WALTER SMITH IN ETHIOPIA : A FAMILY AFFAIR

About 15 years ago, my wife and I were living in a small Brooklyn house with our three year old son, Otis. We talked about wanting more children and were thinking about adoption instead of Kate going through another pregnancy. She had no issues but wanted to adopt to help a child that needed a family.

After three months of discussions and searching, we decided on an adoption in Ethiopia. Kate worked in the HIV field, and we were well aware of what was happening in Ethiopia. We found an agency and went through all the homes studies, etc. After eight months we were assigned a baby named Salam. For three weeks we were ecstatic. We had pictures and videos of the baby. She was ours.

One afternoon I got a call that the baby passed away due to a hole in her heart. We were absolutely devastated.

We talked about it for a few hours and reached out to the adoption agency. There were two young children whose paperwork was complete and they needed a home. They were sisters, Tigist and Mihret, ages four and two and a half.

My responses was that of a fool... if I get a minivan, I can do it. Two weeks later we had a minivan, albeit a crappy one. Two weeks after that Kate and I flew to Ethiopia to meet our daughters. Four months later Kate flew to Ethiopia alone to bring our daughters home.

As we were walking in to pick up my wife and daughters from the airport I turned to my son and asked Otis how he felt. Otis said it best, “I feel great. From lonely to not lonely.” We were going into the airport as a small family and coming out a big one! I’ll forever remember his response. We went from thinking we’d be a nice family of four to a bigger family of five.

Our new life offered a bit of a change, now having three rambunctious kids under the age of six. There was lots of energy in the house… too much for a small Brooklyn house. Within six months of the girls arrival we were living in Nyack, NY in a small house with a huge yard. It had plenty of room to run off that energy.

One day at breakfast Otis said to us that he’d like to adopt a brother to “even out the score.” That's all Kate needed to hear. Within three weeks she was traveling to Ethiopia to pick up our son Tariku, who was six. It happened that fast! Boom… a family of six.

Kate has traveled back to Ethiopia with Tariku and Tigist in the past few years but we’ve never gone as a group until last March. What a trip. We were able to see the two women who ran the orphanage and took care of our children while they were there. Everyone got along great and had a wonderful time.

It's tough to freely shoot street work when you’re traveling with family. I had to watch shots sail right by! I did manage to do some street drinking with a very nice group who wouldn’t let my glass of Tej run dry. Here are a few snaps from the trip with my 16/16/16/14 year old children. I could use a vacation from this vacation!

Photographer & Story: Walter Smith