“Am I your heart, Mommy?” Leyla inquired, her brown liquid eyes burrowing into mine. “Yes, you are my heart,” I responded. She threw her arms tightly around my neck and said, “I love you Mommy!!” Then she planted a big kiss on my lips and ran off to play. The question resonated as I am working on my first big fundraising event called “Open Hearts Big Dreams.”
Three years ago today, on my birthday, Leyla joined our family. I find myself reflecting on the passage of another year in a different way now. This amazing little person, born half way around the world into circumstances that are still difficult for me to fully comprehend, changed our lives in so many ways. She secured her place in the family with our first glimpse of her referral picture below. How much she has grown compared to a recent photo where her personality shines out of her brilliant smile.
Leyla is truly my heart (as are her brothers). She also opened my heart to her birthplace and the children who remain there. The statistics are staggering and heartbreaking. But I found Mother Teresa’s words so empowering, “If you can feed just one, then feed one.”
After Leyla had been home a year, I felt the weight of the question I could imagine my daughter asking me one day, “What did you do for the children who remained there?” Looking at her gave the desperation in her home country a face and the potential to make a difference a sense of urgency. When well meaning people ask me the “what if” question, I can’t even go there without tearing up. To think of this world without the light that emanates from her is unimaginable.
I started this blog and drew inspiration from my amazing daughter. I gained many Ethiopian connections in the last two years who gave me additional insight. Michael and I chose to support literacy so our Open Hearts (and the ones of those who support this effort) can fuel BIG DREAMS.
Before Leyla came into our lives, I had no idea of the enormity of the need:
• Less than 50% of Ethiopia’s children can go to school.
• Nearly 25% of first graders drop out of school.
• Only 36% of the population can read.
• The average adult makes less than $0.50 (US) per day.
Leyla the chubby baby is gone, replaced by a confident, sassy little girl. A friend of mine commented recently, “She is a firecracker just like her mother.” When I look into her face, I see a bright future full of promise. Her doctor has joked, “She will be a CEO one day,” because she likes giving direction. Although she lost much in the process of international adoption and we don’t take that lightly, she gained the ability to dream big dreams because for her education is a given.
I want that same ability for the girls and boys who remain in her East African country. Dreams shouldn’t depend on where you were born. My birthday wish is that everyone who reads this post gives something to help our efforts – could be as little as $2 - the equivalent to 4 days pay in Ethiopia. Just give what you can. (If you prefer to send a check, contact me.)
Open Hearts enable Big Dreams which every child deserves. Leyla is pictured with the children of the Mercado community we are supporting in this fundraiser. We are trying to make a difference one reader at a time . .. . for Leyla and for them.
"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." Frederick B. Douglass
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