Sunday, June 22, 2008


While in Ethiopia we spent several days teaching children at the House of Hope, ages 2-7. This was a bit of a surprise assignment, but we were more than thrilled to take it on!

When we walked into the classroom we were greeted by twelve children beaming at us with some of the biggest brightest eyes I have ever seen! Our hearts were instantly captured. On the first day, we had another teacher with us in order to translate. She introduced us and then each of the kids took turns saying, "Hello my name is ____. How are you?" It was so cute! Some of them had this English phrase down pat, but others required more time and great concentration.

Thankfully, Jon is a kid magnet and I have some experience teaching kids, but not enough that I have a memory bank full of lesson plans to draw on! The first day we were given a few suggestions by the other teacher, but the rest of the days we were on our own. The language barrier was a bit challenging at first, but we benefited from this in the long run as it forced us to learn some basic Amharic very quickly! It really didn't take long to establish a basic routine- our primary goal was to teach them English since all of these children will be adopted by families in the US. Each day we went over English vocab including- the ABCs, counting,colors, animals, and body parts. We also taught them a few songs that were repeated each day. Head, shoulders, knees and toes was a hit! However, since there was such a wide age range- activities were split between the beginning and end of class time and the middle section of class pretty much turned into to a Montessori approach.

During this time, we let each of the kids pick an activity to work on. Some picked coloring,others picked writing or counting workbooks, and a few of the youngest enjoyed story time. As each child worked on their assignment of preference we were impressed by their diligence and eagerness to learn.

All of the kids were nothing less than absolutely adorable! We could tell you stories about each of them. But for now, just one short story......

The first day we were told that one of the little girls didn’t speak. During class time she was attentive, but mostly kept to herself. Each
day she became more and more engaged with us and others. She adored being read to- and would giggle and smile continuously throughout each story as she sat on our laps. After a few days, we were delighted to hear beginning to talk!

Of course, we don’t know much about her circumstances before coming to the House of Hope. However, it is likely that
her mute behavior could’ve been a result of trauma. For young kids, this doesn't even have to mean witnessing something horrendous. Any time children are separated from their primary caretaker- which may be due to death, poverty, or abandonment, this constitutes trauma in and of itself. It is common to see kids who have been through trauma demonstrate a developmental regression of some sort. Often times these children are able to catch up and recover their abilities after receiving specialized attention and adequate care that ensures a safe environment. So-it was so encouraging to see how well cared for the kids were at the House of Hope -it was also amazing to witness a child's transformation and maybe have played a small role in it!

* Photos of the children weren't allowed- sorry! You'll just have to trust us that they were cute as a button!*

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