Yesterday morning I woke in Addis Ababa to the sounds of jackhammers and drills, to the roosters crowing, to the call of prayer. Construction crews, roosters, payers, they awaken Addis before the sun. Mornings here are such an experience. By seven, a group of boys were playing an early morning soccer match in the dusty streets. I stood sipping coffee and watching from the balcony. They were a sight to see. They passed the ball with the skill of children who have only ever known one game. On one occasion, they stopped, and a shorter boy shouted at another, pointed to his hands. On other occasion, a taller boy scored a goal and both teams cheered.
These boys dream of representing the Ethiopian football team one day. I know it.
From the guesthouse balcony, I also saw a young girl washing clothes. She is no more than six and I wondered what dreams she holds. I suspect she hopes to be a doctor, teacher, or engineer.
Every child dreams. It’s the thing I’ve taken from this trip.
Earlier this week, a group from Help One Now visited Gunchire, a backwater Ethiopian town with a dirt road for a spine. On either side of the spine, the businessmen peddled their wares to passers by. One pointed to our van. “Chat! Chat!” he called from a booth. Another held a handful of used toothbrushes out from a store window. Further down the spine, a woman leaned against a sign with a large English subtitle, which read “Crowing Nature for Food Security.” I reckon there is a typo in there somewhere.
The capital of the district, Gunchire is a hub of commerce for the Gurage people, poor hub though it may be. There is a local bank, which is rarely open, a micro-lending institution, which charges high interest, and a hotel, which boasts no visitors. There is the palpable feeling of disadvantage hanging with the dust in the air, but the Gurage people went about their days; they didn't seem to notice the lack of prosperity.
We came to a small home where an HIV positive mother sat with her two children. She lost her husband some time ago, and is making a way for her family through small trade. In an effort to help her maintain economic viability so that her children aren’t forced into the orphan care system, Kidmia provided her with modest in-kind support, brought her clothes that were hand-made by the prisoners at Welkite. She sold the clothes at the market in Gunchire. Turned the profit into support for her family, and reinvested the rest by purchasing more clothes to sell on the next market day.
The children were in the yard; the daughter was grinning ear-to-ear. She seemed to be a happy child, a grateful light. Her brother was only three, a shy boy who cuddled close to his mother.
“What would you like to be when you grow up?” my new friend Lamar asked the girl.
She smiled. “A doctor,” she said.
“Good, good,” Lamar smiled in return, and told her through the translator to continue her studies.
She is a wonder to me, this little girl from an impoverished family in backwater Ethiopia. She dreams big, dreams like little girls from the United States, girls with better education, better food security, more stable structures. She dreams like girls with dolls, with opportunity, with health care.
Lack does not inhibit the human capacity for dreaming, it seems. At the end of the day, we all dream the same–in color, in hope, in shades of future prosperity.
The next day, we asked Aschalew Abebe, the in-country director for Kidmia, what this little girl’s life would look like without additional support, without access to education and health care. He said, “child prostitution, early marriage, forced labor, trafficking, polygamy–these are all realities for the girls of Gunchire without the proper support.”
Today, sitting in the airport and waiting for my connecting flight home, I consider the girls of Gunchire. They have dreams, yes. They have potential practical futures, too. The odds are not in their favor. It is a sobering thought.
This week, I've been traveling with Help One Now in Ethiopia. Help One Now has entered into a strategic partnership with Kidmia, and will be providing a child-sponsorship component to Kidmia's already robust programs. Kidmia works within a local community to improve the prospects for vulnerable and at-risk Ethiopian children.