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!!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

An apple a day....

True story.... One day around the time Eva first came to our home,  I gave her an apple which she gladly took.  A little while later she came to me and gave me what was left,  the stem.  She had eaten the entire apple, core and seeds and the only thing that remained was the pathetic little sad looking stem.  Heartbreak.  It reminded me that she was still eating in survival mode which meant nothing ever got left.  In the first couple months with us, she would eat like it was her last meal because in her mind,  it might have been .  She never turned away one single food item making me realize that she must have been hungry for the first two years of her life, a pain that is not easily forgotten.

Now of course,  Eva is a finicky picky six year old who amazingly doesn't eat meat and loves cookies.  I smile actually because I know this means  that she has moved on and adjusted nicely.  Again the bitter sweetness of it all pains me knowing as Eva goes to bed every night with a full belly and will never know that hunger again,  her sister still does.  To see a picture of her beautiful sister recently only reminded me of this.  Even though she is a few years older, Eva has already surpassed her in size.  More heartbreak.

How can I live everyday knowing this.  It can sometimes be excruciating.  What can I do, what can I do.  In the end,  I know the best I can do is promote education for girls in Ethiopia through the building of schools and libraries.  Sadly for me and other than that,  my hands are tied.  That is why raising awareness is so important to me.  That is why I can't wait for the release of my book.  I want to stand in front of a microphone and shout to the world......Look,  look what is going on on our tiny planet.....

But again, education is the key and makes me think of the overused saying that is so popular with teachers,  and now with my own little twist goes like this,   Give a girl a fish, feed her for a day.  But teach a girl to fish and feed her and her children for life!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sunday, September 11, 2011


September 11th, 2001. It was the worst display of humanity ever witnessed, yet on that same day, we also saw the best display. I know this because my sweet Aunt Maria was in the thick of it and I will never forget the few things she told me. After being trapped in an office building six blocks away and thinking she along with her co-workers was going to die, she walked a path with thousands in solidarity through a war zone and across the Brooklyn Bridge.

On a rare occasion when she talked about that day, she never mentioned the evilness and destruction. What was most memorable was the kindness and love she was wrapped in. "Everyone was your friend and neighbor"....People helping others, lifting them over and through the rubble. Men and women at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge helping others up and over the guard rails. Taxis and boats shuttling New Yorkers over to Brooklyn or New Jersey. On that day, there was no Black, White, Hispanic, Jewish, Christian or Muslim, just fellow humans....People going above and beyond the call of duty helping strangers.

I saw hope in my Aunt's brief recollections and still get teary when I think about them. I often wonder if we were attacked by aliens, would we band together as one planet like the thousands of people who did that day in lower Manhattan??? Would we set aside our hatred and work together united by what makes us the same and not what makes us different? It sound unimaginable, but so did 9/11. I keep that hope that I have drawn from the kindness displayed on that horrific day in my heart. And although I am so very sad and angry(mostly sad), I try to let go of any hatred and retribution I might feel, because hope feels so much better.