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Adoption Blog: Melting Pot Family

The Power of One

Leyla, adopted from Ethiopia

This concept embodies the notion that every individual has the power to make an impact but only if they choose to do something. A favorite author I connected with recently titled her blog The Power of One Writer. I don’t have her literary skills but since I am an eternal, enthusiastic optimist the phrase spoke to me so I’ve borrowed it for this post. 

While waiting for our referral for our daughter, Leyla, adopted from Ethiopia, I read There Is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene. What I learned from that book not only made me rethink what it means to help, it became a part of our family’s story, forever connecting our hearts to a country and people halfway around the globe, a world away from our reality. 

It tells the story of one woman, Haregewoin Teferra, who became a foster mother to hundreds of impoverished Ethiopian orphans after losing her biological daughter to HIV/AIDS. I was moved to the core by Teferra's struggles to come to terms with her daughter's illness and untimely death. Teferra finds solace and a purpose by reaching out to orphans living with HIV/AIDS—what was often considered socially unacceptable—and eventually adopting one as her daughter. With limited means but a fierce determination, Teferra made a huge impact in the lives of many.

I was also touched by the author's adoption story, which is woven into the fabric of the book. As Greene chronicles Teferra's life, she meets a girl who will become her daughter. Teferra changed many children’s futures by finding them adoptive families and in the process gave her own life new meaning and purpose. Greene similarly inspired many to assist in Ethiopia and in the process gained a daughter. I found that my family's adoption journey had a similar circular component; there was giving followed by much receiving, which inspires us to give more. 

Greene and Teferra demonstrated in such a vivid manner that even in the face of the unimaginable, a single person can make an enormous difference. It is virtually impossible not to be moved by their stories. Since bringing Leyla home, I think a lot about the vulnerable children who remain in Ethiopia. I imagine one day Leyla asking me, "Mama, after you and Daddy brought me home, what did you do for the other children still living there?" I want to have an answer for her when, or if, that time comes. 

We began by sponsoring a number of children through our adoption agency WACAP's stay-in-school program in Ethiopia. Without sponsorship, these children would not be able to continue their schooling but would instead need to work to help support their families. But we wanted to do more. Recently, our family—our two (bio) sons, Dimitri, 14, and Damian, 10; my husband; and I—made a goal of fundraising $20,000 to build two school libraries in Ethiopia. Many schools there don't have libraries, and more often than not, girls like Leyla don't get the chance to attend school at all.

The outpouring from friends and family, as well as complete strangers has been amazing. In late December, we created a Cause page on Facebook, where people could easily donate small sums of money online, and now we have 143 team members (and counting) fundraising with us. Through those efforts and from soliciting other loved ones offline, we already have funding for our first "Leyla library" (as a friend termed it) and are starting to raise money for our second. We are working with Ethiopia Reads—an organization I learned about through my early research on nonprofits working in the country. We were drawn to working with Ethiopia Reads because their libraries represent a tangible way to provide hope and a better future. As a family of readers, we believe reading truly has transformative powers. Leyla is pictured here a few months after she came home getting an early taste of the family passion.

When I first learned about the immense need in Ethiopia, I was overwhelmed. I knew adopting one child wouldn't change the world. But since Leyla joined our family, I have felt compelled to do my part to have a positive impact in her birth country. Now when I feel overwhelmed, I remind myself about the power of one and find inspiration in examples like Teferra and Greene. Fundraising for these libraries and sharing these women’s inspiring stories is a small step toward honoring the amazing gift Ethiopia gave us. My sense is that this is the beginning of a lifelong "power of one" quest that I will share as it unfolds in future posts.

Has adoption changed your worldview? Has adoption made you consider getting involved where you hadn't before? Share your stories in the comments below and inspire us.

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I think what you and your family are doing is fantastic, keep up the good work!

International adoption not only gives us a family, but it also allows us a peek into the lives and cultures of people very different from ourselves, and often exposes the inequities in our standard of living compared to many parts of the world. Anyone reading this blog is comparatively rich, and wouldn’t miss what little it takes to make a huge difference in the lives of others.

By Jeff on Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 12:15 am.

Thank you for the kind words, Jeff. 

It has been an amazing journey for us.  I agree with what international adoption does to your view of the world.

We are definitely more citizens of the world because it and more aware of how much we have in comparison to so many!

By Ellenore Angelidis on Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 6:47 am.

Closing a beautiful circle, I was able to share this post with Melissa Faye Green and let her know some of the ripples of her efforts.

I recently received a note of thanks back from her which was amazingly cool!

By Ellenore Angelidis on Saturday, April 02, 2011 at 4:30 am.

Thanks so much for your feedback smile

By Ellenore Angelidis on Saturday, April 09, 2011 at 10:42 pm.

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Ellenore Angelidis

Ellenore Angelidis

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