Thursday, November 5, 2015

What's in a name (A Thirst For Home)

I have read a few comments about our daughter's name and why we 'changed' it? 'Were we trying to erase her past?', one person wrote.  For a long time I didn't feel I needed to explain anything.  This was our personnel choice for our own reasons, but it keeps coming up so.....

I just wanted to put this out there.  We didn't change our daughter's name.  We love Alemitu for everything it represents and because it is beautiful just like her.  Her legal name is actually Alemitu Michael.  It is tradition for a child to take her father's name as a middle name.  This is what is written on all of her documents from Ethiopia, her American birth certificate and her passport.

She is well aware of this.  Eva is her nickname.  In no way were we attempting to erase her past.  I don't think we would have traveled back to the place of her birth three times creating a very solid connection to her mother, siblings and people from her community if that was our plan.

When I brought Eva home at the age of 2 1/2,  she didn't speak one word of English.  She was learning a new language and would eventually be attending school with a very unique story to share.  

With the new last name of Ieronimo and all of the mistaken spellings and mispronunciations she would endure, we thought shortening her first name would make her adjustment easier.  Alemitu comes with its own handful of mistaken spellings and mispronunciations.  

As for the book, it is fiction.  I took some creative liberties.  That is what writers do.  It is a made up story inspired by some real events. And my husband will tell you,  he would never wear an apron to grill!

Although I try like hell not to let it,  It hurts me so much when people question my motives without knowing anything about me or the events leading up to our adoption.  

All I can say is that I love my daughter,  I have embraced her culture,  I have worked very hard to keep a strong connection with her roots and family means everything to me. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Gimbichu 2015

Our most recent and third trip back to Ethiopia and another huge success.  What makes our projects successful is that we work directly with Binyam the clinical director (and most special friend), the clinic and our school to decide what projects are needed.  This makes them sustainable!  We have put the ownership of these projects into the hands of the people that live there.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wrap up, Gimbichu April 2015

I wanted to extend a thank you to everyone who in any way helped with our 2015 project in Gimbichu.  It was a huge success.  I don't know how everything always seems to fall into place and become seamless,  but it does.

Michael and I arrived at about 4pm Ethiopia time Saturday greeted by our dearest friend Yishak, pronounced Isaac.  It was a happy reunion.  We were then reunited with Binyam who is the director of the Gimbichu Health center and also our dear friend.  These two people are actually more like family.

So on Sunday, with three purchased hospital beds ready to travel,  over 400 baby receiving blankets, stethoscopes, a new ambu bag, pulse oximeters, dental instruments, dental care products and a large supply of women's sanitary napkins we were off to Hossana.  

Checking into the Lemma International was the next stop on our journey.  I love the tea which is very soothing.  Coffee was wonderful as always (I get the macchiato which is delicious)

We reunited with Desalegn the ambulance driver who seemed to have grown a beard!  With everything packed and off to Gimbichu,  so were we!

Arriving in Gimbichu was surreal.  It had only been two years since our last visit but it almost seemed like we never left.  We delivered everything to the clinic,  met up with the staff and met our first baby blanket recipient.  It was a boy.  The amazing thing was that they were using the generator that we purchased two years ago because they had no power at that moment.    I was happy to see the generator working well and serving its purpose!  We also saw the autoclave.  Happiness.  

Baby blankets
Our generator working hard!
Delivering the beds

Mom picking out blanket getting ready

Its a boy!!

I think the highlight of my trip was meeting the four girls we are sponsoring.  Tigst, Dinknesh, Betelehem and Genet.  They were the sweetest most polite girls I have ever met.  One of the girl's father, who is a farmer told us he was so happy and although he had nothing to give us,  he would offer us blessings.  We are truly blessed!

Another highlight was the purchase of a motorbike for the central office.  This would enable the healthcare workers to travel to areas and administer vaccinations to children who were unable to to get to their local clinic.  This was difficult to do because the vaccinations need to be transported cold and in a timely manner.  Now they can be.  As a nurse,  this makes very happy!
We were also able to purchase a television and school supplies for our school.  I was happy to see the dvd player and cds still  being used but the old tv fizzled out.  

A new television for The Gimbichu Wongel Berhan School
The Gimbichu Clinic Staff
The trip was exhausting as it always is trying to squeeze so much into so little time, but it is one of the most meaningful things I have ever been a part of.  


Buying new sheets and fleece blankets (4 sets)

We even have money left over to put toward the girls' tuition in the fall.  
Thank you for helping us be a part of the lives of these beautiful, kind and giving people.  When we would tell people that this was our 4th time,  they would always smile and say,  "you are Ethiopian".  

School supplies

Ice cream and beer on Lake Lagano to celebrate!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


and click on the link to The Gimbichu Project for more information about our 2015 campaign and my children's book:  

A Thirst For Home,  A Story of Water Across the World

Praise for 
A Thirst For Home

"This slim, sweet story will resonate particularly with children missing a previous home." —Kirkus Reviews

"Velasquez’s light-infused illustrations capture the quiet dignity of Emaye’s grief and Eva’s tentative acceptance, and perfectly complement the tender tone of the text . . . This book can be read as one of a growing number of immigration stories." —Booklist
"Beautifully illustrated oil paintings bring the words to life . . . This would be a good resource to use while doing cultural studies, especially with younger students." —Library Media Connection
"Provides an opportunity for addressing themes of poverty and resource inequity with a very young audience. The perspective is spot-on, and the presentation of Alemitu’s culture shock is realistically detailed. Velasquez’s lush full-bleed oil compositions offer photorealistic portraits of the story’s characters . . . Raises some important talking points for young listeners as well as some thoughtful reminders to appreciate easy access to food and water." —BCCB

Children's Literature - Jean Boreen
This beautifully written and illustrated book tells the story of Alemitu, a young Ethiopian girl whose life is dominated by the water, typically the lack of it, and her beloved mother. When life in Ethiopia becomes severely difficult for Alemitu’s mother she gives up Alemitu for adoption, noting to the child that “You will find out what is on the other side, but I cannot go with you.” A short time later, Alemitu is adopted by an American family who shows her a very different view of life/water. Now called Eva, the child sees herself as the combination of the two worlds and, in an especially poignant moment, looks into a large puddle and sees her mother looking back. Eva-Alemitu notes that she and her mother are simply on different sides of the Ethiopian water hole where she spent so much time as a child. The author’s note for this text provides additional information about the difficulty of life in rural Ethiopia and how we can help families like Alemitu’s through greater access to clean water and education. This is a lovely book and a great read to help younger people understand the importance of water-something they probably take for granted—as well as learn a greater appreciation for how difficult others’ lives are around the world. Reviewer: Jean Boreen, Ph.D.; Ages 5 to 10.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Gimbichu Project Montage

Our project this year is The Mother and Child Project (refer to previous entry)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Water is Life

Excerpt from  A Thirst for Home

We have walked all morning with the blazing orange sun on our backs.  Emaye (mother) tells me a story while we walk.  "Our watering hole gives us something precious", she says, "even more precious than gold.  We could live a lifetime without gold, but not a day without a drink of water.  All over the world, the clouds make the rain and the rain brings us our water.  This connects us to everyone and everywhere.  Water is life."

I couldn't care any less about diamonds or beautiful rare gemstones,  or about  fancy cars with all the bells and whistles one could hope for.  Expensive shoes don't impress me.  Money is nice, but only when you can do good things with it.

It is water that I am in complete awe of.   I am a child of water.  I am drawn to it.  I was raised by the sea.  I couldn't live anywhere else in the world but on the coast.

How ironic is it that soon after adopting my daughter from Ethiopia,  I found her drinking from a puddle in my driveway.  Was this coincidence or a sign from God?  Then to have written a children's book A Thirst For Home and soon publish through a fancy New York Publisher is a dream come true.  It is a chance to share my passion of water with children everywhere.

Water, clean water,  is something taken for granted and only appreciated when out of reach.  Eva's simple act of squatting down and drinking from that puddle four years ago changed my life and the course of it.  Sometimes I think,  'How did I get here?'.  My desire to never stop or ever give up knowing that this is a life long journey doesn't end with the release of this book.  Along the way,  I have been connected to the most amazing people,  joining forces to attain the same goals.  It all started with water.

I think of Eva's birth mother struggling everyday without the privilege of clean water among other things and it can be excruciating at times.  All of my happiness is always a little overshadowed by her struggles.  It keeps me grounded but more importantly keeps me going.  I can't wait to return to Ethiopia this fall.  I am nervous and excited.  I want so badly to bring clean water, education and accessible health care to the Hossana and surrounding area.  I may never see it, but have to keep trying.

My daughter has taught me so much and is wise beyond her years.  I love A Thirst for Home, the book she inspired me to write, and I know it will be loved by many because of its message of water, hope and love.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Beautiful Feet

True story.....Very soon after bringing Eva home I went to a baby shower.  The expectant mom must have received about 20 pairs of little shoes.  At the end of the shower they lined them up and took a picture.  One time in my life I would have smiled and ahhhhed but that day I almost cried.  I thought of my daughter who got her first pair of shoes at age 2 1/2 and her little legs and feet with the many scars and missing toenails.  This is how my life is tainted.  I see everything differently.

I remember seeing her little feet for the first time and kissing them over and over again.  I still kiss them.  They represent a world so unlike ours. To me they represent strength, courage, wisdom....

I want my daughter to never be ashamed of her feet.  They are a part of her and they are beautiful.

My Mom, who grew up poor on the lower east side of Manhattan, used to always say,  I once complained that I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet. (my Mom is very wise)  That never held as much truth as it does now!     Thanks Mom!!