The Stollers(Times Bulletin/Erin Cox)
The Stollers

(Times Bulletin/Erin Cox)
Jeff and Sarah Stoller feel they have benefited from Ethiopia so much they wanted to show their gratitude by helping the people of the country and have planned to do so with a hog roast to raise funds for a school in Ethiopia that has some family connections.

The Stollers adopted their daughter Selah, 2, from Ethiopia in February 2010, six months after having their biological daughter Shiloh, 3.

"We have a strong desire to give back to a country that's given us so much," Sarah said.

"Sarah had a desire to adopt and I knew that before we got married and I was completely fine with that," Jeff, a Van Wert native, added. "We had the connection to Ethiopia through Peggy living there."

The Stollers have family ties to Gary and Peggy Ifft who have lived in Ethiopia for 10 years now and teamed up with Lifesong for Orphans to build schools for the children. When the Stollers went to Ethiopia to adopt Selah, they visited the Iffts.

"We were really impressed with the work they were doing," Sarah said. "Their devotion to the children and their education was amazing because school is really important. The government in Ethiopia requires all students to attend preschool, but doesn't give any funds to help them afford it. If they don't go to preschool, they're not allowed to move on with their education."

Sarah, a nurse, went to Ethiopia in December with three other nurses to provide physicals for the students.

"We saw over 300 children and they had problems ranging from lice, malnutrition to dental problems," Sarah said. "It was really an amazing experience."

The Stollers gave back some after adopting Selah, but still wanted to do more to try to really make a difference.

"What we learned was that adoption is a good thing to do, but it isn't the only solution and doesn't solve all the problems people face in Ethiopia," Jeff said. "Adoption can't help everyone. In the long term, we need to have people on the ground there to help them build the foundations for a strong community."

Through church and family connections, the Stollers began planning for a way to help the Iffts and Lifesong for Orphans.

"There is a specific need for the primary school to expand because right now they only have one class per grade," Jeff said. "They have multiple preschools, but the primary school cannot house all the students."

The Lifesong-Meserete Kristos Primary School in Ziway, Ethiopia provides breakfast and lunch for the children, a rarity for a school in Ethiopia.

"For some of these kids, this is their only food for the day, and to be able to learn, the children have to have food," Sarah said.

The Stollers have an over arching goal to raise $50,000, the cost of building four classrooms and providing materials like desks and chalkboards for inside the classroom also.

"We really don't know how the event will turn out, but we trust that God will bring who needs to come," Sarah said.

"We just hope to raise awareness, have fun and let the community know that one of our own is in Ethiopia trying to make a difference," Jeff added.

The Hog Walk for Lifesong Ethiopia will take place at Hiestand Woods Park on Hospital Drive, Saturday, August 27 from 3 to 6 p.m. with food available starting at 4. A donation is required to get the meal, but no specific cost will be set. Cash donations will be accepted, but to receive a tax deductible receipt, a check must be written to "Lifesong for Orphans" with "Hope Ethiopia" on the memo line.

Everyone is welcome and encouraged to come learn about the work the Iffts have done in Ethiopia and the plans for the future.