Karen’s account of the trip

I was on a flight to Frankfurt, Germany and then another to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  Others were somewhat shocked and frankly, it seemed very surreal to me.  This was a trip I had never dreamed of nor longed for but, apparently, it was my destiny.

I worried some about being recognized by the driver who would pick me up at the airport.  But, one of my friends noted that I would probably be the only white haired grandma in the airport.  I agreed this was probably true.  What a surprise to find a very “full” airport and almost all Americans!  I learned that all of these people were on some sort of volunteer mission for the Ethiopians.  Truly, I have never been prouder of my country than that moment.  The driver found me, I didn’t need to worry about that.

Four years prior, I had made an innocent query of my God, “I have lived the good life, is there nothing I can do for you?

Just months later, I was to join up  with Quilts Beyond Borders and became involved in creating about 100 quilts per year, much due to generous donations of my neighbors at Lake Cavanaugh, Gold Canyon Arizona and also famly in San  Diego.  The creation of those quilts was all by the quilters in Gold Canyon, AZ – about 2 dozen of them  Some went to Ethiopia and some went to tent city in Haiti. In all, we were always thrilled to see them go to those, in need.

So…, last December, I was asked to help deliver quilts.  I joined 3 others, whom I had never met and we met up at a guest house in Addis, spending the next week , delivering quilts and researching orphanages who might need them in the future. We visited 4 orphanages and one child care center (for 4000 children).

In all, I think we saw institutions representing around 5000 orphans.  We were  pleased to see the good care these children were getting, as well as good education.  There are 4 million orphans in Ethiopia.  If all get such good care, Ethiopia will have a bright future.

The highlight of the trip was the “quilt giving” ceremony at the Ahope orphanage.

The children 4-10 are in a facility referred to as Little Hope.  The older children, of course, reside at Big Hope.  We passed out quilts to all, and those smiles will never be erased from my mind.  These children do not own the clothes on their back, but they own their quilt and that is a true source of joy.

A group of 11 AHope children came to our guest house each night to learn hand sewing.  Eager and enthusiastic, they dived into the projects and left us scrambling for new projects the next night.  It was especially nice, to get to know them “one on one”  They are kids, just like other kids but maybe just a little vein of loneliness running through.  On the 5th night, we said goodbye, with sadness. But, we felt we had kindled a fire for sewing and we left them with all the supplies to continue on.

Into every life there is an angel and ours was Charlene, originally from Whidbey Isl.  She now lives in Addis and has become our liason.  She can find orphanages who need quilts, store quilts and dispense craft supplies to those who need.  She also loves our mission so it was great to have her rooting us on.

We went, not knowing, that AHope was an awesome orphanage, staffed by people who are not only intelligent but who really care about kids.  Big Hope’s kids were leaders and mentors for the Little Hope kids.   We didn’t measure up to all the Hope that was there, but we did wrap them in quilts; we put huge smiles on their faces and as the cold season approaches, they can snuggle in.

In Hope, Karen Vander Stoep


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