Right to Love

By Emily Gallagher, Selamta Ambassador - English Summer Camp Director

Having never traveled internationally except to the nearby country of Belize (proud Texan here), I prepared for my 7-week excursion to Ethiopia with great deal of excitement and almost as much apprehension. And, I will admit, my first few days here were marred with some wallowing in loneliness…

On day three, however, the sun rose on this beautiful country and on the reality of my situation. I could never be lonely here. Not around the extraordinary children and people that compose Selamta Family Project. The nature of these children is nothing short of astounding. Having persevered through the most hellish form of loneliness- separation from the parents who should be their protectors, nurturers, and purist source of love- these children look forward in their life towards greatness.They want to contribute to the world that turned its’ back on them. Furthermore, they treat all with a respect and love that is far beyond that which most adults I know possess. The most appropriate word that comes to mind when I think of these children is INSPIRATIONAL.

During my stay here, I also had the privilege to visit the government run orphanages for girls and boys over the age of seven. I say privilege NOT because these institutions in any way possessed merit beyond a few passionate caretakers fighting for the welfare of those they housed and the incredible children that lived there. No, these institutions were abhorrent. Basic needs were barely met. There was minimal health, nutrition, and shelter. Adequate love, education, and psychological support would be considered a rare privilege here. So I found the spirit of the orphans I interacted with both shocking and inspiring. They barely differed from those whom I’d met at Selamta. Within their beautiful faces shined the same, innocent spirit of generosity and love. Yes, they sought physical affection in the form of hand-holding and hair-stroking to a greater degree than those at SFP, but their souls still possessed that sacred nature of a child.  Several boys eagerly offered me their rolls of bread during their snack time, despite their physical evidence of malnutrition. The little girls refused to let myself and the other volunteers leave without tying their humble, handmade friendship bracelets around our wrists, despite barely possessing more than the dingy clothes they wore. And everywhere I walked in these orphanages, I had a small, dirty hand clinging to mine, desperately seeking the approval, love, and protection of an adult.  No, these children were not different at all from the children at Selamta Family Project. They WERE the children of Selamta Family Project. I still find myself heart-broken thinking about the restrictive environment these children are supposed to develop and grow in.

The children of Selamta are not fortunate for their placement in this family. Fortune would imply that they are in circumstances beyond what should be ordinary or standard. They are simply receiving a child’s right to love. And with this nourishment of body and spirit, these young ones are blossoming into some of the most intelligent, generous, compassionate, and strongest individuals I have ever met.

Selamta Family Project matters because the lives of children matter more than ours. As adults, as “knowing better,” as more powerful and more capable, it our moral imperative to protect the admirable spirit of a child. We must nurture it and ensure that it has all the opportunities to grow, instead of allowing the cruel and apathetic weight of society to smother it. I have seen the fruits of this labor in the shining lives of the children at Selamta. They will become leaders of this world – the doctors, teachers, politicians, mothers, and fathers.  This is possible for them because they were not restricted from this basic and essential right to love.

Now, as a supporter of Selamta Family Project and its’ children, I, we, must advance forward to ensure this right to ALL of the world’s suffering innocent.

Learn more about how you can Get Involved with Selamta Family Project to make sure every child grows up with the love a healthy family.