The Hope Academy

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“There are places I remember,

all my life,

though some have changed,

some forever not for better.

Some have gone and some remain.

All these places have their moments.

With lovers and friends.

I still can recall.

Some are dead and some are living.

In my life, I’ve loved them all…”

We all have places that we return to. Places that restore our spirit or rejuvenate our soul. The most meaningful locations can change our perspectives and are magically nostalgic. Often times, these places are difficult to return to, as the emotions they trigger challenge our comfortability. But when we return we are uplifted, as we break free from our comfort zones and embrace the emotions and epiphanies. We ask ourselves why it took us so long to get back.

These places are not limited to locations, although they often are. For me, it can be a return to the canvas, or my backyard. A place like Sedona where I re-connected with my grandma, and myself.

Ethiopia is the perfect example. When I came here I knew I’d leave all luxuries behind. I think my tailbone may never recover from the numerous 10 hour bus rides, where 60 people are crammed into 35 seats. It is emotionally unsettling as well. The poverty, the desperation, the beauty, the contrasts from my other life kick my mind into overdrive. But Ethiopia renews me, and reminds me of what really is important. It is medicine for the soul.

Within Ethiopia, there is another place. The Hope Academy. Mike and I come here often, but not often enough. It is a quaint, two room kindergarten, built from mud and sticks and filled with the cutest miniature desks and chairs. Mike teaches the kids here every Monday.

When we arrive, the love from the kids is infectious. As we climb up the stairs past the corrugated tin roof, the chants begin. Michael! Michael! Carly, Carly, Carly! They run up to me and kiss my hand. I bend down and look into their eyes and they kiss my cheek. This kind of love is so addicting.

I wanted to return some of this love. My own nostalgia from childhood craft days and field days gave me some ideas. After some serious thought, we decided on a Friday was outdoor craft day. We raided the local market and hardware store for supplies, and ended up with materials for makeshift tie-dye, homemade bamboo bird feeders, and a downloaded version of the Macarena.

We had so much fun! The kids giggled furiously during the butt shake section of the Macarena. The tie-dye came out great, and Mike’s bird feeders were a real hit. We glued sticks to bamboo, covered them in peanut butter and then rolled them in roasted oats. It was a great day.

There is a saying in Amharic that children are the spice of life. And certainly they are. A place like The Hope Academy does wonders for the heart and the mind. It is so small, run down and seemingly depressing. But it is full of beautiful children that are so ready to laugh, so bursting with love, and so eager to learn. It reminds me of another reason we return to our most precious places.

Hope.

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