of deaf children from Ethiopia. Contact charlie if you know of such a story and we will tell others.

Orphans of Debre Tsigie


Zerihun and Dogachow

The journey began at 5:30 A.M. in Addis Ababa Ethiopia. The taxi arrived and I got in. Daylight was yet to arrive in the capitol city and the streets were nearly deserted. Daniel, my interpreter for the day introduced me to the driver and seventeen year old Zerihun who I had not previously met and whose home in a remote village we were going to visit. He and his brothers have lived alone since their parents died seven years before. They are siblings of an adopted deaf sister who now lives in USA.

We drove through the Merkato, purported to be the largest open market in Africa. The darkness was palpable. It was an eerie feeling to see the paper and trash littered street empty except for a stray dog scavenging and trucks parked along the side.

At the bus “station” it was different. Hordes of people were milling about, some shouting above the din of diesel engines which were belching the exhaust smoke that created an enveloping cloud.

We were placed on one bus, then another. I could not understand what was happening but interpreter Daniel did his job well and finally the last bus we boarded lurched onto the street and began to climb out of the valley into the emerging light. Thankfully it was going in the right direction.

Two and a half hours of driving along the twisting turning mountain road we arrived at the village Debre Tsigie and went into a dingy little restaurant where Zerihun and Daniel ate breakfast. I would not eat in that place!

Our trek to the village began downhill on a lava rock strewn road that soon became a track and then, before we reached the valley floor, disappeared. For an hour and a half we walked. We skirted fields of wheat, beans and maize (corn). At times the terrain was marshy and our shoes sank into the muck.

Half way across the valley was a big two lane concrete bridge. No road, just a bridge complete with concrete rails.

I could see a person in the distance who was wearing a red coat watching us. He began to draw near and soon was following a few steps behind as we traversed the valley and climbed the steep slope towards our destination, a series of low stone walled compounds at the top of a hill. He was a boy, perhaps ten years old, a silent companion who chewed on a broken twig and smiled a shy friendly smile.

The house was a square mud hut with a tall thatched, conical roof, called a tukul. The walls had been recently re-covered with a coat of fresh mud, cow dung and straw veneer inside and out. There was a wooden door which could be locked but no windows.

The interior was cool and dark and the floor was earth, swept clean, and bumpy from protruding rocks. A fresh pile of sleeping straw was stacked in one corner and in another, perched on the low rock foundation, was a wooden box that had a closed, hinged top. A few bottles and personal items sat along the ledge and in another corner, near the door, were bags of grain and a round, broken injera basket.
Zerihun brought out some animal skins, spread them on the ledge and there we sat and talked.

As politely as I could I refused a drink of milk and explained: “I have been sick” which was true. Sometimes it is a bit of an adventure to eat the local food.

There is another “house” where cooking is done and a smaller one made only of poles placed vertically, spaced close together to protect the domestic animals from the hyenas.

I presented gifts for Zerihun and Dogachow, his twelve year old brother and Wondeson, fifteen, who was in a distant part of the country “following the harvest.” He works with a sickle, squatted down. The crop is cut by hand, dried, and threshed by walking animals round and round to separate the grain, beans or peas from the hulls, after which it is tossed into the air for the wind to blow away the chaff.

I met some neighbors though we could not converse, photographed the local children, the house and the animals.

Too soon we needed to leave. The buses wouldn’t wait.

We walked another hour and a half back to the village and located a bus which was traveling in the right direction, sat inside and said our goodbyes to Zerihun. When he turned to leave he was stifling back tears. He has been head of household since age ten. We were his first non resident visitors and I was the first farangi to have ever been there .

God Bless whoever has helped them.

To view a video click on “Orphans of Debre Tisgie” at right under the heading: “blogroll”


Yonatan and his ugly fish

Ugly fish

Finally the flying was over: the twenty four hour weather delay and the resulting ticket confusion at each stop, the chaos that is Bole Airport, and there, high atop his “new” dad’s shoulders was Yonatan, smiling and waving, a gap where his front teeth had been. His hair was so short it must have been shaved.

He is deaf, can’t talk or read lips but he could smile, and smile he did. We loaded all our baggage into the little blue taxi and, amid smiles and much conversation soon were on our way to the hotel.

Somehow, though during his six years he had been taught no language, he understood what was happening, that he had been “bought” and was going to a different place with a “new” Mom and Dad and sister, also deaf, who was at an orphanage and would soon join us.

Now, two and a half years later his ability to communicate is amazing. He has grown like the proverbial weed, plays basketball, is very strong and likes to tease.

Recently he and adopted sister Fetlework (woven gold) flew by themselves from Missouri to Florida to visit Memaw and Poppy during Christmas break.

I think, if he had remained much longer, the water in the neighborhood pool would need to be replaced because he nearly “wore it out”.  At North Captiva Island we went fishing and he caught a really ugly fish and was so proud.

Their Mom and Dad have now taken them back to their home. The house is quiet without them, a little lonely.

The next time I go to Ethiopia he wants me to take money and “buy” his brothers. Maybe some day he will understand the different between adopting and buying.

I thank God for these little African children He has allowed us to learn from.

Video of a recent visit to birth family of Yonatan.

State of Deaf Education

In Addis Ababa, the capitol city of Ethiopia, deaf high school students are “mainstreamed” at a government school. The only accommodation to them is there are interpreters who can translate the spoken word of the teachers into sign language. There are a few very gifted students who can glean enough from this method that they are able to successfully pass national exams and promote to higher education.

Those gifted students are the exception. Result? The pass rate of most is students is very low and even though they may have abilities and aptitudes that could allow them to excel in a profession, if they fail the national exam twice they can either end their education or attend a trade school.

In October 2009 Lea McD Educational Services for the Deaf of Ethiopia, a non government school, hosted a workshop to discuss issues related to deaf education with an emphasis in explaining deaf culture and how to improve the pass rate of deaf high school students with emphasis on teaching in a separate environment where teachers are deaf or at least well educated in sign language and deaf culture.

These and other principles are employed by Lea McD with great success.

The workshop was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Education as well as various schools and related organizations.

Speakers were students, teachers, and guests from the Ministry of Education, local and international organizations.

At the Workshop

Students and others


At Agohelma Orphanage in Addis Ababa she was the very best friend of Fetlework, our “favorite” adopted granddaughter who was the only deaf girl at the orphanage.
I still remember the two girls holding hands during the farewell ceremony when more than 100 children “goodbye, we love you.”
It was a magical moment, packed with emotion. Tears flowed as the children sang with feeling.

She is no longer living at Agohelma. Her illness is better cared for where she lives now, with her aunt Tsehay, a very attractive woman whose name translated means sun, and surviving sister.

I was able to contact the aunt and visit with the two of them last fall.

We met on a street corner. I suppose the aunt was too embarrassed for me see where they live. The driver took us to a little sidewalk cafe where we talked for an hour or so and I photographed them.

The street was filled with auto traffic, throngs of people were walking past, taxi horns were honking, the not so appealing aroma of burning garbage filled the air.Pedestrians and patrons of the cafe  openly  stared. attThe lady, the young girl, the taxi driver and the old white man (ferengi).

The curiosity is obvious on the faces of the passers in the background of the photo above. I wonder what they thought, but no matter.

Waizero Zeleke wore a blouse and long skirt, and her head and shoulders were covered in the traditional style which most mature women wear at such occasions as a sign of respect.

Her life story was written on her heart shaped face. It described the hardship and sadness of the troubled times she must have experienced.

Feven was dressed in a pink and white hooded sweater and pink sweat pants. They probably came from donated garments at Agoheld. She was heavier than at the ceremony, the combined effect of care by her loving aunt and financial help from the orphanage. There were scars on her smooth young face. How did they happen?

I wouldn’t ask.

We were able to communicate mostly in English with the occasional assistance from Daniel, my ever helpful driver/interpreter.

When the time came to leave, Daniel drove to a place where they could get a ride home. I gave them money for the bus and told Tsehay: “You take good care of those girls.”

“You come back. You will see.” She replied.

Feven poked her head through the open window, kissed me on the cheek and Daniel drove away.

It was hard to not cry.

A Hero Passes

A Hero Passes
Haregowin Teferra rescued orphans of Ethiopia
1946-March 17 2009

a Day at the beach
Haregowin Teferra consoles an abandoned newborn 10/08
Photo by Charlie

Haregowin Teferra was “armpit tall” (I have a photo standing next to her that proves it) but she was a giant of a human. Her “heart” was as big as all Ethiopia, (about twice the size of Texas) and there was never an orphaned child she didn’t love.
Some might say she was a little round for her height, but she was just right for snuggling a lonely, crying, frightened, abandoned child.
Sometimes there would be a loud noise at the compound gate. When the guard opened it, often there was a newborn wrapped in a blanket lying on the ground. No one else would be in sight. Or, perhaps a mother, stricken with AIDS, would hand over her child; or a policeman, or maybe a priest, would would bring a baby to her.
Although many were orphaned by the dreaded AIDS virus, for others there is no history, just a needy child.
When it is all said and done she was foster mother to 400 children, maybe more!
At Ethiopian Child we miss you Haregowin.
To learn more about Haregowin and the plight of children orphaned by AIDS in Africa go to:  There is no Me without You or:  Foster Mother.


Neal and Rebekah Neal and Rebekah Payne have been separated for two years and recently reunited in Ethiopia for a brief time.
Rebekah lives in Addis Ababa Ethiopia where she operates LeaMcD Educational Services for the Deaf of Ethiopia while Neal stays in the USA and drives a truck. He sends all the income he doesn’t need for survival to Rebekah for operation of the school.
The deaf youth are taught by deaf teachers and have a much better rate of success in passing national exams than those who only attend government schools. At the present time students receive tutoring and augment the teaching they receive from mission and government schools.
There is also employment training, employment placement and many other programs dedicated not only to deaf young people but also the “older” deaf including a deaf pastor, sign language training for families of the deaf,  and a classroom opened on Sunday where the deaf conduct their own church services.
Rebekah lives in a room at the school compound and Neal lives in the sleeper cab of his truck.
“No good deed is left unpunished”. Is an oft repeated phrase some would apply to Neal and Rebekah. They, however, subscribe to a different way of thinking. God’s Word. “Let us not be weary in well doing.” (Galations 6:8) is much more appropriate to them.
Recently there have been several unfounded legal “attacks” on LeaMcD of a very personal nature to Rebekah, the result of the necessity of removing several nonproductive, rebellious staff nearly two years ago.

For about seventeen years Ethiopia was a communist state. It is also the fourth poorest country in the world. The prevailing attitude among so many is: “White Americans and white Europeans are rich and we deserve some of their money.”

Bribes paid to judges and other government officials is an almost routine way of doing business. A few weeks ago Rebekah was hours away from a jail sentence because of this. Legal adviser Ejigu (say eh jee goo) Gabre-Michael has done a superb job of defending LeaMcD and getting the complaints removed one by one as they surface. He also has been very patient to wait for payment.

If you can, please help with this.Otherwise it will be necessary to stop paying rent on one of the two compounds which will result in the loss of classrooms and opportunity for the young deaf.
There is further financial burden due to the loss of Neal’s income while he visited, plus the travel costs incurred.

The current need to cover these issues is $6,000 U.S.

The Visit: Part Two


Mother and Child outside their tukul

Mother and Child outside their tukul near Project Mercy

While visiting Ethiopia representing Ethiopian Child, Charlie had the opportunity to visit Project Mercy.

The following is a continuation of the story about that visit.

A greeting between people in Ethiopia, especially if several people are involved, can consume a considerable amount of time. The closer the friendship, the longer the greeting.

Great emphasis is placed  on formal but very courteous greetings.  After the bowing of heads to one another often the custom of one, two, or three “kisses” from one side of the head to the other while shaking right hands is practiced and exchanges about the health and welfare of the one being greeted and his or her family are shared.

Thus began our meeting with Marta and Demeke.  We were soon good friends.

Rebekah and I explained current happenings about LeaMcD E.S.D.E. and Ethiopian Child, and were invited to visit Marta and Demeke in Butajira.

Neither of us had any knowledge of Butajira, where it is, or what transpires there and no explanation was given but I quickly agreed to go, though Rebekah could not leave her responsibilities.

I arranged to connect with Helen, a volunteer who was part of the entourage, since she would be driving to Butajira the next day. Helen and I communicated several times by telephone throughout the day. First there was a fuel shortage and a long wait at a gas station, then traffic delays.  Several hours after the agreed upon time she arrived. “Welcome to Ethiopia.” It seems almost nothing happens on time in Ethiopia.

We drove through the smelly, taxi clogged streets and bumped through the road construction at the edge of the city. Once out of Addis Ababa the asphalt road surface was good. Just past a town named Alem Gena we turned left toward our destination.

Away from the smoke, stench and dirtiness of the Cities and towns Ethiopia is incredibly beautiful. The valleys, including the Great Rift Valley, are a patchwork of different shades of green surrounded by tall mountains. Few trees are visible and there are people walking or riding donkeys or horses in what would seem the most unlikely of places, where there is no visible evidence of habitation.

Often there would be stacks of firewood, a pile of pumpkins or bags of charcoal next to the road, items for sale to those passing by, though the house or tukul where the seller lives may be out of sight.

As evening approached we got fuel in Butajira and continued on through town and turned down a dirt road that was very rough put passable. I learned Marta and Demeke were responsible for the road, such as it was, having been built years before.

Everywhere there were people walking and often we passed dilapidated garies, a type of buggy pulled by horses or donkeys but mostly donkeys.

We bounced and lurched several miles down the road and finally, just before dark, there was a sign directing the weary traveler to Project Mercy. It was, I discovered, our destination.

The compound walls were about seven feet tall and made of mortared together stone. The car squeezed through the one side of the gate opened by the guards and we were “home.”

To be continued………………………

The visit


100 Year Old Terminal Building

100 Year Old Terminal Building

 The purpose of Ethiopian Child is to aid deaf and orphaned children and youth in Ethiopia. In an effort to better understand LeaMcD Educational Services for the deaf of Ethiopia a school we had begun to support, it was decided that I, founder and president, visit and learn more about it.

Before I departed for Ethiopia in October our daughter Rebecca, mother to the two deaf Ethiopian grandchildren God has allowed us to learn from, gave me the phone number of a lady named Marta, about whom I knew very little.

Marta, I knew, is a lady from Ethiopia who was once a member of parliament and has something to do with orphaned children in Ethiopia. She had met Alisa, from Adoption Guides International, on a plane and was introduced to Daughter Rebecca by Alisa. The meeting on the plane occurred because Alisa wears an easily identifiable necklace from Ethiopia. Marta recognized the necklace and began a conversation with her.

I called the number and talked to Marta.

She informed me she was coming to visit at LeaMcD E.S.D.E. compound and meet me and Rebekah Payne, founder of the school.  

Addis Ababa is a city of perhaps five million people, 20,000 taxis, a dozen or so traffic lights, and only a few named streets.

LeaMcD E.S.D.E.  is near the historical Djibouti Ethiopia Train Station located behind Golden Lion Park where there is a large statue of a lion, another historical landmark. The only hint of trains now is a few derelict, very ancient rail cars behind a fence. The terminal building is nearly one hundred years old and still stands. It is in use by various offices and a store.

In the area in front a constant throng of people moves about. Big, noisy, smelly red and yellow diesel busses arrive, pause, discharge, reload and depart, spewing a constant stream of smoky exhaust. There is the ever present sound of loud engines and horns as the busses, tiny blue taxis and pedestrians jostle for position, nearly organic, like locusts swarming.

It was decided I would wait there at a pre arranged time to meet Marta and direct her rest of the way to LeaMcD E.S.D. compound.

There is a chained off area in front of the building that prevents the busses from getting too close.  There I waited, and waited, and waited, the only “white face” in a sea of native Ethiopian people.

Finally I saw a silver metalic SUV at the far edge and decided to walk over and inquire. It was, indeed, Marta, Demeke her husband, and others in a three car caravan, searching for me.

The delay, it seemed, was because some dignitaries had arrived at Bole airport and the road between the airport and the residence of the Prime Minister was closed for security reaasons………..Welcome to Ethiopia

To be continued………………………..