December 20, 2014

SSC grad welcomes Ethiopian son

Welcome to America

Courtesy photo
Yami Ketemma Albrecht
By Tim Barnum|Staff writer
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CARO — Early in January, Connie Albrecht, of Caro, a Standish-Sterling graduate, welcomed home the newest member of her family – Yami Ketemma Albrecht, whom Connie adopted from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“There’s quite an adjustment but he is doing pretty well considering the circumstances,” Connie said, adding Yami is adjusting to the different weather, language barriers, a new school and new friends.

“He’s (Yami) got a long way to go,” added Yami’s grandmother through adoption, Marlene Albrecht, of AuGres.

However, even though there is a bit of culture shock, Marlene and Connie both say Yami’s personality is helping him become more accustomed to his new surroundings.

“He’s really motivated and ready to try anything,” Marlene said. “Connie wanted to home school him, but he’s such a social guy.”

“He is a child who is very social and very extroverted,” Connie said, adding this trait was probably formed while living in the Ethiopian orphanage. “He had children to play with all the time.”

Connie says, though, that while Yami was able to have friends and access to soccer during many moments of the day in the orphanage, which she says was nicer than most in the African continent, some aspects of his past living conditions were startling to her when she visited the orphanage in December prior to the adoption.

“There were like four bunk beds in his room, so eight beds, eight boys,” she said. “They (children living there) shared clothes.”

While the conditions of Yami’s living may be sad, the story behind Yami living in an orphanage is a sadder one.

“Both his (biological) mom and dad died,” Marlene said.

“No one’s sure how it happened,” Connie added, also saying that Yami was living with his biological grandmother, who had him put in the orphanage for unspecified reasons.

Since making his new home in Caro, Marlene and Connie say Yami has been able to keep in contact with one of his friends from the orphanage, who was adopted by a family in the state of Washington, but still, the newest Albrecht has experienced some difficult times.

“He has had a few lonely moments,” Marlene said.

“I just think that he feels a lot of sadness from the things he’s lost in his life,” Connie said. “He has good days and bad days. There’s a lot of things (at his new home) he’s never encountered.”

There was even a little dispute over Yami’s age when he was adopted. Connie says in Africa, it was legally accepted that Yami was five years old. But she, thinking he was probably older, had him checked by a pediatrician in the U.S., who concluded he was eight years old. She is in the process of having his age legally changed.

Helping others overcome difficulties such as loneliness and uncertainty like Yami has experienced, though, is why Connie says her heart was pulled towards adoption.

“I’m middle-aged and I came to a point in my life where I thought I could do something nice for the world,” she said. “I just thought adopting a kid is something God wanted me to do.”

But not all of the adjustments of Yami’s arrival or past life have to be looked at with depression, despair or dispute. Connie says that Yami’s misconceptions about Michigan weather can be looked at with a sense of humor.

“He was told in Africa that Michigan was cold all the time,” Connie said, adding he assumed this meant year-round and that he had never seen snow before. “Then he saw a picture of my mother’s house (in AuGres) in summer time and wanted to go to grandma’s house.”

Connie says she explained to him that unlike his old home in Addis Ababa, Michigan has a temperate climate.

The cold, though, hasn’t stopped Yami from enjoying his new home in Michigan.

“I don’t think that’s bothered him that much. He just dresses warm,” Connie said. “He loves to sled.”

Marlene added Yami was even able to enjoy his favorite sport of all – soccer – in the winter since joining the Albrecht family.

“I gave him a soccer ball at the airport,” she said. “One day he shoveled the entire front yard to play.”

Connie’s other daughter, Rebecca Albrecht, a senior in high school, has also had to adjust since she is no longer an only child, but Connie says she’s doing great.

“She has been a great big sister,” she said. “She loves to spend time with him,”

“She completely accepts this so greatly and she’s always kissing him on the cheek,” Marlene added.

According to Marlene, the whole city of Caro has actually been very welcoming to Yami and helpful to Connie.

“They’re behind her 100 percent. They’re very supportive,” Marlene said.

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