I recently returned from a trip to Ethiopia and Uganda where I visited the Retrak projects and was able to see our work in action. Driving through the streets of Addis Ababa at night, I saw countless children huddled in corners or under benches, trying to sleep in the cold rain. During the day these children could be seen begging or scavenging for food. At the Retrak drop-in center, children were laughing, playing, eating and learning, and later I visited children who were settling in for the night at Retrak's night shelter.
Retrak makes a real difference in the lives of street kids. Here's the story of a set of brothers who recently came to Retrak:
Abebe and Kbede are brothers who were born in the southern part of Ethiopia called Acheber. Abebe is 13 and Kebede is 7 years old. Before they came to street they lived with their parents. Their father was a farmer and their mother was a house wife.
The boys' parents never sent their children to school because of economic hardship. When the hardship becamestrong they sent out their first child to their uncle’s house. Abebe used to look after the sheep and received a small amount of money. The youngest boy, Kebede, remained with his parents. Suddenly the father’s behavior changed badly. He began hitting his wife. The neighbors usually tried to intervene when there was a quarrel but he didn’t change his behavior and instead he started to fight with the neighbors. When the problem became severe the mother left the house
Abebe was always thinking about his family and how to improve their economic situation, and he started saving the money that he got from the job. Abebe bought sheep and brought them to his family. When Abebe came to see the family he couldn’t find his mother. He only saw his brother and father. When their father saw the sheep he asked Abebe to sell the sheep and to go to Addis Ababa. Abebe consented and they sold the sheep and came to Addis Ababa. When they reached to the bus station of Addis Ababa their father told them to stay at the bus station. They waited but their father didn’t show up. The children became terrified and started to cry. They didn’t eat anything for a day because they didn’t know where to get food. The community around the bus station keptthem for the night.
In the morning, Retrak's outreach team found Abebe while he was crying on the street. When they asked why he was crying he said that he was hungry. the outreach team invited Abebe and Kebede to the Retrak drop-in center.They are now getting Retrak’s services including education, medical services, food, shelter and counseling. Abebe and Kebede are now very happy. Eventually Retrak social workers hope to place the brothers, together, with a foster family.
Retrak was able to help Abebe and Kebede thanks the the generous contributions of our donors. Thank you for continuing to support our important work.
Many people across the country will be celebrating Mothers Day this weekend. But there are thousands of children across Ethiopia who don't have a loving mother to care for them or a place to call home. Robel was one of those children, until Retrak social workers found him and brought him to the Retrak Drop-In Center, where Robel has been working to overcome his past and have hope for a brighter future.
Robel is fourteen years old. He was born in the Ethiopian town of Dire Dawa. Before he came to the street, he lived happily with his parents and two sisters. But his mother left home, and his father remarried. His stepmother was abusive, both physically and psychologically. So Robel left his home and lived on the streets of Dire Dawa. While living on the streets, Robel was sexually abused by a stranger and hospitalized for his injuries. When he was released from the hospital, Robel decided to leave Dire Dawa and come to Addis Ababa. . He survived by doingcar washing, carrying luggage and getting leftover food from hotels. After staying two months on the street, Robel was again sexually abused. He went to the police again but no one helped him.
The Retrak outreach team found Robel on street when they were doing their street visit program. Robel was sitting on the bus station fence looking confused. When the outreach team tried to talk with him he started to cry and it was difficult for him to express his feelings through his tears. The team invited him to the Drop-In Center and Robel decided to come.
When he first came to the Retrak Drop-In Center, he told his whole story to the social worker during the counselingsession. Robel was very suspicious and angry and was often fighting with the other boys and often cried. While staying in the center, he participated in all the activities, including counseling, food, medical services, life skills, and catch-up lessons. He also got voluntary HIV counseling and testing and fortunately his result was free from HIV. He was sure that he would die because of HIV, and when he heard that he is disease-free, he said that “now I can be a big man and live my own life”.
Robel didn’t want to reintegrate back with his family because of the neglect and abuse from his family in the past. His plan for the future is to take business training and become independent. One day he wants to go back to Dire Dawa in order to live his own life by doing his small business.
Robel is now getting regular play therapy counseling which is helping him express his anger and grief and which will in time help him to come to terms with his past abuse and sufferings. He is now improving and is in a much bettersituation than before.
Thank you for your support of Retrak, which has allowed Robel, and hundreds of boys like him, to overcome the abuse and trauma of his past. Please consider making a donation to Retrak for Mothers Day so that more boys can feel loved and valued.
Thanks to the support you have given us Retrak are celebrating have returned over 1000 children like Habtamu to safe and loving homes and away from street life. Habtamu's story is just one of many of the children that Retrak have been able to help with your support. Without your support Habtamu might never have escaped street life and might not be alive today.
MARCH 14TH - MATCH FUNDING DAY! Starting at 12:00 am EDT on March 14th, GlobalGiving will be matching all donations made through www.globalgiving.org up to $1,000 per donor at 30%. We have $50,000 available in matching funds. Matching will last until funds run out or until 11:59 pm EDT.
A man rang from a local church and explained that they had got to know a young boy of around 12 years of age who had been appearing at their church for the past few months. He was undergoing long-term medical treatment and needed help, good food and most of all a good home – but they were not able to do this – could we help?
This young boy, we’ll call him Habtamu, was the youngest in his family, with 2 elder sisters. Habtamu never knew his dad – he left shortly after he was born. So Habtamu’s mum struggled to bring him up the best she could and provide for his needs. It wasn’t easy as a single mum – but somehow she managed. Everything was going OK except that when Habtamu reached around 5 years of age his mum started getting really sick. It was AIDS. Just near Habtamu’s 6th birthday, his mum died. Suddenly life was turned upside down for this little boy. His remaining sister took him to Addis Ababa and they both stayed with some relatives for the next couple of years. This wasn’t too bad for a while but then his sister decided to get married. Habtamu’s sister didn’t want to leave him with the relatives and told him that she and her new husband would look after him. For a while things went OK, he was doing well at school and passing his exams. His sister had a baby and life was reasonably settled. But around the time Able was 8 or 9 years old he started getting sick and losing weight. After various treatments he did not get better – the health centre advised an HIV test – it was positive. He was immediately put on ART’s (Anti-Retroviral Therapy) but despite this he felt weak and sometimes got sick.
His sister and her husband were supportive but afraid – their relationship started to deteriorate – they would yell at him and occasionally beat him. They wouldn’t let him touch or go near their baby for fear the baby would get HIV. Habtamu felt rejected, unwelcome and sick, and so sad that no-one wanted him, so he decided to run away. Amazingly when he was living on the streets, he kept going back to the health centre and taking his medication. The health centre tried to support him and give him some extra food. They got in touch with the local church for assistance. The church members tried to help but they didn’t have much experience on how to help a sick child who was homeless … and so the phone call was made to Retrak.
By the time Habtamu came to Retrak he had been on the street for 8 months and was physically in bad shape with multiple infections, and was thin and weak. He also appeared depressed and very quiet. The first stop was the clinic where he had a full medical check-up and referral to the local hospital to get treatment for all the infections. Next stop was the feeding program as the staff tried to encourage him to eat good food that would make him strong. He also began to stay at the shelter at night, he gradually began to rest and recover. The started to have counseling sessions were very important for Habtamu to be able to tell his story, grieve, express his emotions, anger and fears about the future.
Habtamu spent just over 5 months at the drop in centre recovering and working out a way forward. During this time the social workers also made contact with his sister and her husband. Talking through their worries and fears, helping them understand more about Habtamu’s sickness and what care he needed, and gradually helping them come to the point where they said they would really like to try again and care for Habtamu. The sibling bond between them was still very strong.
So just last week Habtamu returned home to his sister and her husband. He was a bit nervous at first but as they welcomed him warmly, giving him a big hug and presented him with a new shirt and tie! He relaxed a bit and started chatting away about his catch-up school lessons and how he had learnt some really great tricks at Retrak in the circus program! They were very happy to see him in such a good physical and emotional state and are keen to provide him with the love and care he needs.
Habtamu is being followed-up closely and is returning to the drop-in centre weekly for play therapy as he gets used to being at home again and continues to deal with his sickness. He will start school again soon and loves playing with the new puppies at his sister’s house!
Thank you for supporting Retrak and for helping children like Habtamu have a better life.
The Retrak Team
A Christmas Carol is one of our most loved Christmas stories, but what is it really all about? Charles Dickens wrote a Christmas Carol in the context of the reforms of the English Poor Laws. He wanted to speak out against a society and a Christianity that oppressed the poor and rich people who forgot those who had little and ignored children who needed help.
As we count down the final days to Christmas let’s remember this message and help those who are poor and in need. Street children are some of the most vulnerable children in the world. In the capital of Ethiopia there are 11,000 children living on the streets this Christmas. Please remember these children in this season of love and giving.
Why not give a Tribute Card to someone you love. The money donated through your gift will transform the lives of street children in Ethiopia.
Go to ‘Gift’ here - http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/support-street-children-in-africa/
Read Hussein’s story to find out how you donations in 2011 have helped to save children’s lives...
Last Christmas a boy named Hussein came to Retrak’s drop-in centre, he had been living on the streets for two months. His parents couldn't afford to feed their children and Hussein had left to try and earn some money in the city.
Hussein left his family happily because he believed that he would be able to earn money living in Addis Ababa. After a few days he quickly saw that life was difficult on the street. He couldn't find any work; he had no food, no shelter and was very lonely. He lived like this for two months believing that this was what his life would be like now; he thought that he would probably die on the streets and his family would never know what happened to him.
One night Hussein met some of the Retrak Staff Team. The Retrak staff go out to speak to the street children at night so that they can offer help and support to those who are sleeping full time on the streets. They invited Hussein to the Retrak drop in centre. After only three weeks at the drop-in centre, Hussein asked to be taken back to his family. The Retrak team managed to locate Hussein’s family and tell them that he was alive and well. Hussein’s family were amazed and said that they knew that God would answer their prayers and keep him safe.
After a few weeks Hussein returned home to him family. They were so pleased to have him back and thanked the Retrak social workers for finding him and looking after him.
In October our social workers went to visit Hussein’s family for a follow-up visit, to check how Hussein was settling in and to see if Retrak could support them in an income generating activity. When the social workers arrived Hussein was in a school. The family was given a grant with which they bought two sheep and two hens, these animals will help them generate food and some income of their own.
Hussein assured Retrak that: “Next time you meet me for sure I will be in University!”
Thanks to your generous support Hussein is safe and at home with his family this Christmas.
Have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year,
Love all at Retrak
World AIDS Day is held on December 1st each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS. We wanted to take this oppertunity to tell you about just one of the projects we run to help tackle the issue of HIV/AIDS in Africa.Thanks to the incredible support you give Retrak, in 2010 over 550 street children learnt about HIV/AIDS. Retrak is working hard to educate street children about HIV/AIDS and increase their knowledge and helping to reduce their chance of infection.
Retrak & Kick4Life Soccer HIV-prevention Project
Retrak works with “full time” street children that are disconnected from the protection of their family, they live and work on the streets and are at constant risk of exploitation, abuse and poor health. Many street children are HIV-affected having lost a relative through a HIV-related illness, at risk of sexual abuse, or being infected themselves.
The Global HIV Prevention Working Group insists that evidence-based behaviour change can avert up to 50% of the 15 million new infections projected to occur in the next decade. Education and behaviour change programs are not only amongst the world’s most cost-effective health interventions but also have the greatest potential to reverse the HIV pandemic. Thanks to your support Retrak have been able to introduce this pilot programme to both Uganda and Ethiopia.
The programme uses soccer as a vehicle to increase knowledge of HIV, reduce the stigma around HIV/AIDS and prevent new HIV infections in street children.
The soccer based HIV-prevention project supports street children and adolescents living with HIV (and the consequences of HIV), and their families within their communities by:
Retrak has partnered with Kick4Life www.kick4life.org, a non-profit organisation based in Lesotho that uses the power of football to stop the spread of HIV. Retrak and Kick4Life have piloted a football based HIV prevention project for street children in Kampala, Uganda. Retrak and Kick4Life have design a HIV curriculum specifically targeting vulnerable street children. Retrak have been working over the last few months with Kick4Life to deliver the interactive HIV prevention programme to street boys aged 7-17.
The curriculum focuses on building basic life skills that help boys and girls adopt healthy behaviours and live risk-free. Through a series of interactive activities, soccer and discussions students gain a tangible understanding of HIV and AIDS and get a chance to practice the skills necessary for sustainable behaviour change. Key curricular topics include making healthy decisions, avoiding risks, building support networks, reducing stigma and discrimination, increasing knowledge about HIV testing and treatment, addressing gender issues, and assessing values.
Thanks to the support that you give Retrak and street children in Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya Retrak is able to offer basic but imaginative catch up education for the children, focussing on key subjects such as literacy, numeracy, health and HIV/AIDS. The access to education is vital in building up the self esteem of each child which in turn helps to improve their chances of a successful return back into the community.
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US Country Director