Reaching Out to Street Children in Ethiopia

by Retrak America
Mar 9, 2012

Habtamu's Story

Habtamu's street life

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.

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Habtamu's story...

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


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Organization Information

Retrak America

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website: https:/​/​​
Project Leader:
Joan Townsend
US Country Director
Washington, DC United States
$55,174 raised of $80,000 goal
850 donations
$24,826 to go
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