Many large African cities are faced with the challenge of street children. When families are decimated children lose hope for their future, and they often end up on the street begging and stealing. The streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia are replete with examples of this tragic loss of childhood’s innocence and opportunity.
Most children living on the streets have relatives nearby who might be minimally capable of putting a roof over their heads. However, antisocial behaviors learned on the streets aren’t easily broken, and this can make the task of reconnecting children with their families quite challenging. Such was the case with a young boy in our program named Bereket. After years of fending for himself on the street Bereket was befriended by Tesfaye Melaku, our Program Coordinator in Addis Ababa (whom we introduced in last year’s Sponsorship Program Update.) Tesfaye was quickly able to find a relative willing to take Bereket in, so we assigned him a sponsor and started supporting him in the context of his extended family.
However, things didn’t go well at first. Instead of going to school, Bereket returned to his friends on the street. He stole from his family and soon wore out his welcome. With no other relatives willing to take him in, Bereket was back on the street again. But Tesfaye continued visiting him regularly. He found a family in our program who agreed to include Bereket in their meals, then set out prayerfully to find him another home.
In time, Tesfaye found a guardian in our program who was willing to give Bereket another chance. The grandmother of a young girl named Meskerem agreed to take him in, as long as he would receive the same nutritional, medical, and educational support her granddaughter was receiving. This represented a wonderful opportunity for Bereket. He now had a chance to claim a different kind of life; far from the area of town where he might be tempted to rejoin his old friends on the street.
As of this writing, Bereket has lived for almost a year in his new home. He has adjusted well to family life, and developed a genuine love for his guardian and young foster sister. He has made friends in his new neighborhood, including some older boys (also sponsored in our program) who have been a positive influence on him.
Bereket has made a good educational adjustment as well, despite the fact that Tesfaye needed to convince the school administration to accept a 13 year-old who had never attended school. Bereket’s academic aptitude appears to be strong, and he finished his first year ranked near the middle of his class. He is in Grade Two this year, and we are looking for ways to provide extra tutoring to help him catch up with other students his age.
Bereket is learning that we serve a God of second chances. In one way or another, this is the story of every child in our program. We pray that all our children will make the most of this opportunity for a second chance at childhood, and we are grateful for each and every sponsor whose generosity is making it possible.