Upon suggestion from someone working for AHOPE orphanage, I sent an e-mail to Melissa Fay Greene, author of the widely recognized (and loved) There Is No Me Without You.
The purpose of the e-mail was both to thank her for inspiring me and for gaining her support in my own efforts to help. Here is the e-mail I sent earlier today:
My name is Susanna and I am fifteen years old (a sophomore in high school.) I apologize in advance for the very extensive e-mail, but after reading your book There Is No Me Without You I thought I should introduce myself and explain how your book has inspired me.
Last year, my family made the big decision to adopt an infant/young toddler from Ethiopia. Our decision stemmed from wanting to expand our family (I'm a big sister already to two healthy, albeit wild, biological brothers and two sweet kitties) and, although our selfish reason was our first motive, our second was to help a child in need. As a family we took a two-week trip to Kenya in February 2005 (we're big travelers, though this was our first trip to Africa) and we have not stopped talking about it since. The whole experience was absolutely amazing and eye-opening, and it's not a stretch to say that now we're all in love with Africa. We did see the extreme need and poverty, however- we'd never seen anything quite like it- and a week doesn't go by without my thinking about how when we donated the few small items we had to give away to the Masai tribe, their gratitude and excitement could not have been more clearly shown. We were so taken by this experience that we wanted to do even more to help.
A third reason for our adoption, though considerably the lesser in comparison to the two others, is that we'd love to expand our cultural awareness. My father was born and raised in Norway, where I was also born. We visit once or twice a year and us kids are bilingual- we speak English with our Michigan-born mother and Norwegian with our Norwegian father. While in Norway visiting our relatives there, we always go other places in Europe to explore other cultures (though nothing can top Kenya, I also loved seeing Amsterdam and Prague especially.) All of this, in addition to my mom's resentment to sending my youngest brother off to full-day school the following year, led us to look into the adoption of an African baby.
Though Kenya did not have a formal program, Ethiopia did- and we followed through with the process to the stage we're at now: waiting for referral. Though we're not certain when we'll get the much-anticipated Call, it could possibly be before Christmas, which, although our heads are spinning with all the work we have to do, is very exciting. Since we're open to gender, we expect the child will be a boy, which, although I've always dreamed of a sister, will probably fit best into the current "boy mode" of our family. We feel totally ready and the only obstacle we feel that we'll have is teaching a baby, who up until that point had heard only Amharic, both English and Norwegian. Yes, we're aware of what adopting a different-raced child means, but although we're in a predominantly white community, we're prepared to take every opportunity to make our little guy aware of his culture. We also feel that our town will be very accepting. My friends don't let a day go by without expressing their excitement in our adoption.
However, although I know we're going to give this child a life full of love and opportunity, I want to help the orphans left behind in Ethiopia. Upon many, many recommendations I read your book, and was so taken by all of the stories you related, especially the ones about the HIV+ orphans. I talked to my guidance counselor at school and I've decided to start an organization called The Sweet Dreams Project. Through all of the schools in my school system, I'm going to hold drives collecting new and gently-used pajamas for the children at AHOPE orphanage, which we will bring when we go there later this year. If all goes well, I will hold one or two more drives, and send the donations with families going over there at that time. My guidance counselor also suggested that I do several presentations on Ethiopia in my school, church, and community. I'm vice president of my school's International Club, so the club, along with my friends, will make a very supportive group.
Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for writing this book. It was both heart-warming and heart-wrenching, and I couldn't put it down. After I finally had to close the book, my decision to help other orphans was solidified. I understand that there is only so much one can do in a crisis that looms high above all of us, but I think that if everyone who reads your book makes one little effort to help, we can all make a big difference. Right now, I'm just doing my part, and I hope I in turn can inspire other people to do theirs.
Thank you, also, for taking the time to read this very long e-mail. As you can probably tell, I love to write. I'm writing a journal documenting all of my adoption experiences which I, too, hope to publish someday.
P.S. I do have a blog, if you're at all interested in taking a peek. It's http://www.bigsisdiaries.blogspot.com
I hope to get a reply, though I know she probably is flooded with fan mail!