Happy New Year! I hope this post finds you feeling 7 years younger, as we celebrated the beginning of the year 2006 (on September 11) here in Ethiopia.
New Years Day at Grace was celebrated with lunch and a coffee ceremony at Grace Children’s Home, with the staff, volunteers and children living in full time care. These children have been orphaned, abandoned or placed in temporary care due to illness or an ill parent/guardian, so holidays celebrated together like this is very important. Traditionally, the New Year is spent with family, feasting, drinking coffee, dancing and celebrating in traditional clothes, as it is done for most Ethiopian holidays. We certainly had a lot of food, dancing and laughter from our staff and kids! This was followed by a walk to the ice-cream shop with our big kids from the home which is always a special treat!
But New Year’s Day is not the only Ethiopian holiday in September.
On September 27, Ethiopia will celebrate Meskel, known as ‘The Finding of the True Cross’. This celebration is based on a legend that says that the “true cross of Jesus Christ” was found by Queen Helena in the 4th Century. It is said that after a dream, she called the people of Jerusalem to build a large pile of wood, with frankincense added. After the bonfire was lit, the smoke led to a place where it touched the ground, and in that spot, the buried Cross of Jesus was found. Is the believed that a piece of that cross was sent to a mountain top in Ethiopia which is shaped like a cross, called Amba Geshen.
In Ethiopia, on the evening of September 26, many families will build their own bonfires (called Demera), including yellow daisies (Meskel flowers). On this same night, thousands of Orthodox people will gather at Meskel Square for a huge bonfire. Tradition says that if the rains put out the fire, then good luck is in store for the new year. As soon as Meskel is finished, the rains will end and within three days, everything will be dusty and dry again! (thank you Jerry Shannon for the explanation).
I am not so keen for the dry and dusty, but we are so looking forward to the sunshine again! Although we were blessed with a huge reduction in malaria this rainy season, and thankfully no flooding on Graceland this year, it was a tough rainy season in the day care centres. On the land, it was very cold in the buildings that had no windows. There was not enough sun to dry the clothes, and therefore not enough clothes and diapers for the children. Mumps spread through our Big Day Care over a 3 weeks period. But our staff were amazing and positive, and worked through the struggles as they came.
This week Grace Centre reached a milestone! We were able to move the last day care centre down to the land! This meant that we no longer have to rent the 4 day care buildings we were previously renting. Although the buildings on the land are not yet finished, all the staff have come together so well and got alongside the vision of Grace and what we are trying to achieve. Currently, both Small and Big Day cares are sharing the new Baby Day Care building, Baby Day Care is still situated in our new clinic building and Afterschool Care are learning in the laundry room and chapel while the kitchen windows are put in so they can move back in there. I know, a little confusing, but it works for now! Once the kitchen windows are installed, the chapel will receive windows and the children with special needs will move down from Head quarters to it. It is so exciting to see our day care centres being run in our own buildings! We look forward to the dry season and the finances coming in, to be able to commence the building of Small Day Care, followed by Big Day Care. Next week we have a team coming from Australia to build us a play ground for the children to play on!
I am anticipating an exciting year ahead in Grace, and again want to thank you so much for all that you do to enable Grace to prevent orphans, equip families to stay together, educate, medicate, and facilitate programs that will help improve the lives of the poor and destitute. Thank you very much. May this 2006 (Sep 2013- Sep 2014) be the best year yet!