Spotlight on a Member
by Brianna Chenevey
How do you define a life changing experience? For some, it might mean climbing Mount Everest, meeting an inspirational author, or making a decision to move abroad. For Resource Specialist, Kayla Tran, it was an eye-opening experience that changed her life. Last December, Kayla fulfilled one of her lifelong dreams and traveled to Ethiopia, where she provided loving care and support to Ethiopian orphans.
About a year ago, Ethiopia banned all international adoptions, fearing that children end up facing abuse and neglect abroad. As a result, there are now thousands of orphans and vulnerable children who can no longer be adopted. In fact, Ethiopia has one of the largest populations of orphans in the world. Additionally, children in Ethiopia under the age of 15 are profoundly affected by HIV/AIDS. Fortunately, there is a non-profit charity known as AHOPE for Children that assists in providing a home for children from infancy through 24 years of age.
After discovering AHOPE and all they do to help support and care for orphans, Kayla felt inspired to travel to Ethiopia. She packed her bags full of children’s toys, clothes, and school supplies. During her visit, Kayla met children not only affected by HIV/AIDS, but also those with disabilities, chronic health conditions, and even medical issues that were unidentified due to the country’s lack of resources. One child that particularly stole Kayla’s heart was a 2-year-old boy named Fik’iri. His parents had recently passed away, and Fik’iri had just begun adjusting to life in an orphanage. Nonetheless, he had the brightest smile that would simply light up the room. Kayla now sponsors Fik’iri, which will not only make a lasting difference in his future, but will allow her to remain personally connected with him.
Kayla could create a list of characteristics that make Ethiopia special, but one specific quality that she appreciated was how “humility illuminates through misfortunes.” The sense of gratitude in Ethiopia is unmistakable. “Throughout my travels,” Kayla explained, “I’ve learned the true meaning of poverty, and conversely, the true meaning of joy.” Playing baseball with the children at AHOPE and observing the joy that they found in life’s simple pleasures, such as rolling an old car tire, reminded Kayla that happiness takes on different meanings around the world. “It’s beautiful how the most impoverished corners of the world live in a ‘less is more’ outlook. Abundance is not who has the most, but who needs the least.” Holding Fik’iri in her arms made it all come to fruition. “To me, money is an inferior form of pleasure that lacks substance, in which if you strip away, what you really honor are the simplest joys.”
Kayla plans to travel to Bolivia over spring break and then return to Ethiopia in July. With each trip that she takes, she hopes to do as much as she can within her means. “I travel for humanity,” she stated, “not so much for the sights. To me, what makes a country special is not the sights or extravagance. It is how humanity illuminates through misfortunes.”
Several children at AHOPE for Children are in need of donations and sponsorships. If you are interested in making a donation or sponsoring a child, please visit www.ahopeforchildren.org. A payment of $35 can help provide a child with food, clothing, and education for one month.
Kayla Tran is a Resource Specialist at Baldwin Elementary School.
Brianna Chenevey, Communications Team