Reaching Out to Street Children in Ethiopia

by Retrak America
Zephaniah in tailoring class
Zephaniah in tailoring class

Zephaniah is a 15-year-old boy from southern Ethiopia. His father was an alcoholic who frequently abused both him and his mother. When he was in seventh grade, Zephaniah had had enough, so he left home and joined street life in the capital city of Addis Ababa.

While on the street, Zephaniah encountered many different challenges such as lack of food, nowhere to sleep, no personal hygiene facilities, physical abuse, and cold weather conditions. After living on the street for about a year, Retrak outreach workers found him and invited him to the Retrak Transition Center.

At Retrak, Zephaniah had access to night shelter, meals, recreational and personal hygiene facilities, counseling, and life skills and catch-up education services. He was addicted to smoking cigarettes, but was able to kick the habit  through consistent counseling.  He was very good in attending catch-up classes at Retrak and had an interest in continuing his education, but he worried about his family’s economic hardship, so he asked his counselor if he could learn a trade. Now Zephaniah is in the final stage of his training in tailoring and hopes to gain employment in one of Addis Ababa's small garment factories, which the training center will help him secure. 

Zephaniah was able to turn his life around with the help of donors like you. On behalf of Zephaniah and the other children in the Vocational Training Program, thank you for your continued support. 


Abebech enjoys her time at Deborah House
Abebech enjoys her time at Deborah House

Last year, Retrak began working with two groups of street children in Addis Ababa who have been previously neglected: girls on the move and domestic workers. In our new transition center, Deborah House, 60 vulnerable girls now have access to shelter, food, medical care and a safe space in which they can express their needs and problems to those who will listen. We would like to share one of Retrak Ethiopia’s most recent success stories with you.

Abebech* is a 14 year old girl from a place called Ambo. Abebech’s aunt brought her from the family home to the capital city Addis Ababa and promised she would educate her. Instead, when Abebech arrived, she was forced to cook for the family and serve as a maid in her aunt’s home. After much begging to be allowed to go to school and significant verbal and physical abuse from her aunt’s family, Abebech ended up on the streets and then, eventually found her way to Deborah House.

Julyata Shibiru, Retrak’s program manager at Deborah House, says “It is like they are locked in a box and have no way of getting out and no escape. Retrak helps them to find a way out and gives them a chance to live as children again. These girls are very vulnerable but if you give them the chance they astonish you with their ability and creativity.”

Abebech has now been at Deborah House for 2 months and she says she loves it there. “Everybody gives me love and respect and the house mothers take care of me.  If I have anything to say they listen to me and if there are problems they help me to find solutions”. The police are working to help trace Abebech’s family as she couldn’t remember much about where she was from.

Abebech also says she is enjoying being with other children of her own age. When she leaves Deborah House Abebech says she wants to finish her education and then her dream would be to become an athlete.

Thank you for supporting Retrak Ethiopia so that we may continue to help girls like Abebech. 




This young artist dreams of becoming a teacher
This young artist dreams of becoming a teacher

The children in Retrak Ethiopia’s transitional home in Addis Ababa are having so much fun in our 10-week Creative Therapy program, that they don't realize they're undergoing therapy! Using art, drama and music, the program works to help children overcome past trauma and abuse and gain the confidence to move forward.

In a music therapy session, when listening to music with a slow tempo and in a minor key, one child said “the music reminds me of the feeling of loneliness on the street.” The counselor used this insight to help children share their sad and painful memories of life on the street, which the music brought to the surface. The children were then able to plan how they would leave the street and explore alternative options using their memories as an impetus for change.

During an art therapy session, children “decorated their names” by thinking of an adjective beginning with each letter of their name that could describe them. At the conclusion of the activity, one child said, “I didn’t give a thought to the meaning of my name before, but now I know there is hope in my name.” This realization gives children some positive support when they return home and face challenges.

In a drama session when each child was asked to choose a prop and use it to act out a scene, one child chose a farmer’s hoe and acted out ploughing a field. He said, “I remember, me and my father, we used to go far away from our village for ploughing.” During debriefing the child was able to face the regret he felt about leaving home. Then he was able to plan the process of reintegration and what he wanted to say to his father when he returned home.

For over 20 years Retrak has been working to return street children to their homes and families. Creative Therapy is just one of the ways that Retrak counselors work to help street children heal from their past and embrace their future. Thank you for your continued support of our vital work; we truly couldn't do it without you.

A child decorates his name
A child decorates his name
Children use art to overcome trauma
Children use art to overcome trauma


Happy Holidays from Retrak Ethiopia
Happy Holidays from Retrak Ethiopia

At this time of year, getting through the daily struggle for survival and feeling of isolation becomes even tougher for children living on the streets. While the festive season for many of us is a special time to be shared at home with our loved ones, for homeless children, it is a reminder of two of the greatest gaps missing in their lives – home and family.

Fortunately Retrak is present on the streets of Addis Ababa, providing homeless children with their basic needs, and helping them return to a loving family.

One child in Retrak's program in Addis Ababa told us, "We are thankful for letting us escape from such a dark life to such a bright one."

Thank you for your past support of Retrak's project in Ethiopia. We hope that you'll decide to support us again with an end-of-year donation --a donation that will help a homeless child receive safe shelter, nourishing food, medical attention and care and support. In many cases it will return a street child to a loving family home. Please help us return more children home in 2016.


Saying Goodbye to Retrak Friends
Saying Goodbye to Retrak Friends

Retrak Ethiopia has recently begun a new tradition: a Farewell Ceremony for children who are leaving Retrak and returning to their families. The ceremony celebrates a new beginning for these children, and it gives them an opportunity to express their feelings and thoughts on what they've experienced in our programs. At a recent Farewell Ceremony, the departing boys said that they were extremely grateful for the services that they received at Retrak. It's true that Retrak provided these children with essential services like food, shelter, medical care, education, counseling and recreation. We do our best to give street children a better life, but nothing can compare to the loving care these children will receive from their own families upon their return home.

One of the astonishing things we observed during the ceremony was that some of the boys were asking for forgiveness for the conflicts and fights they had had in the past with other children. The other children forgave them, and their friendships were sealed with a hug.

The ceremony ended by the departing boys cutting a loaf of bread together and sharing it with the other children. 

Today is #GivingTuesday! Please make a donation to Retrak today to allow us to help more street children return to caring and stable families.

A Hug Seals a Friendship
A Hug Seals a Friendship
Departing boys cut bread to share with friends
Departing boys cut bread to share with friends

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Organization Information

Retrak America

Location: Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire - United Kingdom
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Joan Townsend
US Country Director
Washington, DC United States
$52,371 raised of $80,000 goal
733 donations
$27,629 to go
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