ETHIOPIAN adoptee Mehret Lumb is planning a surprise gift for a group of religious sisters who stepped in to keep her alive when she was just three weeks old.
Mehret, who is in Year 8 at Lourdes Hill College, Hawthorne, is hoping to give a religious order in charge of an orphanage in Ethiopia, the Franciscan Sisters of the Heart of Jesus, at least $1000 through a school-based fundraising project.
Her adoptive mum, Australian woman Joanne Lumb, will accompany Mehret to Ethiopia in December, where the pair will personally give the sisters donations from the fundraiser.
The motivation behind the project is Mehret’s own personal story of living with the sisters at the orphanage for the first nine months of her life.
Born inside a shelter for homeless women, Mehret was just three-weeks-old when she was taken in at the Kidane Mehret Children’s Home, run by the Franciscan Sisters of the Heart of Jesus.
The sisters took the liberty of naming each child and Mehret, which means ‘mercy’, was named after the orphanage.
She was the only baby girl in her age bracket at the orphanage.
Mehret was born at the same time Australian woman Joanne Lumb was waiting to adopt a child from Ethiopia.
Ms Lumb had applied to be in the Australian government’s Ethiopia-Australia Intercountry Adoption Program, which closed in 2012.
While on holidays in Byron Bay, Ms Lumb received a phone call to say she would be the adoptive mother of a baby girl from Ethiopia.
A health scare almost stopped the pair from ever meeting.
“It was a fact that babies do die of illnesses,” Ms Lumb said.
“I went over with a very good friend of mine and we were going to travel for two weeks beforehand and pick up Mehret and be in Addis Ababa the capital for another week.
“We were leaving on a Saturday and on Friday I got a phone call to say Mehret was very ill and she needed to be picked up straight away.
“She had pneumonia; three of them had it and she nearly died, so we changed all our plans.
“We flew the Saturday, and would have arrived by Sunday.”
Mehret was nine months old.
Fourteen years later, Mehret is now in Year 8 at Lourdes Hill College, Hawthorne, and believes in giving everything a go.
She is on the school’s debating team, is a member of the school’s service group Benenson Society, and spends time visiting Australian veterans with another school project.
She has also dabbed in AFL, touch football, volleyball, basketball, and plays the clarinet.
But her Ethiopian heritage and her adopted life mean the most to the young teenager.
“I’m very open about my adoption,” Mehret said.
“I’m pretty sure my whole class knows.
“A lot of people do know I’m adopted and it’s not a bad thing but it’s a fact, so I may as well tell everyone.”
Mehret said she was “not that happy” about the Australian government closing the Ethiopia-Australia Intercountry Adoption program that brought her to Australia.
“It’s sad because no other adopted kids from Ethiopia will get the opportunity in Australia that I have,” Mehret said.
When she visited the orphanage with her mother seven years ago, Mehret saw dilapidated buildings and little space for children to play.
Inspired by that trip, Mehret spearheaded a fundraising campaign at her school last week to raise money for the sisters that gave her life.
Mehret will personally hand the money her school raises when she and her adoptive mother visit the sisters in December.
“I’m hoping to raise about $1000, which in Ethiopian money is a lot of money and could do a lot for them,” Mehret said.
She will also offer a special message of thanks to the women who gave her a chance at life.
“I want to say thank you for what they’ve done, because to be where I am today is thanks to them,” Mehret said.
“I’ll ask them how they’re going, and if I could, I would like to meet some of the girls and boys there because I know it’s hard.
“I have a personal experience but I can’t remember it, but I know it’s really hard on them being there in that situation, so I’m just showing them that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Ms Lumb said adoptive parents of Ethiopian children were blessed.
“The Ethiopian adoptees are very biased but Ethiopian children have this spark,” Ms Lumb said.
“They really do have this spark.
“We’re really grateful to be able to adopt Mehret.”
Donations to Mehret Lumb’s fundraiser for the Kidane Mehret Children’s Home can be made by contacting Lourdes Hill College at email@example.com.