Imagine running a successful business and living a fast paced life and then abruptly changing course completely and beginning a new life with another direction; albeit a life less financially secure and one with multiple challenges but for Australian Karen Kendall, a life driven by passion, positivity and love and a role of fulfillment that she feels she was actually headed towards her entire life….

This life change came after the adoption of baby Ruby in Ethiopia in 2012 and during that process witnessing the dire and expansive needs of orphan care here and the children and babies she encountered who touched her heart.

It also seemed right to Karen to raise Ruby in her own homeland. So the idea quickly transformed into why not open an orphanage at the same time….!


Fast forward 5 years and Karen now runs Shamida Bright Vision Children’s Welfare Association “Shamida”, an Ethiopian NGO (located in Legetafo) established to give hope not only to babies and children but also to the lives of vulnerable women through nurturing care, support and development programs – to make their lives matter and to show them that they matter.

The 23 babies and children currently living at Shamida come from a variety of backgrounds – children abandoned because of disabilities, rejected or abused or simply abandoned because parent/s could not cope because of social problems. “These children all need love not just medical attention” said Karen as I observed happy children with smiles playing in a colourful playroom tended by nannies. These children were clearly flourishing from the attention they were receiving. Shamida also employs full time nurses.


At the time I visited, the older sister of twin babies at Shamida had been found at another orphanage and Shamida was in the process of bringing the older girl to join her twin siblings and uniting these children at Shamida. Shamida partners with other NGOs in Ethiopia such as the Hamlin Fistula Hospital which provide nannies (women who have endured fistula problems and can not return to their former lives/homes) and is 100 percent pro active about sharing and working with other NGO’s and local organizations being able to assist one another in times of need.

Many of the disabled babies have preventable conditions such as hydrocephalus, which approximately 85% of babies born with spina bifida will develop… and yet could be prevented if all women who wanted to get pregnant took folic acid before and during their pregnancies! ( The standard treatment for hydrocephalus (enlarged head of babies) is a shunt. In a shunt procedure, a catheter (a thin, flexible tube) is placed in the brain to drain extra fluid down to the abdominal cavity, chambers of the heart, or a space around the lungs. Then the bloodstream absorbs the fluid. (


Shamida welcomes local visitors (contact Karen first) and donations of any household items, as well as children’s toys and clothes – as you can imagine the daily needs of running a children’s home are immense. Nothing goes to waste! also supports Shamida with sales of Ethiopian products. A percentage of all sales from @harvestethiopia go to @shamidaethiopia.

Shamida today is one house but Karen has big dreams and goals that Shamida one day can be completely self sustaining with a Shamida school as well as an orphanage on their own land..


For further information and how you can help visit and

All Photos courtesy of ©Marthinolly