Upon arrival you feel as if you've reached a tropical oasis getaway - a diamond in the rough in this grim, dusty, roughly-paved part of town. The trees gallop on each side of your land cruiser as the islanesque interior of the compound welcomes you in.
Fifteen years ago these corridors fell home to 35 orphans. They’ve since grown to be adults and are now all on their own. Working jobs, finishing university, or managing families. The side building was formerly the boys’ bedrooms but now host as classrooms for disabled children.
Each classroom is adorned with the art work made by these precious hands. There are necklaces strung from the ceiling made of wood and pieces of painted metal. Hand prints of all colors and pressed leaves carefully placed stem by stem hang by string. The classrooms remind me of Mrs. Candy's Kindergarten class. So colorful and full of a child's innocence.
The children are taught by a class-level system. A, B, C, and D by which they enter to the next by their mental development. Here in Ethiopia, the culture sees mental and physical handicap as a sign of sin. They are outcast from society and more than likely shunned by their families. On the days these children are not at the House of Mercy, they are more than likely locked inside so neighbors will not see them. These children are allowed to stay in school until they reach the age of 18. Then they are released to other programs, hopefully being taken care of or placed in simple jobs.
It is 10 am and time for tea and bread. A daily ritual looked forward to by all. During our break I watch Yebo, a small young boy with down syndrome sit away from the other children on the outside stairway. Smiling - as happy as can be, spilling his chai all over himself, dancing to the music unheard to the rest of the world.
The compound is lined with palm trees and other greenery helps keep the filth of their homes a distant memory for these few hours each day - except for the twenty days a year during the rainy season. These few weeks are a struggle for the children. They miss the companionship, teaching, and fellowship during this time - locked away by their families.
In the open-air dining hall, little babies lie everywhere. Some infants stay strapped to their mothers’ backs as these poor new moms learn to cook and care for their new babies. A free gift the House of Mercy gives to needy women of the community for a few weeks after their child is born. They are taught basic healthcare for the young babies, how to cook on a budget (since none of them have jobs and some have no other family members), and are given a stiffen of food each week for their provision.
There is one mother here with her daughter. The young girl, almost two, is called China by her neighbors for her pale skin and exotic eyes. China's mom moved to Addis Ababa from the Eastern countryside with her boyfriend. She became pregnant and even though the couple seemed to be in love, the boyfriend left mid-pregnancy, leaving the woman without a family to care for her and a broken heart. Because of this stress and heartache, she gave birth three months prematurely. China's real name is Yesabele which means God Saves. China struggles with many illnesses due to her premature birth, but her mother, with a big smile and high hopes, keeps pressing on.
I love seeing these organizations thriving. There are so many people who care for the poor. There just seems to be unfortunately too many poor to care for. House of Mercy is funded by a small church in East Germany, but I hope my words can encourage someone to help fund this great ministry. I'm hoping to return to learn more stories and see how I can help the children there because this is just a portion of what this small group of staff actually does.
For more info on how to donate: visit their site!