Into the streets of Ethiopia
Below is the story of Robel, one of the in country staff members of AWAA who has used his own income to send many street kids to school who otherwise would spend 100% of their time living on the street with no home, no education, no food. This article tells his own story and his motivations for forming Children's Future Ethiopia. You can read more about this organization at:
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Children's Future Ethiopia
About Robel Alawi:
I was born on December 25,1986, in Harar, Ethiopia to a farming family. Our farm grew corn, fruit, and vegetables. When I was 10 years old my dad passed away. My mom, my sisters, and I lived together for the next year. My father's family eventually took over our land and due to financial pressures, I felt the need, as the only man, to take care of my family. The only way to financially support my mom and sisters was for me to go to Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, and find work.
I had an uncle in Addis and I was able to stay with him for some time. The only work I was eligible to do as an eleven year old, was shoe shining and washing cars. Life was tough: my uncle was an alcoholic, his wife was opposed to me living with them, and even while working, street kids would beat me up to steal my money.
I decided it was better for me to move from my uncle's and live with some of my friends that had found themselves in a similar situation. Six of us rented a house that was 12-meter square. During this time I faced many problems as well: some days I went hungry, didn’t have sufficient clothing, and I even found myself on the cold street one night.
Then, one day, my life changed! A man came to me on the streets and asked me to wash his employer’s car. It was a good day to get work. I washed his boss's car and he paid me with 100% tip (20 Birr which equals $2). This was my happiest day ever, as I had never received a tip so large. After the boss inspected my work, he asked if I wanted to come to his home and was his cars three times a week. I quickly agreed! I was so happy! This man, who was very important at the United Nations, had given me a great steady job.
During my time of washing cars for the UN official, I noticed children passing me by to attend school. I was so jealous. I wanted so badly to obtain an education. I wished that I could join them, but because I was able to send money to my family in Harar on a regular basis I was thankful for my job. One summer, my boss and his family went on a vacation to Kenya. Their front yard became filled with weeds, so I cleaned everything up and even planted flowers. Upon their arrival home from Kenya, my employer's wife was thrilled with the extra yard work I had done that she asked me if I would like to live in a back room of their home and do additional work for them. Imagine my excitement! More work equaled more money! This was the opportunity for me to start school. I started saving and I was able to begin school at the age of 15. It wasn’t easy to make friends, as I was the oldest student in my classroom. But oh, I was so happy to be learning!
During my first year of school, I was invited by our coach to replace a sick athlete at the next track meet. I did so well, I was invited to join my school track team.
My boss noticed my talent, was able to help me obtain a scholarship to attend college in Cuba, where I studied Physical Education. Upon returning home from Cuba, I was able to obtain a job at the United Nations. While working at the UN, I learned much more about the many social problems we have in Ethiopia. Then, one afternoon, again I experienced these problems in the face of a person. I went to the post office district to buy some gifts for friends, and there, I met a boy who was begging for food and money. I talked with him and he told me what he wanted to be in the future. It reminded me of my own life, just a few years back. I promised him that I would help him attend school. I also began to research the best ways to help other street kids who begged for their survival.
Children's Future Ethiopia was born out of my desire to "pay it forward." These children are precious and loved by God. I am thankful that God has allowed me the opportunity to work with these very special kids.