Monday, January 25, 2010

An AGCI Ethiopia Update

So often we are asked about our adoption agency, and I find I cannot say enough good things about them. I also cannot say enough wonderful things about the families that are adopting through our agency. I thought I would share here a recent update about the thriving Ethiopia program. The number of families adopting is certainly growing and that is excellent news. It is great fun to hear about new paperwork, referrals, upcoming court dates and families who are on their way to pick up their sweet babes. Now that we have come this far in the process we are always so eager to encourage other families to consider adoption. So take a look at these numbers. They are looking good...

Family and Referral Update

  • Families Home: 9 families have returned home with their children from Ethiopia since our last update
  • Waiting for Travel: 6 families are in Ethiopia this week and 14 families are currently awaiting travel or in the court process
  • Referrals: 1 infant girl, 1 infant boy, 2 toddler boys, and 2 toddler girls
  • Waiting for Girl Referrals: 49 families waiting for a referral of a girl
  • Waiting for Boy Referrals: 32 families waiting for a referral of a boy
  • Waiting for Sibling Referrals: 18 families waiting for a sibling referral
  • Families Working on Dossier: 64 families working on their dossiers
  • New Families: 4 families new to the program. Welcome!

Our Big Vaccination Day

We made it through six injections each and lived to tell. Honestly people it was no that bad. Now we had heard horror stories about grown men crying with the yellow fever shot. Not the case for Bob and I am still on the fence about the yellow fever since it does have some side effects and I am the queen of getting anything a drug might potentially cause. Our nurse made the morning far less stressful than we expected and frankly the hardest part was waiting for her to draw up all the syringes. I will say it was a bit frightening to review all that Ethiopia struggles with in terms of diseases. Of course we will be in one area and we will not be traveling remotely. All I could think of were the many brave souls now in Haiti who are working with no sanitation and no supplies. They must be serving each day in fear of things such as typhoid and Hep A and B. Our nurse explained that many who left quickly for Haiti were not able to be vaccinated properly first. Such a selfless thing to do- serving the hungry, the lost, the injured and the dying in Haiti. I am amazed by the heros who do so. They inspire me to do greater things with my time and my life. We are one step closer to our daughter and my heart is with those tonight who are being stirred by the call to adopt. May they see that even busy families with full lives can make room for one more. We can find the time to get to the shots and complete the many hours of paperwork. One more thing to check off our list!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Haunted by the Horrors in Haiti

I am glued to these pictures and the constant updates on the CNN Anderson Cooper site. I do think he is asking the right questions about why it is so hard to get the aid where it needs to be. It appears that one main problem is that of available doctors and it is imperative that we continue to ask such questions. Where are the medical teams? There are no easy answers but it is tough to just turn off the news and go about our comfortable days.

In our neighborhood and among friends we have been raising funds simply by collecting change. We have a large box on our porch and the generosity has been wonderful. Many families are leaving notes commenting that including the children in the donations has provided perfect teachable moments for our so very fortunate children.

It is the orphans that haunt me. I just wish I could fly in and scoop them up and bring them to a place of safety, clean water, formula and love. They are the most helpless of all the victims and so many Haitian orphans do not even exist at this point due to loss of paperwork in the demolished government buildings. There are no words to summarize the pain and suffering both physical and mental that all those in Haiti are feeling right now. The problems seem almost insurmountable. Pray for the orphans. Pray for the tireless volunteers, pray for those still trapped in the rubble and pray for the Haitian government to do the right thing by their hurting people.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Advocate for Haiti's orphans

CNN) -- Foreign governments should urgently accept Haitian orphans on humanitarian grounds following this week's devastating earthquake, an orphanage director in Haiti and adoptive parents said Friday.
Emergency visas and passports could help push through adoptions that were stalled after the quake, and would open up beds for children who lost their parents in the disaster, said Dixie Bickel, director of God's Littlest Angels orphanage just outside Port-au-Prince.
Paperwork for adoptions that were under way when the earthquake hit Tuesday night may now be buried in the rubble of collapsed buildings and lost, said Bickel, whose orphanage cares for 152 children, including 84 babies.
The government officials who deal with adoption cases may be missing, hurt, or otherwise focused on the disaster, which means the adoptions won't go through, she said.
"I would like to see the international community come up with a plan for the children that have been adopted by European, Canadian, and American citizens of how these children can go to their adoptive parents' countries, either under refugee status or emergency status of some sort," Bickel told CNN.
God's Littlest Angels is considered one of Haiti's larger orphanages. Parents who have adopted children through the orphanage are also pressing their governments for emergency action.
"The orphans need to be granted refugee status and allowed to come home to their adoptive parents," said Allison Garwood of Los Angeles, California, who adopted a boy from GLA and brought him home last year. "The U.S. needs to not only allow but demand that children be sent to their adoptive families right away."
Video: Child trafficking in disasters Video: Couple adopts Haitian child
British citizen Chris Skelton, who arrived in Haiti hours before the earthquake hit to sign paperwork as part of the adoption process, wrote a public letter urging foreign help.
"I cannot express the sheer magnitude of the plight that the children of this country have faced, one which will now spiral downwards further with devastating results," Skelton wrote in the letter. "The situation is dire -- there will be many more children in need of help, and GLA and other orphanages cannot cope with the increased need."
The foreign ministries of Britain, Belgium, and France said they could not immediately respond, but Luxembourg's Foreign Ministry said it was aware of the issue.
"The Luxembourg authorities are informed of the situation of Miss Bickel and the children at the orphanage God's Littlest Angels, and our authorities are in touch with the Red Cross and the local authorities to solve the issue," spokesman Robert Steinmetz told CNN.
Bickel said her request is only for those children who have been adopted but who are still in Haiti as their cases go through a lengthy government approval process which can take anywhere from six months to two years.
The children's paperwork may have been in the pipeline but after the quake, the status is now unclear, Bickel said.
"Some of my papers were in the Palace of Justice -- that building is no longer there," she said. "Some of my paperwork was in the Ministry of the Interior -- I don't know if that building is there. I had passports being printed (for the children). I don't know if the paperwork is still there."
Bickel said her lawyer told her the country's top adoptions official, Judge Rock Cadet, was killed when the courthouse collapsed.
As long as the adopted children can make it out of the country, Bickel said, the orphanage can ensure the children's paperwork is completed in Haiti. If the children can't leave the country, it will mean orphanages like Bickel's must turn away any children newly orphaned by the earthquake, she said.
"It leaves me with children in my care who are going to sit here for an additional five, six months at least," she said.
"It's going to prevent me from taking in any children that were affected by this disaster. My beds are full. I can't take any children in, not unless I put them on the floor or I put two or three children to a bed."

Fwd: Latest from Haiti

Begin forwarded message:

From: "Caryl Stern, UNICEF USA" <>
Date: January 15, 2010 11:47:59 AM EST
Subject: Latest from Haiti
Reply-To: "Caryl Stern, UNICEF USA" <>

U.S. Fund for UNICEF
Whatever it takes to save a childDonate Now

Take Action

Please help – 100% of your gift will go directly to help children in Haiti.

Donate Now!

Dear Melanie,

Words fail: up to two million children are at risk in Haiti right now.

Separated from their families. Trapped under rubble. Countless newly orphaned. Desperate.

Every moment matters: donate NOW and 100% of every dollar to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF will go directly to fund child-saving relief efforts in Haiti.

We can save these children. I say this because I've seen your generosity and I've seen UNICEF's response. Less than 48 hours ago, UNICEF delivered to Port-au-Prince:

  • 10,000 tarpaulins
  • 4,600 water containers
  • 5.5 million water purification tablets
  • 556,000 oral rehydration sachets

These supplies are bringing critical relief to up to 10,000 families. An additional 20,000 families will receive similar supplies momentarily. But it's not enough andthese two million children are relying completely on international relief.

Please give now: every gift will save a life, and 100% of your donation will go directly to UNICEF to support relief efforts.

Children in Haiti have nowhere to go. No homes, no hospitals, no government aid centers. There is literally nothing beyond what you and I and the rest of the relief community can provide.

Yes, delivering relief into the country has been exceedingly difficult. Yes, logistics and communications have taken time.

But this means nothing in the face of these children who need us. We will do whatever it takes to save these children, no matter how difficult, how seemingly impossible.

Please, help us save more lives.

With humility,

Caryl M. Stern

        Donate Now

Caryl M. Stern
President and CEO
U.S. Fund for UNICEF

P.S. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF is absorbing all administrative fees associated with handling your donation, so that you can be confident 100% of every dollar you give will go directly to relief efforts.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Our Village

Throughout my life I've been given great courage. Courage to stand before others and ask for help. It is never all that easy as we think we can carry the load and solve what lies ahead all on our own. This courage has been God's nudge in teaching me that there is only good that comes from trusting in and relying on others. After all we all seek to be needed. So often I stand in awe of the many little angels who surround and nurture me and my family. It is my village, my people, my community. In a busy world of sometimes running around to try and “fit it all in” I am so amazed to be a part of a community that will do what it takes to help another. All the random acts of kindness that have been shown me this week always help to strengthen my excitment to give what we can away to another. We can all make a difference one phone call, one smile, one email, one act at a time in the life of another. My strong community makes my life so rich and since I so often have our adoption on my brain a connection was made for me...

You see It is this village, this community that I have always thought of and dreamed about when I envision bringing our little Ethiopian daughter home. I cannot wait for not only our family to know and provide for her but I am also excited for her to become a part of our extended worlds. She will get to know those we have been blessed to call friends. She will come to know you. Perhaps her story will even inspire another heart that has dreamed of adoption or a mission trip to Ethiopia. She will be schooled and loved, carpooled from here and there, she will be fed and nurtured by us and by Grandparents and friends. She will play with other children and have opportunities to learn and create new adventures. She will become a member of this wonderful community we feel blessed to be a part of. She will have a place and a family to call her own and to call home.

All of you are what make up our extended home. Having a minor surgery this week served to me as a great reminder that friends and family are one of God's greatest gifts. So thank you all for the warm bread, the rides for my kiddos, the phone calls, the emails, the texts, the flowers, the conversations, the meals and so much more. It all means the world to me and someday soon it will mean the world to our new Strobel daughter.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Counting Down

Back on September 15, 2009 we officially entered the girl's wait list with the number 44. That is where it all began. That number has been dropping rather quickly and we are happy to report that we are now number 17 on the girl's list. It took four months to get to number 17 so we are hopeful that we are approximately four months from our referral. That means we will get to see the sweet face of the daughter and sister intended for our home. We believe she has already been born and it is a strange feeling to feel that somewhere in a land I have never visited on a continent I long to someday explore, in a village that I am sure looks nothing like Ada, MI, in a house we hope exists at all is a mother who is doing what she can to keep baby S thriving. This birthmother will soon be faced with making the most courageous choice. She will choose to relinquish her child into the arms of another knowing that she has been stricken with HIV or has too many mouths to feed or has no income or perhaps has no shelter or food to call her own. She has given life to a daughter and she will give her life once again by allowing us to become her forever parents. From number 44 to number 37 to number 21 and now to number 17. Life is truly so good!

a new year with a new challenge...

We are ten days into the new year and this week has presented it's share of challenges. I had a minor ankle surgery on the 6th which did not exactly go as planned. I guess that comment is a bit humorous because things generally never go as planned when it comes to health stuff and me. UGH! So I had the surgery on Wednesday and I was told I would be in a walking boot and should be just fine to walk and drive in a few days. Fat chance! Today is Sunday and I am ever grateful for the gorgeous view out of my bedroom window since lying her is all I have been able to accomplish! I'm wearing a walking cast for 1-2 weeks and all would be fine except last night I pulled something crazy in my lower back and now I am fighting with that pain too. Ahh the joy of aging!

What I am trying to do is see the bright side. I have caught up on email and some blogging. I have a recent photo session nearly edited, I have spent great couch time with my children and we even managed a bit of piano and reading practice. I have read several chapters in a new book and had time to do a bit of writing. This giant black boot and achey back should be considered a gift but let's get real. I need to be on the move, cleaning something or driving someone somewhere or perhaps I should be out shopping for this week's meals. It is a challenge to give up what we think we do best. It is a challenge to let Bob do it all. I feel badly and wish for him to have a few minutes of down time to himself. Thanks to all who have helped out over the past few days. Such generosity is amazing! Now I just have to get it all straight in my head and realize that I do not have the control and like Bob keeps reminding me... "This too shall soon pass!"

Into Our Arms Forever!

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welcome home ava! from melanie Strobel on Vimeo.

Meeting Ava during our first trip to Ethiopia

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Meeting Ava Ethiopia Trip July 2010 from melanie Strobel on Vimeo.

Korah- Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

During our recent visit to Ethiopia I felt very called to the village of Korah in Addis Ababa Ethiopia. There have been numerous rumblings lately about the tremendous need to help the children of Korah who are growing up in and around the local trash dump. The village was established 75 years ago as a place to send people with leprosy who were said to be cursed. Now there is a 3rd generation of people living in Korah with nearly 100,000 suffering from such things as leprosy, HIV, misc disease and of course malnutrition. There are many children of Korah who have been forced to live and work at the trash dump in hopes of finding food and possible items to sell in Korah's center of town. With the start of the Great Hope Church in Korah and the building of a shelter, along with the ministry of local Sammy Liben and Sumer Yates, there is now a feeding program and a sponsorship program in place to rescue the forgotten children of Korah and send them to boarding school where they can escape the horror of the conditions of living and working in a large trash dump. For more information please visit: or where you can learn more about how you or your organization can help the people and the children of Korah. Please send me a message or email Erin Allen at to request sponsorship information. I will soon be posting the photos of my day recently spent in Korah. I must tell you it was life changing and beyond anything I have ever done to stretch, change and rearrange myself. God helped me to help the people who I met. Much of what I could offer was nothing more than the snap of my camera or a warm touch or an inviting smile. The needs in Korah are beyond our wildest imagination yet God is over Korah and there is already amazing work being done. I invite you to view the following videos to learn more about the beauty and the needs of Korah's people.


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Hannah's Hope Orphanage- Ethiopia

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