Sunday, April 24, 2022

Family reunion plans moving forward smoothly! See you soon

It is update time on the family reunion plans. I’ve been visiting sites on the list, confirming with restaurants and other locations, finding places to park, and checking with celebrity guests such as Sauro Spadoni, Leonello Spadoni, Carlo Spadoni, Italo and Franceso Cortesi, Francesca Seghieri, Ivo Seghieri and more. Though I still have much more to do, I thought I should whet your appetite by sharing the latest version of the program. I’ve made a few changes. Improvements, in most cases.

Note that the first three days we begin at 8 a.m. for informal gatherings. On Monday, it will be at the Casolare dei Fiori, via Mattonaia 20, which has a big parking lot and a great meeting room. They will serve coffee and I will bring some croissants. Please try to arrive by 8 a.m., as this will be our first meeting and I need to explain some things and give people a few minutes to become acquainted. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Bar Grazia is open for coffee and croissants. It will not be vital to arrive at 8 a.m. as long as you in the parking lot and ready to leave by 8:30.

I’ve obtained permission to go inside the pieve at San Gennaro, where Torello Seghieri was once director of the philharmonic. You may wonder what a philharmonic is and how it differs from a symphony (as I did), so I looked it up. They are basically the same thing, and you can find out more by clicking here. Unfortunately, the angel statue that experts attribute to a young Leonardo da Vinci is not on display at this time, as it is undergoing more restoration in Lucca and will not be returned to the church until summertime.

Made by Leonardo?
We have 35 people attending from the United States, the majority from Gig Harbor but also six from Seattle, and some Spadoni relatives from California who have never met a Gig Harbor or Seattle Spadoni. Besides those of us from Gig Harbor descended from Anita Seghieri, we also have a third cousin from Minnesota who is descended from Anita’s first cousin Dante Seghieri. Joining us for the Seghieri activities will be 18 lively cousins from France. Regarding the cugini francesi, I recommend you listen to the Italian national anthem a few times, as you will be required to sing it before participating in any of the Seghieri events (ma sto scherzando!).

Regarding costs, I have worked out a super deal with your tour guide for the first two days and a half. For a mere 100 euro per person, you will receive a tour of more than a dozen sites, along with two lunches and three dinners. I told you I’ve been working hard! I will collect money in euros on the first day, or you can send me $110 now by Venmo, PayPal or Zelle. Just use my email address of If you send via PayPal, send it to a friend, not a business, so the transaction will be free.

The amazing marble of Carrara.
For the Seghieri activities from the Wednesday dinner onward, plan on paying as you go. The sumptuous dinner at Fattoria Il Poggio on Wednesday has a cost of 27 euro. Plan to spend around 40 euro for a day at the Villa Reale on Thursday for entrance, lunch and dinner. Friday’s program is still under discussion, but if it includes Pietrasanta and Carrara as originally planned, you may spend 60 euro-plus. I will say that if you have not been to those places, they are fantastic! The marble quarries at Carrara have been one of my all-time favorite day trips from Montecarlo.

OK, that’s all for now. Below is the current schedule, subject to some minor changes:

Monday, 2 May, Spadoni focus with dinner for ALL

8:00            Meet at Casolare dei Fiori, via Mattonaia 20

8:40            Depart for Padule di Fucecchio

9:10             Arrive Casin del Lillo

10:00           Leave Casin del Lillo

10:05           Arrive Ponte alla Guardia

10:15           Leave Ponte alla Guardia

10:30          Arrive Buggiano Castello

11:00           Leave Buggiano Castello

11:15            Arrive Pescia, Piazza Mazzini, gelato at Bar Pulter

12:05           Leave Piazza, visit church of Marchi family at Castellare

12:25           Arrive I 3 Angeli ristorante for lunch

14:00           Leave restaurant

14:40           Arrive Torre degli Spadoni/San Donini in Parezzana

15:30           Tour ends, break in schedule

19:00           Picnic dinner at Azienda Agricola Stefannini, Montecarlo, organized by French Seghieri families. Via S. Piero, 7

Tuesday, 3 May, focus on Spadoni

8:00           Informal gathering at Bar Grazia in San Salvatore

8:30           Leave S. Salvatore

8:50           Arrive cemetery Ponte Buggianese

9:30           Leave cemetery

9:45           Arrive Chiesina Uzzanese, E-Form Demonstration
by Sauro Spadoni of Magic Hair***

10:30         Leave Chiesina Uzzanese

10:45         Arrive Stignano

11:15           Leave Stignano

11:30          Arrive Borgo a Buggiano, see inside church, coffe break

12:30          Leave Borgo a Buggiano

12:50          Lunch at La Favola Mia of Leonello Spadoni, Chiesina U.

14:10          Leave La Favola Mia

14:20          Arrive Ponte Buggianese centro

14:50          Leave Ponte Buggianese centro

15:00          Farm of Italo Cortesi. Tour farm, see site where Italo Spadoni was killed by Fascists. Meet Italo and Francesco Cortesi. The story of Italo Spadoni recounted.

16:00          Tour ends, break in schedule

19:00          Dinner at Casolare dei Fiori, San Salvatore, via Mattonaia, 20

Wednesday, 4 May, focus on Seghieri

8:00            Informal gathering at Bar Grazia in San Salvatore

8:30            See inside of church in San Salvatore

8:45            Leave S. Salvatore

8:55            Arrive Quercione

9:15            Leave Quercione

9:30           Arrive San Gennaro, see inside of church

10:20          Leave San Gennaro

10:35          Arrive Esselunga parking lot, gelato break at Igloo

11:05          Leave Esselunga

11:15           Park near Fior di Latte, an outlet store for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and other artisan food

11:30          Pass on foot bike shop of Francesca Seghieri

11:45           Continue to mercato usato, an excellent source of low-cost souvenirs

12:15           Return to cars, leave for Montecarlo

12:30          Lunch in Montecarlo on own. Free time

14:00          Possibility to see cemeteries of Montecarlo and  Marginone, where some members of the Seghieri family are buried.

15:00-16:20  Open house with Paul & Lucy Spadoni, via Roma 49, Montecarlo. Continuous tour, snacks.

16:25          Tour of Montecarlo with professional guides, directed by Elena Benvenuti, given in French and English. Includes entrance to Fortezza di Montecarlo, Palazzo Carmignani, Teatro dei Rassicurati (if not under construction).

19:00          Group dinner at Fattoria Il Poggio, Via S. Piero, 39

Thursday, 5 May, Social & tourist event in day. Formal presentations in the evening.

TBD           Meet at Villa Reale for tour, picnic lunch, arranged by Elena Benvenuti and French Seghieri families.

17:00           Presentation on Spadoni family history & genealogy

19:00           Pizza dinner at La Terrazza, Montecarlo

21:00          Presentation on Seghieri family history & genealogy


Friday, 6 May, social and touristic activities

TBD            Meet at Pietrasanta for tour of Pietrasanta and quarries of Carrara, arranged by Elena Benvenuti and French Seghieri families.


Saturday, 7 May, Farewell aperitivo in evening.

TBD            Tour of Lucca in morning, possibility to rent bikes in afternoon in Lucca.

18:00           Aperitivo at Casone di Marcucci, via Mattonia. Tour farm of Ivo Seghieri.


Thursday, April 21, 2022

About that document waiting for me at the office of the Carabinieri . . .

OK, I admit that I overdramatized a little on the post where I was called into the police office at the airport in Roma. This week I went to the Carabinieri office in Altopascio to pick up the document that the police told me was waiting for me there.

More overdramatizing.
Commandante Ratta—a really nice guy—remembers me, not surprising since I’ve filed three denuncie in the past couple of years regarding cases of identity theft. I didn’t understand the document he gave me, nor his explanation of what it was. I only got the idea that it was not particularly important and that I had 20 days to write something to the Tribunale of Cremona. So much for my years of studying Italian. But today I ran it through Google translate, and now I understand.

It is written in Italian legalese, and fortunately Google speaks that dialect better than I do. It basically says that I can request to see documents related to the investigation of the false Paul Robert Spadoni who lives in Cremona. The document is in response to two very detailed emails I had sent to the Carabinieri last October. I did not post anything about these emails on my blog because I didn’t want to tip off the imposter, who may be reading my blog.

Some background: The fake Paul Spadoni had used my ID to run up a huge gas bill in Cremona with a company called Simecom. The lawyers for Simecom found me in Montecarlo and froze my bank account. I got a copy of the gas contract and obtained the services of a handwriting expert, who declared the signatures to be false. Simecom eventually released my bank account. End of story? Not exactly.

I had assumed that the imposter must have moved away after this incident. After all, couldn’t Simecom have just sent the police to his address to nab him otherwise. But no, last fall I started receiving gas bills from another utility company, Hera, for Paul Robert Spadoni, at the exact same Cremona address. He didn’t move. He just switched providers. The only good news was that he seemed to be paying the bills, because when I received the second bill, it indicated that the earlier bill had been paid.

That’s when I filed the third denuncia with the Altopascio Carabinieri, but I wasn’t satisfied that this was enough. I sent a very detailed email to the Cremona Carabinieri as well as the regional Carabinieri office, explaining what was going on. I included a copy of the denuncia and the bills from Hera, along with all my identification papers and an explanation that I lived in Montecarlo and had no connection to a house in Cremona, nor with the companies Hera or Simecom.

So what has happened since? Well, back to the document I received this week. Google translate gave me this: “Spadoni Paul Robert (with my date and place of birth and current address listed) as a person offended by the aforementioned crime who on 10/1/2022 (Jan. 10) submitted to the Judge for preliminary investigations in the office, a request for archiving, with warning that within twenty days from the notification of this notice he has the right to view the documents and submit an opposition with a reasoned request to continue the preliminary investigations. Send to the Secretariat for the fulfillment of competence.”

I believe this means that I can write to the Tribunal of Cremona and request to see the documents that have been filed concerning their investigation—which I will do. I would love to hear that my fake alter ego has been made to suffer for his crimes. I’m not sure that will happen, nor that I will actually get any useful information from the Tribunal, but we shall see.

Meanwhile, now that I’m back in Montecarlo, only one piece of mail was waiting for me from Hera—a bill sent Nov. 11 notifying me that I had an overdue payment of 16.75 euro for my residence in Cremona. However, the good news is that this is the only letter I received from Hera in my absence. Five months have passed, with no more notices, so I am assuming that Hera got the message that I am not liable for the Cremona gas bills. In fact, the emails I sent to the Carabinieri were also cc’ed to Hera and Simecom. I even wrote a separate letter to the Simecom lawyer, saying that the fake Paul Spadoni is still living at the same address, so go hound him there for the 3,000-some euro that he owes.

So, worst case scenario seems to be that I am off the hook for the gas bills from Hera. Best case is that the faker is being prosecuted and will be punished. I suppose I could be worried that he will get off the hook and then continue to give me problems in some other way, but I’m not a person prone to anxiety. As the Lord said, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Oops, the truth behind the Casotto Spadoni is revealed by Damiano

Damiano and I tried to make it through
this patch of woods to reach the Casotto
Spadoni, but we were turned back by
high water.
I spent a couple of hours this morning talking to a most gentile e geniale distant cousin, Damiano Spadoni, at a bar in Ponte Buggianese. I gave him a summary of our shared heritage, going back to the 1400s with our first recorded Spadoni ancestors at Marliana and Stignano, and then the topic turned to the Casotto Spadoni, which his late father Gianfranco had used as a hunting shelter in the Padule di Fucecchio. After exchanging information about our families, Damiano and I tried to go to the casotto by a back trail, but it was too swampy to continue very far.

I was mildly disappointed to learn that the casotto had not been passed down through the generations but instead had been purchased from a stranger during Damiano’s lifetime. The new-looking sign was purchased as a gift to Gianfranco by one of his sisters, and it was more of a “man cave” symbol than historical marker. This is obviously not the place where our relative Agostino Spadoni was shot by German soldiers.

In fact, after our meeting, I came home and did some more research and found that Agostino was killed while working on his farm near the Ponte alla Guardia, which is about a mile and half north of the the casotto. Well, it is certainly better to know the truth than to spread false information. And my disappointment was more than compensated for by the pleasure of meeting Damiano. He was raised in Ponte Buggianese and educated at the University of Pisa, but he has since moved to Great Britain, where he completed post-graduate work in chemical engineering and now works in a laboratory. He is only in Ponte Buggianese for a few days visiting his family and friends, a stroke of good fortune for me.

Another benefit of the discovery of the Casotto Spadoni is that it caused me to do some additional exploring in the Padule di Fucecchio and revisit the history of the German slaughter there in 1944. I realized that I should adjust the agenda for our family reunion and include a visit to this important area in the history of our home region. I will be dropping a visit to Massa E Cozzile and adding two sites in the Padule. I have a few more details to work out, and then I’ll publish a new schedule next week.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

What is the story behind the little known Casotto Spadoni?

About a month ago, a friend, Luana Raveggi, sent me a photo of a ancient and battered house she saw while taking a walk in the Padule di Fucecchio, a swampy area south of Ponte Buggianese. Because Luana and I share an interest in genealogy—we met while doing research on our family trees in the parish archives in Pescia—she knew I would be interested in seeing the Casotto Spadoni. And of course I was, and now I’m on the trail of the history behind this ramshackle house.

Casotto can be translated as shed—or “a small construction of a single room, in wood or other material with functions of shelter or temporary accommodation for people or materials.” So the term is not entirely accurate in this case, as the Casotto Spadoni is a two-story house that was probably used as a dwelling place years ago. Luana gave me some directions and photos to help guide me to the place, and so Lucy and I set off on a lovely afternoon on Pasquetta—the day after Easter—to find it for ourselves.

We passed many people out strolling, as Pasquetta is a traditional family-oriented holiday in Italy. I stopped to ask several walkers if we were on the right path towards the Casotto Spadoni, but nobody we met had ever heard of it. We continued on, trusting in the directions I’d received from Luana, which proved to be very accurate.

Our only disappointment on finding it was that the casotto is on the other side of the canal from us, with no bridge in sight. About a half mile back, there had been a bridge, but the trail on that side of the canal was marked private property and was blocked first by a chain and then a private residence, with fences and gates on both sides of the home. There could be a trail into the woods behind the Casotto Spadoni, but we couldn’t see it from our side of the canal.

A memorial at Dogana.
Agostino is listed in the
left column at the bottom.
As for the history of the home, I feel quite likely this must have been the home of Agostino Spadoni and Isola Fanucci in the summer of 1944—the last summer of Agostino’s life, as it turned out. He was one of the first residents of Ponte Buggianese to be shot in cold blood by the occupying German army that summer. His death, however, was only the beginning of the tragic brutality that was to come during the infamous Slaughter in the Padule di Fucecchio. I was aware of Agostino’s death because a few years ago, I wrote a series of blog posts on the Eccidio del Padule di Fucecchio, which includes an account of Agostino’s death.

Men from three generations
in one family were killed.
Today the Padule is checkered with monuments that show where various civilians were shot and killed by the 26th Panzer Division. There may even be a marker near the house to commemorate where Agostino died. If so, I hope to find it one day. I have learned through Luana’a contacts that the house was recently sold by the widow of the late Gianfranco Spadoni. By contacting her, I discovered that Gianfranco’s grandfather was the first cousin of Agostino. Quite likely the home was shared by the greater family at the time Agostino was murdered, and it ended up in the ownership of Agostino’s cousin and his descendants.

I’ve since been contacted by Gianfranco’s son Damiano, who is interested in learning more about the Spadoni family history. We will meet soon, and Damiano can tell me more about the casotto as I fill him in on the early story of our ancestors in Ponte Buggianese, Stignano and Marliana.

Update: I met with Damiano and found out the truth about the Casotto Spadoni.

Besides being a site of a tragic slaughter, the Padule is a nature reserve of extreme beauty with a great variety of wildlife.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Ancestry makes big advance in accuracy in Italian ethnic formulas

In previous posts, I criticized for its painfully poor job of identifying the DNA patterns of Tuscan Italians, labeling many of us as more French than Italian—but I am blown away by the vast improvements in the upgraded algorithms that were revealed this month. The accuracy is astounding!

I can say this with confidence because I have done a ton of traditional genealogical research and have found birth records for every ancestor on the Italian side of the family going back to all 16 of my third Italian great grandparents. Each one was born in the same valley in Italy, the Valdinievole (roughly between Lucca and Montecatini), or just a few miles away. This is region that has seen little population influx over the centuries, being inland and located on rich farmland that has often been passed down through the centuries. All of these ancestors’ surnames are common to our little region of Tuscany.

My dad and his six siblings were born to Michele Spadoni and Anita Seghieri, who grew up only a few miles from each other, in Pescia and Montecarlo, respectively. By traditional genealogical standards, they would be considered full blooded Tuscan Italians. Dad married a non-Italian, as did his siblings, so I and my first cousins always considered ourselves half Italian. But prior to Ancestry’s upgrade, none of us tested more than 11% Italian. One tested 0 percent Italian and 45% French.

My ethnicity results now show as 45% Italian. In two
previous Ancestry formulas, I showed up as 16% and
11% Italian. My brother and sister were once listed as
only 4% Italian! Significantly, the (false)
French ethnicity estimates have vanished completely.

Even more glaringly false were the DNA results of three cousins who were the offspring of two parents from the Valdinievole, so by traditional standards they should be 100% Tuscan Italian. By Ancestry’s former DNA algorithms, Anna Giuntoli was 51% French and 49% Italian. Joan Seghieri was classified as 50% Italian, 44% French and 6% Greek/Balkan. Vilma Ferranti showed as 44% French and 54% Italian.

The changes with the new formula are dramatic—and strikingly accurate. Anna is now listed as 78% Northern Italian and 8% French, while Joan is 97% Northern Italian and Vilma is 93% Northern Italian and 4% Southern Italian. Joan and Vilma no longer show any French ethnicity.

This is the map of Northern Italy that Ancestry
provides. I've put a red dot where most of my
ancestors have lived for many centuries.

Just as impressive are the results for me, my siblings and my first cousins. Combining the Northern Italian with a touch of Southern Italian, I’m now listed as 45% Italian overall. My sister Linda is at 47% and brother Roger is 39%. Cousin Gary, who was once listed by Ancestry as 0% Italian, now comes in at a surprising 50%. Annette also is adjudged at 50% Italian, while her sister Susan is close behind at 47%.

Also impressive is an entirely new feature, which attempts (and seemingly succeeds dramatically) to show from which parent a person obtained his or her ethnicity results. I can’t fathom how the scientists at Ancestry can tell this without testing our parents, but the results are amazingly accurate when compared with my genetic research. The breakdown shows that all of the Italian ethnicity I and my siblings received is from our dad, while the English and Dutch/German is from our mom.

Parent 1 is my dad, Giulio (Julius) Spadoni, born of parents
with deep roots in Tuscany. Mom's parents were a mix of
primarily Dutch, English and German ancestry.

The only results that seem a bit off are for the next two generations below us. By traditional methods, my children and those of my first cousins would be considered 25% Italian, but the only two who have been tested come in at 10% and 21%. Two of my brother’s grandchildren have been tested, and they come out as 0% and 2% Italian, while they would be considered 12.5% by traditional standards.

I previously expressed strong disappointment and disapproval with Ancestry for its flawed formulas and results regarding Northern Italian ancestry. Now I’m amazed and impressed to the same degree with the dramatic improvements. Complimenti, Ancestry! Avete fatto bene!


Here is the previous post I made, stating how inaccurate Ancestry was in the past:

Ancestry’s formula for Italian ethnicity is skewed

Friday, April 15, 2022

In which I am detained by the police at the airport in Rome

I confess! I did steal this photo from the internet.
But that's the only thing I'm guilty of!
Welcome back to Italy, and by the way, you’re under arrest! Not really, but that’s what ran through my mind when I was pulled aside by the police in Roma after I scanned in my passport at the airport customs checkpoint. When Lucy scanned her passport in the modern automatic entry point, the bar lifted immediately and allowed her to pass, but despite my trying and retrying, the gate would not open. Soon a poliziotto came and called me into a back room, saying I would have to wait while they checked something, leaving Lucy standing bewildered in the corridor and both of us speculating wildly about what was going on. She was not allowed to follow me, and she had no idea what she was going to do if I did not return.

My first thought is that the person who periodically and fraudulently uses my name and codice fiscale has done something wrong again. In the past, this person—or possible persons—has used my name to take out a phone contract and buy and sell a car without paying government taxes. And then there was the unpaid € 3.199,18 bill he ran up with the energy company Simecom for a house in Cremona.

I was able to convince Simecom to drop the case against me and unfreeze my bank account, but the unpaid taxes for the phone and car have never been completely resolved. I filed a denuncia with the carabiniere in Altopascio four years ago disclaiming responsibility for the phone and car transactions, but I never learned if the Agenzia delle Entrate (equivalent to the IRS) dropped its claim against me or just moves so glacially slowly that I will hear in the future that agents are still waiting for me to pay some massive fine.

While I was waiting in the police office to find out why I had been detained, these questions and many more ran through my mind. I started rehearsing what to say, in Italian, if the police tried to arrest me. After about 10 minutes, two officers came out and explained that I had been called aside because there was some paperwork waiting for me at the office of the carabiniere in Altopascio. I had a choice. I could wait for the document to be sent to the airport police office, or I could stop by the carabiniere office in Altopascio to pick it up. Of course, I chose the latter, thanking the officers for their courtesy. They stamped my passport and sent me on my way.

We retrieved our luggage, picked up our rental car and drove to Montecarlo, arriving around 9 p.m. last night. Our home looks in great shape. Our neighbor Juri has fixed our doorbell, which failed last fall. Even our bathroom lacks its usual foul water odor, the first time that’s ever been the case after a period of disuse.

So next week, I will find out what the next hurdle in my adventure in identity theft will be. There is a slight possibility that I will receive good news. In my fantasies, the carabiniere commandante will tell me that the fake Paul Robert Spadoni has been arrested and confessed to his ongoing crimes. Unfortunately, we live in reality, so I think it’s much more likely that I’ll soon be gathering more evidence and writing more letters. Stay tuned for our next exciting adventure.


For more on my previous misadventures with the tax agency, you can read here:

Another attempt to scam people using my good name

A high stakes challenge; I must fight the Italian IRS

Another scam attempt, this time unsuccessful


Wednesday, April 6, 2022

I Care Ethiopia and Mercy provide hope to vulnerable women of Addis

Photo courtesy Fred Bellomy
While driving through the heart of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Lucy and I became ensnarled in traffic, which inevitably led to the appearance of children and women begging for money outside our car windows. We resisted the temptation to respond, knowing that we would soon be flooded with other hungry hands reaching out if we gave anything. Our driver advised us to ignore them, saying there are better ways to help these poor people. Ironically, we were on our way to find out one of these better ways.

Lucy and I had met Meheratab Abate four years ago when we visited two young men that we sponsored through Compassion International. Meheratab, who for the convenience of foreigners goes also by the name Mercy, had been retained by Compassion to guide us and act as intermediary in our meetings. I later became friends with Mercy on Facebook and learned that he was starting his own ministry that spoke directly to the needs of the street beggars, especially to the young women with children.

Since we are currently in Addis to visit our daughter and son-in-law, who both work for the U.S. State Department, we decided to pay Mercy a visit. He shared with us his vision and how it developed, and we also toured the daycare center he operates. We left profoundly impressed with both Mercy and the work he is doing. His life experience, education, maturity and caring heart combine to make him the perfect person to lead this outreach.

Mercy himself had been a sponsored child through Compassion, and he explained how important this experience had been in giving him hope, guidance and an education. Most children born in poverty grow up expecting nothing from life more than continued hunger, boredom and degradation. Knowing that someone cares about them and discovering that education, guidance, prayer and hard work can change their lives makes a huge difference. Hope is powerful, and Mercy now has a solid education and a growing family. For several years he operated his own business providing training for schools and institutions, and he is still available to arrange tours for foreigners.

Introducing families to their Compassion-sponsored children allowed him to travel the country and see its many needs. He likely could have gone to work for Compassion full time, but he decided to take another route. He already had a bachelor’s degree in public administration, and in 2014 he went back to school to earn his master's degree in the same field. He explained to us that each day, he took the same route to school. In the morning, he would pass women with young children begging for money, and upon return some eight to 10 hours later, he would see the same women still in the streets. Curious, he decided to investigate this situation as part of his studies and find out what could be done. Gradually, the academic interest became a calling, and he soon realized that this was where he wanted to dedicate his life’s work.

Mercy discovered that most of the begging women were not lazy, but they had been abandoned by their husbands or families and could not find employers that would allow them to bring their children to work. They lacked work skills, self-esteem and hope.

The kitchen is small but clean
and efficient.

In September of 2019, Mercy founded I Care Ethiopia on a shoestring budget with only his own money and a single sponsor who pledged $50 a month. Less than three years later, the center has eight employees and is helping 36 families, with plans to add another 50 in the near future. They also hope to expand to at least two other cities. To do so, they will need to develop a steadier source of income, and they plan to start their own child sponsorship program in the future.

What, exactly, does I Care Ethiopia do? Here, from their website, is a list of their services:

  • We provide food support for 36 families which benefits over 120 people including the households.
  • We provide medical support and health checkups by physicians and health professionals.
  • We provide casual clothing and shoe support twice a year for our sponsored children.
  • We provide school uniform and necessary school supplies including miscellaneous school fees.
  • We provide counselling and mentoring service for our children and parents.
  • We teach ethical & moral education according to Ethiopian Culture.
  • We provide Sunday school class for our children and teach from Holy Bible to parents.
  • We teach basic health related educations, family planning and give psychosocial trainings.
  • We support our beneficiaries’ parents start their own income generating activities.
  • We provide different skill trainings for our beneficiaries.
  • We provide recreational trips for our children.
  • We provide hygiene keeping materials like soap, lotion and sanitary napkins.
  • We provide day care service for our beneficiaries’ children.

Lucy and I had originally planned our Ethiopia trip for last November, but the threat of a civil war caused us to cancel. We had made arrangements to be in Italy all of April, but we suddenly realized that the threat of a disturbance in Ethiopia had subsided, and we could easily make a detour. The visas we had obtained last year were still valid, and our family there urged us to come.

Our driver, Abrham, gives suitcases to Mercy.

With little time to plan, we mentioned to members of our Gig Harbor church, Believers Fellowship, that we would be visiting a daycare center in Addis that needed supplies. The response was heartening, almost overwhelming. We had hoped to take two suitcases of books and toys but ended up receiving enough donations in just a few days to take three. Other people handed us cash, and we were able to bring more than $1,100 for the center to buy tricycles, bicycles and other supplies.

Our visit to the daycare center confirmed our faith in the validity of I Care Ethiopia, as we saw a clean, cheerful and efficient facility that provided happy children with three meals a day, along with safety, education, spiritual guidance, hope and love—while their mothers were at last free to seek and find gainful employment and restore their dignity. Yes, there are still many hungry beggars in the city, but it’s encouraging to know that there are people like Mercy able to promise them a future that goes beyond a single handout.