A new definition of family
Every organization claims they are different, special if you will. Each one has their mission, their impact stats and stories of lives changed based on their model of care. I was sure Selamta would impress me, but after being in the orphan care world for over 5 years now, I somewhat felt like I had seen it all.
Visiting organization after organization, they can start to look similar and honestly one can become desensitized. It's almost as if your heart begins protecting itself by slowly building up a wall. So when we arrived in Addis I'll admit that I had somewhat of a guard up.
Marisa kept telling me that we would truly understand the impact of Selamta's care when we went to dinner in the homes of the families they've helped build. I was intrigued for sure, I mean the idea of 8-10 kids living in one modest sized home with a woman who was now their mother was an incredible idea. But were the kids really bonding to this woman and to one another? Were the children truly finding healing and growth? Was this model of orphan care truly different and more impactful than surrounding orphanages...
We walked into the first house on the first night we were in country and you guys...not one kid/teenager really seemed to care we were there!!! Sure, they were polite and greeted us (sometimes) but typically they were un-phased. And let me tell you, this is the healthiest sign of ethical orphan care!
I cannot tell you how many homes/organizations we've visited and were attacked by emotionally and physically hungry children upon our arrival. You see, when a child's needs are not being met in the home they can often times form unhealthy attachments with strangers. We've seen this a lot in unhealthy orphanages. Visitors often love it as they feel special and like they are making a difference in the child's life. However, it's actually quite unhealthy and highlights a deeper problem within the child and home.
The complete normalcy of visiting a Selamta family home was hard for my brain to comprehend. Logically, I knew these children were "orphans" in the traditional sense of the word, BUT because of Selamta, they were now sons and daughters AND thriving in their roles. My mind had a hard time fully wrapping itself around this idea.
But then I began talking with some of the teenagers and they all seemed to say the same-ish thing across the board.
"My mother is everything to me."
"Without Selamta, I would be on the streets, or worse..."
Some believed they would be dead, others believed they would be in prostitution or gangs. But each one of them shared there gratitude for their family and life with ordinary simplicity. As if this were natural and how things should be. And then I realized...this is how things should be.
Children should not be on the street if their parents die or abandon them. They should not be in orphanages with neglectful caregivers, they should not be prey to predators and violence, which many of the times children in orphanages are! Orphaned and vulnerable children should be cared for and given a hope and a future!
And I realized how much my own mind needed to shift and redefine what FAMILY really means. It does not have to mean 1 mother and 1 father, while I do believe that would be best, I also believe a child deserves a family and a chance to know and receive love. It's really hard to understand your identity and walk in your fullest potential when you do not have a healthy adult pouring into your life. So my time with the families at Selamta helped reshape my view of family. It helped broaden my view of who can be a mother in the midst of tragedy.
Ultimately, my time with Selamta has inspired me to see a need in my own life and respond with an open heart, to say YES to the unusual path and open my heart to love children in need of a mom and a dad.
How as Selamta impacted your life?
With passion + thankfulness,