Ethiopia (MNN) — Bethany Christian Services’ President Chris Palusky recently went to Ethiopia to check on their programs and connect with Bethany’s national staff members.
“I got to see some of the programs that we’re doing to, well, first of all, help keep families together. So, fathers and mothers get more income so they don’t have to give up their kids that they can afford to raise them.”
Palusky met with several families who have been greatly impacted by Bethany’s family preservation program.
One woman was about to lose her children. She was HIV/AIDS positive and was very sick. She couldn’t feed her family or support them.
“She was literally in a ditch when some of our staff found her,” Palusky says. “It was a very desperate situation. We nursed her back to health. We got her hooked up with a church. We helped to get, basically, a job for her. We were helped to kind of turn her life around with the help of the Church.”
Now, she is able to support her family and has even taken in vulnerable children through Bethany’s foster program.
“It was like a day and night story of a woman who was literally at the edge of death. Now she’s flourishing.”
Palusky also met a man with five children who was just enrolled in Bethany’s family preservation program. Palusky visited the man’s home which was a lean-to. His only possessions were the lean-to, a coffee set, and Ethiopian birrs equal to 35 cents.
“If he was not working with Bethany, or groups like Bethany, he couldn’t keep his kids,” Palusky says. “It’s great to see that we are being the hands and feet of Christ and helping people to help themselves.”
Palusky says he is excited to see the before and after effect of how this man will thrive through the program.
“I also saw AIDS orphans that were being taken care of, but they were being adopted out in-country to churches,” Palusky says.
Bethany has established their foster-to-adopt program which is a new concept to Ethiopia.
“It has never been, let’s say, in their history to adopt children outside of their tribe or welcome outside of their family, but because of our work with churches, they’ve been able to welcome and bring children in even outside of their tribe into loving Christian families to have them part of their family, but also share the Love of Christ.”
As Ethiopia recently stopped intercountry adoptions, orphanages are growing quickly and becoming cramped. Vulnerable children, especially children with special needs or who are HIV positive, are ending up in these orphanages.
Bethany is increasing their work with churches to foster children. In fact, their foster-to-adopt program recently came first place in the Good Practice Competition.
“Through programs like what we’re doing right now, through the Church, with the Church, taking care of these vulnerable children, it really is helping to give an avenue and a home to these vulnerable children. We continue to ramp up this program. We want to even grow it more,” Palusky says.
Bethany is further increasing their refugee work as well and their foster-to-adopt program alongside it.
More than 330,000 South Sudanese people have fled to Ethiopia. Palusky says 25,000 of the refugees are unaccompanied minors. They have no support, no family to help them, and nowhere to go.
Many are going to refugee camps in southern Ethiopia.
“There’s other organizations helping out, providing water, some shelter. It’s pretty basic stuff, but one gap that we’ve seen and we’ve been told by the UN and other non-profit partners is that there’s a need to help with these unaccompanied minors, these kids that are coming across the border. They don’t have a place to go and there’s not a good care system for them,” Palusky says.
He shares it’s a desperate situation, but Bethany is excited to expand their work and help these children.
“We are now starting a programming or a partnership with United Nations to help take care of those kids, those youth to make sure that they get in a good home, that they’re cared for properly in those homes… and then also making sure they have access to services like basic education, clean food, water, and kind of the life-saving stuff.”
Pray for Bethany’s programs as they increase their efforts to help children and families in Ethiopia.
Pray also for Ethiopia as they go through a transition of leadership. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn recently resigned, surprising the nation. This could affect Bethany’s work, making it harder to receive government approval. Pray their work will go smoothly.