Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ethiopia: Uniforms Make it Through Customs

Oct. 7

After 22 hours of travel, the 130 soccer uniforms and I landed in Addis Ababa.
There was one last hurdle - customs approval. When the customs agent opened one of my bags, she gave me the “who are you kidding” look. The uniforms were just too new and beautiful for her to believe it was a donation for a church ministry. I pointed out that the jerseys had “Tinely Park Soccer” screen printed on them, in an effort to show her that all though these uniforms have never been used, they don’t have a U.S. resell value. After a couple of supervisors got involved, it appeared I would have to store the uniforms at customs until I could return with an official letter stating the use of this donation from our office in Ethiopia. They would not accept my letter signed and notarized by Children’s Hope in St. Louis.

I had spotted Tsegay, our CHI-Ethiopia director, waiting for me just outside the secure area. They allowed him to come in and explain the situation. Again they stated that the donors should given a monetary gift so that we could purchase from Ethiopian craftsman.

We all agreed on that, but this is a donation that will do wonders to enhance the Wondimamchoch church outreach to street children. After some more delays, the original customs agent came over to Tsegay and I and said, "Next time you need all the correct letters, but with this donation, I will let you go." So off we went with all the uniforms!
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