Out of Africa

GABRIELLE and Will Nardi have waited six long years to adopt a baby from Ethiopia.

Once they realised they were unable to have children of their own without IVF intervention they chose to adopt a child from the Third World who needed a home.

And finally they have been allocated a little girl who turned one in February this year.

“We just couldn't justify the cost of IVF when so many kids need a home - and Africa felt right for us,” said Gabrielle who is the swim school director for Gabrielle Wenden's Swim School at Palm Beach Olympic Pool.

“I found out we had a little girl through a phone call from DOCS and I just couldn't believe it,” Gabrielle said.

“I think I was in shock for the first 24 hours, it just didn't seem real - even a week later it just seemed unreal after such a long wait,” she said.

Gabrielle said once the news had come through they still had to wait for their court date.

In that time the only contact the couple have had is a photograph of their little girl Hiwot Stella (meaning Life Star) sent to them.

“Now we are waiting for our court date, scheduled for April 14, to go through so we can bring her home to Australia,” she said.

“But the wait has been long and hard. Each day I think she's another day older and it will be that much more difficult for her to adjust to her new surroundings.”

Gabrielle said one of the first things she wanted to do when they finally returned was to teach Hiwot Stella to swim.

“There's a lot of baby-parent contact in the toddler swim classes and that builds on the bond between them,” she said.

“I'm just looking forward to being able to spend time with her.”

Gabrielle and Will hope to return to Australia from Ethiopia on May 24.

“We do expect to go back to Ethiopia quite a bit during Hiwot's life to keep her in touch with the country she is from.” 

Gabrielle and Will travelled to Ethiopia in 2008 for three months as volunteer English teachers to get a feel for the country they hoped to adopt a child from, this was before they heard that they had been allocated a child.

“We were teaching English as volunteers in a private school - but it just didn't feel like what we were meant to be doing,” Gabrielle said.

“So in our spare time we volunteered at Atetegeb orphanage in Addis which is the capital of Ethiopia,” she said.

“We were doing something that felt worthwhile and we worked on hygiene principles with the carers and gave a lot of human contact to the kids which is what they wanted most.

“They wanted to be held, cuddled and have someone play games with them.”

Gabrielle said they also visited an orphanage in the north of the country at Bahir Dar called Grace Centre, which is where their little girl Hiwot Stella is currently living, and is set up as a care centre to help single mothers as there is no government support for them.

“At the time we had no news of our adoption and were not allowed to see any of the children who were waiting to be allocated to Australian couples,” Gabrielle said.

“But we were so focused on helping at the time it didn't enter my mind that we may end up with one of the children that was there at the time.

“But leaving the orphanages after our three months in Ethiopia to come back to Australia left an ache in my heart.

“These children need so much and yet were excited over the simplest thing.

“One day we made marbles out of mud and played marbles for ages and they were so happy - it just breaks your heart to realise how materialistic we are in the western world and how little they need to be happy,” she said.

“We're now even more conscious of just how much we waste in Australia - so I guess it has had a lasting impact on the way we live.” 

So Gabrielle and Will are on a mission to raise funds to take back to the orphanages when they return to collect their little girl.

“We have had a lot of donations of nappies and clothing but now we are most in need of money to buy medical supplies, food and lactose-free formula,” Gabrielle said.

“All the supplies we take will be delivered directly to each orphanage to ensure it gets there and makes a difference to the children.”

If you can help with a donation contact Gabrielle at Palm Beach Olympic Pool on (07) 5534 4188.

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