Back to school, the new recommendations include similarity with local children, country children do not wear uniforms so no more light and dark blue uniforms. Instead the girls wear locally made dresses and the boys in trousers and T-shirts. It means our children do not stand out in any way! Grades ½ class has started teaching blind children, one to begin with and another will come this month. A local mother asked if her handicapped boy could attend school, now Solomon attends our little country school. Some of the older lads help his mother to transport him.
The distance learning has started slowly but the students are adjusting to student centred learning and that is demanding a lot from both them and the teachers as this is a very new concept to rural schools. The class has been made into student stations, with their own bookcases and a teacher to help when they are stymied.
The high school lads all have bicycles so they are independent travelling back and forth into Shire. The two older lads Mu’uz and Hyaloum, who both passed into the two years of preparatory school, are now living in our compound in Shire town, working part time at the Community Orphan Office and Library-cum-Study Hall helping other vulnerable children like themselves. An effort to encourage independence in the children over 18 years is the reason for this move.
This has been a busy season for incoming children! First came two little ones from Shire town whose mother had died, Semrawit and Ashenafi, then news came that there were three orphaned children in a community north of Shire, so Helen, Kibrom and dear little two month Sara who was underfed and so tiny we dressed her in one week old baby clothes. Then a telephone call to please come and take a little boy because his mother was mentally ill and could not care for him, so two day old Amanuel came. Karin’s parents came and their bedroom has become the local baby room for our two smallest darlings!
The children are back to school and so are the nannies, this means that children, babies and their care givers have to be ready for school at the same time! So far they are managing just fine. The great part is that the children are happy and enjoying being together and singing and playing.
In the last Splash we mentioned Samuel and his sister Alemnish, they are managing. Alemnish continues to work at Grace Village on a daily basis. When asked she tells us that Samuel is attending a local government school.
We have another problem child who has proved to be a bully, threatening children and picking on the most vulnerable of all, such as those who are HIV +. This is unacceptable behaviour in our small community so this child has been kept apart from the other children while being counselled and is attending the government school two kilometres away from the village. The bullied children were counselled and are at peace with this bully being removed from their midst.
Some decisions though hard to make are in the best interest of the whole. An interesting note is just last week, a lass who had been sent away some four years ago, returned to apologize for her previous behaviour!
We continue to try and bring about family re-unifications to comply with the government edict encouraging this. When we find out a child has a living parent we make every effort to bring the child and parent together. If there are financial constraints we encourage the parent to take the child and we help through the community childcare programme where our social workers can help the parents.
Several of the children have failed their school year due to having to work, so strengthening the study hall with our two lads may help encourage the children to come to this place of quiet and learn.
There are always more children than we can sponsor, so new sponsors are always welcome!
Refugee Child Protection
They run away from Eritrea because they hear there is food at the camp, there is schooling and certainly no one comes to draft you into an army that you do not want to join.
Then the reality of what they have done hits you; the total separation from everything near and dear to you though only a few hours away by car is light years away in distance due to circumstances beyond your understanding. You cannot go back and you cannot go forward, you are stuck in a refugee camp. Ten to a stone shelter, your bed a pile of stones with a plastic mat on top, shared with four to five others like you. Food is whatever you receive, clothing is what you come with, your neighbours are all like you – sad, lonely and frightened.
Abraham’s Oasis has employed more Child Protection Officers and a Coordinator, with over 1,000 community refugee children living with parents, foster families or extended families and almost 900 unaccompanied minors the task is overwhelming. Most being young males between 13 and 17 years of age. Working under the aegis of United Nations High Commission for Refugees we try and make their lives bearable and a future that may give them hope and bring a smile.
Imagine living so far away from a health centre that during the rainy season you cannot even get there and if you are ready to deliver your baby you just have to stop at home and pray… The delivery kits provided by Simple Delivery Kit Foundation in Australia are now being requested by the remote centres and last week the Shire Health Centre asked for two hundred kits!
Raising awareness for save deliveries remain a challenge given the geography of our mountainous area of Ethiopia, anyone living away from the main roads it truly far when the pathway is separated by torrents of water as we have had this year. We have no way of really knowing the number of mothers and new-born babies disabled or dead this last quarter. No record is kept except for yet more orphan children trying to survive and men giving way to despair and alcoholism. This in turn leads to:
Gender Based Violence Awareness
So why is raising Gender Based Violence Awareness so important? Here is what Ato. Mehari our health coordinator told me:
“In North-western Zone there is no equality between husband and wife, there are wide disparities between male and female. This is seen in early marriage, very young girls being forced to marry old men against their will. In some cases the man may have many wives.
Mothers work alone at home and have to help their husbands as well in the fields, doing double duty. Rape is still sadly common. Women with disabilities are neglected and marginalised in their community. Even when they have problems they have no idea where to go for help. The authorities who should know how to help them have no idea where to send them for help.”
Grace Village Health
Rehwa had her Achilles lengthened and is now wearing a built up splint to help keep her leg straight. Hewan had the stump of her left arm reviewed after the bones started to come through. Eden has been rescheduled for surgery in six months and Berihu will have his second ear drum repaired next year.
As a whole the children have been healthy, mainly problems with skin fungus and the usual cuts and bruises found anywhere in the world. Malaria, cough and colds seem to be common but not overwhelming.
Agro - Development
Gebre Mehdin continues to work alongside our Emnet Cooperative. They have had some disappointments due to the exceedingly heavy rains that flood some of the fields, but in other places the corn in maturing nicely and we should soon be able to harvest this!
Fields are being ploughed the tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, and other vegetables and soon these will be sown and we will have crops for the village and the market.
There is much animal fodder that is waiting to be cut for the milk cows, who continue to produce milk. Several bullocks will be sold and one poor producing milk cow and another cow in calf or with calf will be bought.
The tea shop, the ‘shiro’ making, the general store, the chair and basket making is progressing and all are making a profit albeit small.
The school has completed the first phase and wants to start the second phase in form of income generation – a small school supplies shop run by the students under supervision.
A brief study was done on the perception of the people living with the unidentified liver disease of why, how and wherefore of the disease and its social implications. This is being analysed.
The work we do is hands on, the arms we hug are touchable, the people we help reach out to us and we see the smiles and receive the joy. You make this possible, your support, your encouragement, your help, your visits, your gifts through the post and your belief in us is what this work is all about. Thank you!
Karin v /d Bosch & Ruth C. Kennedy