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Hope Reaches Africa


How one young girl's Christmas wish is helping orphaned children in Africa

Hope Leonard is only eight years old, and is already touching the lives of hundreds of children in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. You see, Hope?s only wish this Christmas 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 was on her list to Santa, only underwear, pajamas and clothing for these desperate children.

?We adopted Hope in 2003, and since then we have had this unusual challenge every Christmas,? explained Sharon Leonard, Hope?s mother. ?Last year, Hope told the mall Santa that she wanted ?peace on earth? and nothing else. And the year before that, her first year with our family, she asked for enough food to feed all the hungry children who live in orphanages.? Actually, Hope really wanted eleven 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 before coming to live here,? Hope said. Hope came to live with the Leonards in Sun Prairie after the initial family that brought Hope to the United States quickly realized that she would did not fit into their world.

And the Leonards certainly know the complexities and rewards of adoption because they have two other daughters who are also adopted from abroad. After raising their biological children, Reed and Sharon decided to adopt a child from China. Jaime joined the family in 1999 from Wuhan, China. Jaime was three years old and had been in an orphanage since her birth. It wasn?t long after Jaime became acclimated to her life in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin that she asked her mom and dad when they were going to bring a little sister to live with them. The Leonards soon returned to China to adopt another little girl whom they named Tori. As the Leonards discovered during the girls? medical examinations, both girls were nearly the same age, and quickly became fast friends as well as close sisters. It was in March of 2003 when they learned about Hope?s situation and knew they had to help. By April, Hope was already having fun with her two new sisters.

Sharon knew that they could not provide the 480 pair of underwear to grant Hope?s wish for Christmas, so she decided to share Hope?s story with the members of her church and with some adoption e-mail list members that she knew. ?I thought that Hope?s wish was just so caring and unselfish, it would be a good message to share with others during the holidays,? said Sharon. ?Maybe people would think more about the real meaning of giving during this time of the year, and give a little more to someone special in their lives.? And take action they did. Within hours, Sharon and Hope began receiving e-mails from people they didn?t know, saying they were greatly affected by the story. Underwear began arriving at the Leonard?s house the very next day, and has not stopped. At last count, Hope has gathered 2,843 pair to give to the children of Layla House in Ethiopia. ?I cannot explain the joy and excitement that overcomes Hope as the gifts of underwear for Layla House stack up in our living room,? said Sharon. In addition, money has also been received from generous 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 when they travel to Addis Ababa, stuffed full of 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 going to be many other expenses that the Leonards will have to endure. The current average airfare from Wisconsin to Ethiopia is $1300. Because of this significant financial burden, 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 Hope Leonard, 6790 Moonlight Circle, Sun Prairie, WI 53590. rsleonards@charter.net.


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About Us: This article was written by Kate Stormer, author of Casey's World books. www.caseysworld.net. She is a close friend of the Leonard family featured in this article.

Contact Info: Sharon Leonard






Country: United States

Contact: Kate Stormer

Website: http://www.caseysworld.net

Bus E-Mail: kstormer@charter.net

Phone: 608-335-0401

2006 Jan 12