7 Girls at Layla House

It was a bittersweet day at the Layla House orphanage (where Mekonen was) as 7 girls aged out of the orphanage (including those girls who I posted about previously). This is a first for our agency - to promise families to children in care and they weren't able to find any. It's been called bittersweet because AAI has been able to place the girls in a boarding school where they can finish their education and hopefully learn a vocation for life in Ethiopia, which is good! However, they have lost the dream of a new forever family, to have parents again, the stability and love that a family brings, and a lifetime family connection. Without AAI getting them into boarding school some would be returning to relatives who cannot provide an adequate life for them (hence their arrival at the orphanage). They will be able to visit these family members on breaks from school.

I read the update from our agency and I sat at the computer and cried. Here is a picture our agency posted on their blog of the girls leaving Layla. I met 5 of the seven girls. I was extremely saddened and surprised to see Mekdes (2nd from the right). She was waiting for a family when we picked up Mekonen, along with her little brother. She followed me everywhere. Talked to me. Sought me out every time I stepped foot at Layla. She loved carrying Mekonen around. She kept introducing me to her brother. Her brother whom she has to leave behind.
Here's what our agency wrote about these girls and their situation: 
"As we spent quite a few hours gathering supplies, shopping, and finally packing up the 7 girls, the emotions started running high. Reality came in a huge gust and tears were shed as they (and we) contemplated their new journey. Bittersweet to say the least, the 7 beautiful girls we were preparing to send off to L’esperance School in Akaki (about 40 minutes outside of Addis Ababa) had mixed emotions. Excited to have the opportunity to excel and finish school instead of going back to families or relatives with little to no chance of furthering their educations, all 7 of the girls braced themselves for the next chapter of their lives together. In a way, I guess it’s better that there are quite a few of them to support each other. All of them are close and have grown up, so to speak, in the same household as family for a couple of years of their lives.  Three of the girls leave brothers at Layla House still eligible for adoption and that too, added to the sadness of the moment. 

 At Layla, these girls were living a great life (friends, staff and kids that become like family, a clean and sanitary living area, and the comforts of so many things that kids their age and situation lack) and at L’esperance they are required to behave a certain way and take care of themselves like the young adults they now are. It’s going to be a huge change for them but I know that there is a lot of faith for their success and many people praying and continuously supporting them. We can’t thank everyone enough. So for now, keep them in your thoughts and wish them luck on their new endeavor."

Phew. That's hard. They're only young teens. This is not like going away to college. Worst of all, some are separated from siblings, and possibly permanently if their siblings end up adopted. We are told Ethiopia does not separate siblings, but I guess in the case where one child is eligible and the other is not, it must be a different scenario. I keep thinking of myself at 14 and 15. Are you serious? No family? No stability? Separated from my only siblings? Essentially on my own? Whoa. 
I spoke with our agency several weeks ago on the phone about these girls and what has led to this situation, what can be done, etc. They said that the panic of finding homes for children about to age out of the orphanage happens because of the forgotten age range of 9-12 year olds. She said when adopting older children most people are requesting children ages 4-8. Typically, the 9-12 year old age range gets "overlooked" and before you know it, they are the 14-15 age range with no families. Many of these kids spend years at Layla waiting for a family. She was saying they need more awareness brought to the children in the 9-12 year range to prevent them from becoming the aging out kids of 14-15. So... would you really consider bringing a 9-12 year old into your family?

I deal with situations in my heart like this, by continually reminding myself that God is completely powerful enough to intervene in the lives of this girls in a personal way. I am praying that God brings someone into their lives who knows Jesus- someone who can introduce them to the greatest security and love they will ever know.

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