If you're anything like me you've probably never heard about the orphanages in Ethiopia-- let alone Selamta houses. Until recently, I was ignorant to many of the problems that Ethiopian orphans deal with on a daily basis. A good friend of mine was born in Ethiopia and was adopted at the age of six by an American family. Luckily, compared to many other children, she was put into a nice facility where her and her sister could be quickly adopted to a family eager to receive them. Her experience prompted her to give back to her community years later when she went back to visit her family. She shared her story with me and prompted me to learn more about the 'Selamta Family Project'.
The Selamta Family Project is an organization that "develops forever families and bright futures for orphaned children, marginalized women and families at-risk of breaking apart in Ethiopia." Selamta's website states that over four million children in Ethiopia have been orphaned by extreme poverty and AIDS in a country with no social safety net. Sadly, many children are separated from their siblings and are left to fend for themselves on the streets. Few children are lucky enough to be put in orphanages. However, even there they can routinely encounter "violence, predation or abuse." In addition to the children who live in poverty, displaced women who have lost everything to AIDS join them. Selamta is Ethiopia's solution to these problems.
Listing all the good Selamta does for these communities would take pages upon pages, but it is broken down into a few key components. Basically every "Selamta Family" consists of eight to ten children, a mother, and an 'auntie'. These children share a remarkable bond and can count on each other as support systems. Even as adults they can still come back to their homes, knowing that they will still have their siblings, with whom they share an irreplaceable bond. Unlike the usual compound nature of orphanages Selamta houses are integrated into normal neighborhoods. The children have a sense of normalcy and are kept in their own culture. This helps them integrate later in life, as well as creates a sense of community for them. In addition to all of these wonderful and unique qualities of Selamta, the children also receive excellent educational opportunities. This allows them to grow and thrive; so that when they are older they can flourish outside of their Selamta community (even though no one ages out at Selamta). Within this program the children can reach their fullest potential. No dream is too big for any child, so why does it have to be different for 'orphans'?
Hopefully by now you're wondering "How can I help with this amazing program?" There a wide range of options that you can do to be a part of making a difference for these children and women. You can donate monthly, in small increments, helping anywhere from one child to a whole family. You can volunteer stateside by event planning, online photo organizing, writing thank you's and phone banking, showing social media support, hosting local events to spread the word, or even starting a Selamta Club at your school or university. If you want a more 'hands on' experience you can even take a trip to Ethiopia! Selamta offers a team trips where the Selamta Staff can accommodate up to 11 volunteers serving for one to three weeks at a time. You will have the chance to meet and work alongside the families and staff of the Selamta community! No matter what you choose helping in any form is greatly appreciated.
If you're interesting in helping please visit http://www.selamtafamilyproject.org. Their website goes in depth to explain their mission and what you can do to get involved.