Retrak are working to support vulnerable children in Ethiopia, many of whom have faced extraordinary hardship and have been exposed to significant abuse and exploitation. Our work began with an impactful start in 2022. In January our community prevention saw 7,975 Self Help Group members participate in savings and loans groups, this rose to 8,384 in February. 21,000 children were reached through child wellbeing clubs. These clubs allow children to participate in community- and school-based events that reach massive figures and encourage a greater understanding of issues related to modern slavery, protection, and health education. We also had huge surge in community education awareness, with almost 4,000 people reached.
Our Lighthouse aftercare centres supported 370 new intakes between November to January, helping to get Ethiopian children off the street and into safety. Due to the government's lifting of the State of Emergency, in January and February we were able to re-integrate 306 children who had been trafficked. The lifting of the State of Emergency meant that our staff were able to travel across the country again.
The below story shows how we help children to move away from living on the street, provide restorative care at our Lighthouse, and, how we safely reconnect them with their families.
13-year-old Ethiopian boy safely home after a year of exploitation
Galcha* had an emotional reunion with his parents (pictured above), after being forced to work in abusive conditions while living on the streets for a year.
The young boy, who is being sponsored to attend school by our team, said: “I would like to thank all of the Hope for Justice team for making me hopeful and a better person for my future.”
Galcha had heard from a friend that he would find a well-paid job if he went to the city of Sodo in south-central Ethiopia. After arriving, Galcha was forced to work in a tea house, and paid so little that he couldn’t afford to buy food every day.
Galcha then travelled to Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa to find a better job, but was forced into labour exploitation again, and subjected to abuse. In an effort to escape, he became addicted to sniffing glue.
He returned to Sodo, where he met one of our outreach workers, who explained how we could help. Galcha decided to join one of our Lighthouses.
Upon arrival, Galcha had low self-esteem and was shy. We provided medical care, and individual and group counselling.
We introduced him to life skills sessions to empower him to look after himself in future. Galcha also began to take part in many other activities at the Lighthouse, enjoying catch-up lessons, sports, arts and crafts.
Meanwhile, our team worked for two weeks to locate Galcha’s parents. We coached them on parenting skills, and human trafficking awareness. We provided training and a grant, to enable them to start a small business and secure their future.
After a month, Galcha was ready to return home. His parents were overcome with emotion when they saw their delighted son. They dropped to the ground, cried with joy, and thanked our team.
Retrak are continuing to support vulnerable children in Ethiopia, many of whom have faced extraordinary hardship and have been exposed to significant abuse and exploitation. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic we have been able to work across the country continuing our outreach efforts in order to identify children who are being exploited and provide them with valuable care. Between July and October 2021 there were 425 new intakes into our lighthouses.
To prevent the exploitation of children on the streets we carry out work with families, caregivers and the wider community, supporting community strengthening initiatives. In August alone our community prevention work saw the participation of 2,265 members of savings groups in Hadiya and Wolaita Zones, and we reached 318 people through community education and awareness sessions. The savings groups provide significant improvement in household income and therefore stability which reduces the likelihood children will run away and end up living on the streets.
We are managing the impacts of the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia by ensuring that all staff remain safe and informed about the safety protocols that must be followed. In light of this we have suspended reintegration work apart from in cases where only very local travel is involved.
The below story shows how our aftercare centers can support children in Ethiopia to overcome the trauma they have faced, helping them begin to rebuild their lives.
13-year-old free after being forced to work unpaid for two and a half years
A 13-year-old boy who was forced to work for no pay for more than two years is now safe and at school.
Solomon’s* mom had been a domestic worker in the northern Amhara region of Ethiopia, but she lost her eyesight after giving birth to twins, and was then unable to work. With Solomon’s dad largely absent, the family reached desperation point.
Solomon ran away to find work to prevent them from starving. While homeless and living on the streets, he was offered food, shelter, and work. But during two years as a domestic worker and farm laborer, he was never paid. He bravely escaped, and managed to find his way home, but was lured away by another trafficker who promised him a job.
Again, Solomon was not paid. After six months, he escaped and then panhandled in the city to earn a little money for his family.
Hope for Justice’s outreach workers found Solomon, and explained how they could help him. They brought Solomon to one of our Lighthouses, where our expert team cared for him for four months.
We provided Solomon with counselling, catch-up lessons and life skills sessions. As he began to rediscover his confidence, Solomon sang songs for his new friends at the Lighthouse.
We also provided Solomon with the chance to take part in a small business course, before reuniting him with his mother for good. Now, Solomon is not only at school, but has set up his own shoe-shining business after we provided a start-up grant.
We will continue to support Solomon and his family to ensure that they stay well.
Retrak are working in Ethiopia to support some of the most vulnerable children to overcome exploitation and abuse. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated already vulnerable communities and left many more children facing hardship; it has also challenged the work of NGOs by disrupting programs and making communities harder to reach.
Our Lighthouse aftercare centers continue to be accessed by children who have been removed from situations of exploitation and between January to May 2021 we had 366 new intakes to these. These centers offer vital care for children who have been trafficked and exploited on the streets and act as places of respite where children can access catch-up education, trauma informed pyschological care and medical treatment. Social workers continue to work with the families of children in our lighthouses to assess whether they will be safe and supported at home. In the first 5 months of 2021, 343 were placed in family based care, which, if safe, is extremely beneficial for a child's development.
The first half of 2021 has seen some loosening of restrictions in Ethiopia such as the opening of schools which has enabled us to carry out vital preventative work via Child Protection Clubs. In line with COVID-19 restrictions we have also facilitated Self Help Groups for women in smaller numbers. These groups allow women to save money to start a business and give them access to training on effective parenting to protect their children from street work and trafficking into domestic servitude, forced begging and sexual exploitation.
Below shows the impact of one of our lighthouse centers on a young boy who went through a traumatic trafficking experience:
Joyful reunion for family who thought their 9-year-old son was dead
A grieving mother, who had thought her son was lost forever, said of being reunited with her boy: “The joy is like giving birth again to my son. I will never forget this day.”
9-year-old Abenezer* was trafficked into labor exploitation from rural Southern Ethiopia. One day, he was playing with his friends near the local market when a trafficker approached him, and promised him a better life in the city.
But when Abenezer arrived, he was forced to learn and carry out traditional weaving techniques in a harsh environment. He was given little food,and abused both physically and emotionally when he struggled to learn quickly or perform the work well.
After nine months of fear and exhaustion, Abenezer bravely took his chance to escape. He was then found on the street by the police, who referred him to Retrak Ethiopia’s Lighthouse.
When Retrak took him in, Abenezer was depressed and traumatized. He felt that no-one would understand what he had been through. For two months, our expert team cared for him, providing counseling sessions and life skills training. He also benefited from the support of the other children at the Lighthouse, who had had similar experiences.
He began to visibly recover. He became more communicative, participated in activities more, and became keen to return to his family. Retrak worked hard to find and contact his family, who had been searching for Abenezer for months, and were delighted to hear that he was safe. The family were very emotional, and cried tears of joy, when we were able to finally reunite them for good.
Abenezer is now happily living at home and is back at school.The police are searching for the trafficker.
*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the survivor
Your continued donation to Retrak helps enable us to support victims become survivors in Ethiopia. Without your support we would not be able to carry out this life-changing family reunification work.
In Ethiopia, there are thousands of vulnerable children encountering violence, exploitation and abuse on a daily basis – on the streets, in situations of trafficking or forced labor. Retrak’s program aims to provide a safe space for children to overcome their trauma and, if possible, reintegrate them back into a safe family environment.
In 2020, Covid-19 challenged everyone on a global scale. The impact of the pandemic has been significant on the children we work with, and their families. Despite the many challenges we have faced due to Covid-19 restrictions, Retrak reached 797 children in our Lighthouses (short-term residential centres) providing them with safe shelter and protection. 654 children were placed back with their families.
At Retrak’s Lighthouses, children are supported to overcome trauma by accessing catch-up education (taught in line with the national curriculum), trauma-informed care and medical care, which they urgently need. We use a child-rights approach, meaning that together with them, plans are made for their next steps. Retrak social workers contact each child’s family to assess whether it is safe and appropriate for children to go home. When this is impossible, Retrak ensures that alternative family-based care arrangements – such as foster care or supported independent living – are made.
Below is a story of Tizita, who is back with her family thanks to your support.
Freedom for 12-year-old girl who was told her mother was dead
A 12-year-old girl is now safely home after being forced into domestic work, abused, and led to believe that her mother was dead.
Tizita* had recently become a big sister when a neighbour’s relative offered her education and a better life in the city. With Tizita’s father constantly away with the military, and another mouth to feed, Tizita’s mother agreed to the plan.
But once Tizita arrived, she was forced to cook, clean and look after a baby, and was physically and verbally abused. She wasn’t allowed to go to school.
When Tizita asked to contact her mother, her captor said she was dead. Distraught, Tizita ran away. A passer-by found her on the street and took her to the police station, before she was taken in by our Lighthouse.
After her ordeal, Tizita would often cry, argue with other children, and would not join in. She could not stop worrying about her baby brother being all alone. Our dedicated team cared for Tizita, and provided her with catch-up education and life skills classes, as well as counseling sessions.
Suspicious about the news of Tizita’s mother, our team also worked tirelessly to discover the truth. Her mother was alive and well, although Tizita didn’t believe this until she spoke to her on the phone. She was jumping, crying and laughing with joy that her mother was on her way. After months of trauma and separation, Tizita ran delightedly into her mother’s arms, while our team celebrated the return of her hope and freedom.
Thank you again for all your support, and we look forward to continuing to update you on the children we work with in 2021.
Protecting the children in Retrak’s care and the staff who work with them remains one of the charity’s top priorities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The teams at our Lighthouses are maintaining rigorous, long-term health and safety procedures to keep staff and children as safe as possible. Retrak follows the guidelines set out by the World Health Organization, including hand-washing and avoiding touching the face, nose or mouth. Nurses are stationed at each Lighthouse to provide medical care and check-ups. The children’s and staff’s temperatures are taken on a daily basis in addition to other health checks to identify any COVID-19 symptoms. Our Lighthouses are also disinfected and cleaned several times each day.
In Ethiopia there are thousands of vulnerable children* encountering hunger, poverty, violence and abuse on a daily basis. Retrak’s principal aim is to reintegrate these children back into a safe family environment. In the three months April to June 2020, Retrak reached 41 children through outreach or referral. This reduced number was due to the strict lockdown measures that were introduced in the country which meant many of our activities were necessarily severely restricted. Nevertheless, we continued to provide safe shelter and protection to 126 children in the Retrak Lighthouses (our short-term transitional centres) and served 974 children through sessions in our clinics; 55 successfully completed our reintegration process and were reunited with their families or placed in alternative, family-based care.
At Retrak’s Lighthouses, children are supported to overcome trauma by accessing catch-up education (taught in line with the national curriculum), psychosocial counselling and the medical care they so urgently need. We use a child-rights approach to work with the children, meaning that together with them, plans are made for their next steps. Retrak social workers contact each child’s family to assess whether it is safe and appropriate for children to go home. In cases when this is impossible, Retrak ensures that alternative family-based care arrangements – such as foster care or supported independent living – are made.
Below is the story of Selam** who is back with her family thanks to the support of donors like you.
*Retrak’s focus is on children under 18 who spend the majority of their time living or working on the streets
**Name and image changed to preserve anonymity
Girl, 10, reunited with parents after running away from an abusive relative and being turned into domestic slave
When she was aged six, Selam moved to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, to live with a wealthy relative who had promised her parents to provide for her every need.
Being poor, and believing this family member’s offer of a chance of a better life for their daughter, her parents had arranged for Selam to leave their rural village for the city. However, when Selam arrived at her relative’s home she was forced into domestic servitude, and put to work caring for an infant, preparing food and cleaning.
A member of Retrak’s team said: “This relative had lied to Selam’s parents, making false promises of a new life in Addis Ababa.
“At an incredibly young age Selam’s childhood was taken away from her. She was forced to carry out domestic tasks, including looking after a baby; she wasn’t allowed to attend school; she was given only scraps of food to eat and often went hungry. She was beaten without reason.”
After several years of enduring this hardship and with no prospect of going back home to her parents, Selam decided to run away. A police officer found her wandering the streets and referred her to Retrak. She was placed in the care of staff at one of our short-term care facilities – a ‘Lighthouse’ – where she received friendship, support, medical treatment, schooling and counselling.
A member of the Retrak team in Ethiopia said: “Selam was very shy at first and couldn’t express her feelings.After a little while she gradually began to open up and was soon participating in group activities.”
After about a month at the Lighthouse Selam began talking about going to see her parents, and after following our careful reconciliation process, Retrak reunited Selam with her parents.“Her mother couldn’t believe her eyes,” a Lighthouse staff member told us, “She didn’t even know that her little girl had gone missing. Both parents were very emotional when they heard what had occurred and relieved to have their daughter back with them.
“They expressed their incredible thanks for everything that Retrak’s doing.” Now, with Retrak’s support, Selam is due to start school as soon as possible and catch up on the education she has missed.
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