Christine Cornell Ieronimo ’90 never thought she’d write a children’s book, “Not in a million years,” she laughs. She also never imagined that one day she would adopt a child from Ethiopia or spend what little free time she has raising money for a small community of Africans. But today that is exactly what she is doing — in addition to working as a critical care nurse and raising four children with her husband in her home state of Connecticut.
Ieronimo’s book for children, "A Thirst for Home" (Bloomsbury), was written after Ieronimo and her husband adopted their youngest child, Eva, from Ethiopia. In 2008, when they returned home with the newest member of their family, two-year-old Eva discovered a puddle in their driveway and proceeded to drink from it. In Eva’s birth village of Gimbichu water was so scarce that even at such a young age Eva knew that any water was not to be wasted: That was a pivotal moment for Ieronimo.
“I always told people the hardest part about going to Ethiopia that first time was coming home,” says Ieronimo, “because when you see what life is like in places like Ethiopia and around the world, and then you come home to our country and you see all the things that we have and what we take for granted ... it was hard for me to come back and see that.” Ieronimo was especially bothered to see how most children in the United States had no idea how much children in Africa had to struggle every day.
“I started feeling a little resentful towards kids and people here,” she confesses. “And I thought, well, I could either continue to feel resentful, or I could share a story with children here to show them. What I found out when I started sharing the story is that kids here were shocked; the problem wasn’t that they were entitled. The problem was they just didn’t know anything different.”
Ieronimo has been overwhelmed by the response from the children she has read the book to in classrooms and libraries. Many children have initiated change drives to donate to a collective sponsorship that helps pay for tuition costs for children in Gimbichu. Ieronimo strongly believes in the power of education, here and in Africa, and offers free teaching materials and a lesson plan for grades K-5 on her website. "A Thirst for Home" was recently recognized by the Children’s Book Council as a 2015 Notable Social Studies Book.
While her experience with Eva was the catalyst for the book, Ieronimo cites an even stronger inspiration for writing "A Thirst for Home": Eva’s birth mother.
“Another reason I wanted to write this story was to honor Eva’s birth mother, whom I met when I adopted Eva. I was heartbroken the first time I met her because I realized that this was a woman who had absolutely nothing. I think about her every single day.”
It’s Ieronimo’s drive to bring a voice to those less fortunate that fuels her daily efforts to improve life in Gimbichu for its inhabitants. In addition to sponsoring tuition for Gimbichu’s children, Ieronimo and her husband have raised money to buy a generator for its health clinic, and they returned this spring to renovate and update the labor and delivery room.
Even though her plate is overflowing, Ieronimo manages to keep in close contact with her five best friends from her days spent in Durham. And when the going gets tough? Ieronimo simply thinks about Eva’s birth mother. “You know, I think if she can walk miles and miles to collect water, if she can give up her daughter selflessly like she did, then I can do anything. What I’m doing is nothing. She’s really inspired me.”
Written by Meganne Fabrega