Open Arms of Minnesota

Letters From Ethiopia: The Orphans Left Behind

By David Plante, Volunteer

On Tuesday, we visited the Mesfin Feyisa Initiative. In 2005, the Initiative began under the auspices of Adama Dawn of Hope
— which Open Arms supports with nutrition and technical assistance — when Mesfin took in a young woman who had been discarded by her family because she was dying of AIDS.

The Initiative recently registered as a separate, charitable organization, independent of Adama Dawn of Hope.

Over the course of seven years, Mesfin has grown that single act of compassion into a well-organized, effective rehabilitation center for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and an orphanage for the children whose parents “failed to rehabilitate.” This is no small task — the incidence of HIV here hovers around 10%, resources are scarce, and unlike the U.S., it’s impossible to rely on a bunch of active, effective volunteers to accomplish this important work.

Still, the work is miraculously successful. Since 2005, 4,000 PLWHA have gone through the rehabilitation process: they’re monitored, medicated and fed, and when they’re well enough to leave, the Initiative’s staff facilitates ongoing access to their antiretroviral regimen and enough nutrition to help them recover fully. Because of the generosity of Open Arms donors, clients of the Initiative will continue to be nourished throughout their stay; Open Arms covers the costs of the nutrition component of the rehab program.

But not everyone survives, and it’s in the wake of this disease that lies some of the harshest reality of the day: the orphans left behind.

We spent 30 minutes visiting the orphanage connected to the Mesfin Feyisa Initiative. Opened on the original site of Adama Dawn of Hope, it’s a rented amalgamation of buildings on a plot of land smaller than a Minneapolis city lot. Within its walls lies the future of 18 children; 11 are HIV-positive, and almost certainly unadoptable.

All these orphans go to school, thanks to the generosity of fellow Twin Citians who underwrite the cost of tuition. They are clothed, fed, sheltered and cared for by a group of dedicated caregivers. Those who are HIV-positive have access to antiretroviral treatment, and they are monitored by the clinic at the Mesphin initiative site, which is connected but physically separate.

Mesfin’s vision is to turn the orphanage into a boarding school of sorts, where these orphans not only survive but thrive. A lofty goal, but one that I believe can be accomplished because of the passion and commitment of Mesfin and his team, and because of the generosity of those of us who count ourselves as incredibly fortunate.

More from Open Arms

Securian Financial Gives Back

SECURIAN FINANCIAL RECOGNIZES OPEN ARMS IN 2023 SUSTAINABILITY REPORT We extend our heartfelt thanks to Securian Financial for their unwavering support! In 2023, 194 Securian associates volunteered 555 hours, packing 20,686 meals in our kitchens! Their dedication to our mission of delivering free, nourishing meals to

Read More »
Bake Sale Graphic

Great Minnesota Bake Sale 2024

OPEN ARMS LAUNCHES INAUGURAL “GREAT MINNESOTA BAKE SALE” FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Ethan Armstrong [email protected] Cell: 320-815-2351 Minneapolis, MN, [7 June 2024] – Open Arms of Minnesota is thrilled to announce the launch of the first-ever Great Minnesota Bake Sale, set to take place

Read More »
Prida cap

Pride 2024

HAPPY PRIDE FROM OPEN ARMS! June is here, ushering in Pride Month—a time of great significance for Open Arms and our entire community. Our journey began nearly 40 years ago during the HIV/AIDS crisis, and with the support of a passionate and committed community,

Read More »
End Of Year Giving Graphic

Your Gift Will Help Us Serve More Clients!

Together we can continue to meet the increased demand for medically tailored meals with your support! We hope you think of us as you consider your year-end giving. Your donation is a gift of care, compassion, and encouragement!