An Ethiopian Adoption Story.
Ethiopian Adoption: Hope Leonard is eight years old, and is touching the lives of hundreds of children in Ethiopia. You see, Hope’s only Christmas wish was that every child at the Layla House orphanage in Africa would receive three pair of new underwear. That’s it. No Furby, Barbie doll or coloring book from Santa, only underwear for these desperate children.
“We adopted Hope in 2003, and now have this unusual challenge every Christmas,” said Sharon Leonard, Hope’s mother. “Last year, Hope told the mall Santa she wanted “peace on earth” and nothing else. The year before that she asked for enough food to feed all the hungry children who live in orphanages.” Actually, Hope wanted 11 sisters from Africa for Christmas, but she knew that was a pretty huge wish. “I know it’s hard to live in an orphanage, because I was in one in China for a long time,” Hope said. She came to live with the Leonards in Wisconsin after her initial adoption family realized she did not fit into their world.
And the Leonards certainly know the complexity and rewards of adoption because they have two other daughters who are adopted from abroad. After raising their biological children, Reed and Sharon decided to adopt a child from China. Jaime joined the family in 1999 when she was three years old. Soon Jaime she asked her parents to bring a little sister to live with them. The Leonards returned to China to adopt another little girl whom they named Tori. Both girls quickly became fast friends. In March of 2003 they learned about Hope’s situation, and knew they had to help. By April, Hope had joined the family.
Sharon knew they couldn't provide 480 pair of underwear for Hope's wish for Christmas, so she shared Hope’s story with her church and adoption e-mail friends. “I thought Hope’s wish was so unselfish, it was important to share it with others,” said Sharon. “Maybe people would think more about the real meaning of the holidays, and do something special this year.” And that they did. Within hours, Sharon began receiving e-mails from people, saying they were greatly affected by the story. Underwear began arriving the next day, and has not stopped. So far, 2,843 pair have arrived to give to the children in Ethiopia. “I can't explain the joy and excitement that overcomes Hope as the gifts of underwear stack up in our living room,” said Sharon. In addition, money has been received from people who knew that it would be expensive to send gifts to Africa.
Shipping items to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is not easy. Shipments often don’t arrive, and there are big costs to the receiver. The only way to deliver Hope’s gift is to take it there. And that’s exactly what Hope and her family plan to do. Each family member will take an extra suitcase stuffed with packages of underwear. “Even with five extra suitcases, we know we can’t take it all,” said Sharon. “We are trying to find other people that may be traveling to that area of Africa and asking if they would be willing to help us deliver Hope’s special gift.”
There are many other expenses that the Leonards will have to endure. The average airfare from Wisconsin to Ethiopia is $1300. This means the Leonards will use some of the money they have received to help fund those tickets.
Hope has a heart big enough to reach across our world, and has enough energy and determination to move it. “I can hardly wait for May to come and we can take my Christmas gift to Addis Ababa,” said Hope. “I know I’ll love each of the children I meet and they will be happy to have the new underwear. Maybe I will even meet my eleven new sisters when I’m there.”
If you wish to help Hope continue her work with the Layla House, you can send any new children’s clothing items or financial support to:
A story of Ethiopian Adoption.