Our Connect & Contribute program consists of three organizations that dedicate themselves to the health, wellness and happiness of others. At the end of each year, 5% of our revenue is divided among them. One of these organizations, Wide Horizons for Children (WHFC), is an international child welfare organization. They have helped place nearly 13,000 children from 60 countries into loving homes. And that's just part of what they do.
Read on below to meet Emily Greising, the Africa Program Manager. She dedicates herself to helping children and families in Ethiopia and Burundi. On top of that she is a marathon runner, yoga enthusiast and amateur photographer. A truly exceptional woman!
Q: How did you become involved with WHFC?
Emily: After my first trip to the African continent in 1999, I knew I wanted to work on behalf of orphaned and vulnerable children around the world. Having spent many months working closely with children in Zimbabwe while in high-school and college, I saw firsthand the importance of creating a stable and nurturing environment for children without families. This pushed me towards a career in social work, and I finished my graduate degree (Masters in International Social Work at Boston College) in 2007 and began looking for a job. I thought about the possibility of working in international adoption, as a way to help children like the ones I had come to know so well. After reaching out to a few resources, no one seemed quite sure how best to connect with the field. One day, while painting my kitchen, I got a call from Wide Horizons For Children. They were looking for someone to help with coverage on the Ethiopia Program. I quickly started doing some research and soon realized this could be an amazing opportunity. I started in the fall of 2007 and continue to feel great pride everyday in the work of WHFC.
Q: Can you tell me about the work WHFC does and the program (or programs) in which you are involved?
Emily: WHFC is an international child welfare organization that focuses on Orphan Care, Orphan Prevention, Adoption, Post Adoption and Expectant Parent Counseling. Through its history, WHFC has worked around the world, helping orphaned and vulnerable children and bringing families together. A leader in the field of adoption, WHFC has helped place nearly 13,000 children from 60 countries in loving homes, helps destitute families stay together, changes outcomes for children living in institutions, and offers life-long support to birth parents and adoptive families. WHFC places a high priority on ethical practices and always puts the best interests of the child first.
I work on the Africa Team, which focuses on our work in Ethiopia and Burundi. I started working in adoption, supporting families through the process. In the past few years, I have had the opportunity to get deeply engaged in our Post Adoption and community development work in Ethiopia. We have a Post Adoption program that supports families as they want to reconnect with Ethiopia and, in many cases, travel back to visit the country of their child’s birth.
Another part of my job includes coordinating our Medical Mission program and working with our Child and Family Empowerment Program. These two programs allow us to impact communities in several important ways. Our Medical Mission teams travel to two hospitals, one in northern Ethiopia and one in the south. The teams focus on maternal and child health, treating patients and working closely with their Ethiopian colleagues to improve standards of care. It is an amazing group of people who are strong, incredible teachers. The lives they touch reach far beyond the patients they help.
Child and Family Empowerment, or Child Sponsorship, is our most layered program in Ethiopia. Through this program we are able to work with children and families to help improve their future through educational and economic empowerment. We have the privilege to serve families throughout the country. Our social workers visit with the families several times a year in their home and at school. The social work support is a unique component of our program that allows an opportunity to get to know the families personally and meet their individual needs. Our staff also visits children in school to learn how best to serve them and ensure their academic success. Through this program we also offer grants to families to improve their businesses and work toward economic independence.
Q: What experience has had the greatest impact on you during your time at WHFC?
Emily: Working at an organization like WHFC there are many amazing stories that touch your life and provide inspiration. I have worked with hundreds of adoptive families and seen them welcome home their children with open, loving arms. I have heard fellow staff members share stories of their work around the world that is truly changing the lives of so many children. When I try to think about one experience, or one story, that has had ‘the greatest impact,’ there was one moment on a recent trip to Ethiopia when I truly felt the power of our programs.
Birhane is a single mother to 3 girls. They live in a small, one room home in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Birhane has experienced many difficult things in her life but remains a smart and strong woman and an amazing mother. Birhane has been part of the WHFC sponsorship program for 6 years. Through the support of her social workers, she was empowered with the confidence and resources to become a better parent for her young children. Her oldest daughter, Dehne, is first in her district for her grade and wants to become a doctor. When we visited their home, Dehne proudly took a box off the shelf to show us. Inside were all of her certificates and report cards demonstrating her academic success.
In addition to running her own small business, because of her strength and business skills, Birhane was chosen to be one of 6 women from the program who will prepare meals for the School Feeding Program. This team of six women, prepare meals daily throughout the week, working together to create the menus, buy the supplies and help feed the children. When asked how she felt about being a part of this program, here is her response. “I know poverty very well, if I have money I do it by myself. If I got the opportunity to help such kind of program, to participate in such kind of program, as a country member, I will do my best. This is my interest because I know poverty very well.”
Bihane’s ability to give back to her community, despite her own personal struggles, continues to serve as an inspiration to me. The strength within each of us is often far greater than we can even imagine.
Q: What are some of your personal interests/hobbies/passions?
Emily: When I am not at the office, I love to be with family, travel, spend time in our community garden plot and run! In 2014 I ran my first marathon in Boston. What an awesome experience it was to be a part of something so important to our community. To see the strength and determination of so many who have trained for this race, is an inspiration that stays with me as I continue to run through the streets of Boston. With a sister who is a yoga instructor, I have started to attend classes and appreciate the quiet moments stretching, strengthening and reflecting during a busy week.
If you are interested in helping this great organization, you may shop our collection or get involved directly. Visit their website for more details on donating.