Meet Yenealem!

Before Girls Gotta Run, Yenealem didn’t have many friends to count on.

After joining the program, that all changed. Not only did she build relationships and develop social skills, she created deep and meaningful friendships.

“Now, I have many best friends,” she said.

The life skills programming helped her learn about to talk with her peers how to share love with friends and community.

Yenealem saw a physical transformation, too.

Athletic activity used to leave her winded and tired. Now she can run sprints, through practices, and around the schoolyard.

“Before, I was very tired when I did a minute of sports. Now I can run for a very long time,” she said.

And the athletic scholarship that Mothers with a Heart for Ethiopia provides makes it possible for Yenealem to get a good education. Her favourite subjects are physics and chemistry.

Before Girls Gotta Run, Yenealem’s mom was trying to support many children and pay tuition for her school-age siblings. It was getting to be too much. But thanks to the scholarship, Yenealem can continue to get a good education. Her mom hopes it will lead her daughter to “a higher place” in her future.

Before, I was very tired when I did a minute of sports. Now I can run for a very long time. - Yenealem

Ethiopia 2014 - Oct 7 Entry

Tuesday, October 7, 2014It was a very early morning departure for our family road trip and vacation to Wolayta and then to Hawassa. It was still dark when we set out and the roads were almost clear of cars, people and animals. None of the boys or Mulu had been to Wolayta and one of our boys commented that he didn’t realize Ethiopia was this big. We all noticed and took in the incredible beauty of the nature around us. The hills, the different colours of soil along our route, the lush false banana plant and hundreds and hundreds of acacia trees were just some of the features of this beautiful country we marveled at as we drove. The closer we got to Wolayta, the greener and lusher the vegetation was. There were so many scenes that really took my breath away. Gecho, the boys and Mulu heard so many times “isn’t that beautiful?. For Gecho and the rest of our group, this was a reprieve, a respite from the intense traffic, pollution and population of Addis. Along the way, we passed by many smaller towns and villages and saw the living conditions of the people. Many, many children were out working, gathering water and carrying it home when it would have been time for them to go to school. We also saw a group of people carrying a person totally covered with a blanket on a stretcher made of wood. Gecho explained to me that this group of people were carrying a sick person to probably a traditional doctor (meaning they have not been trained in medicine but practice the traditional ways of their ancestors to try and make people well). There was a number of people in the group who would take turns carrying their friend/family member. Gecho told me that the government in Ethiopia has invested in a lot of ambulances more recently which is a change from the last time we were here in 2013. I remember not seeing one ambulance while we were here the first time in 2010 and then again in 2013. On this trip, I have seen ambulances probably 8 times. A bajaj is a small local taxis that is basically a covered three wheeler. In the remote areas of Ethiopia, the ambulances are bajajs. When you travel in to the more rural areas of Wolayta, you quickly realize that if you were sick, it would be hours before you would reach medical care in a car and by foot, being carried by friends and family, it could take a day or more. The vast majority (my guess would be that over 90% of the population) of people in Ethiopia do not have vehicles and rely on donkeys to pull their goods for sale, wood, water, and other essentials of life. The donkeys and horses also pull people in carts. Many, many people walk for hours to get to their destination and sometimes you see people walking in bare feet (especially the children). In our country, we take water for granted. We have clean water to drink, clean water to shower and bathe in and clean water to clean our cloths. In most areas of Ethiopia, there is no infrastructure for running water and people wash their cloths in water that has gathered in low lying land or in the rivers. People often have to walk long distances to get unclean water to cook with and drink. There is no tap to turn on to get a drink of water, there is no shower to get cleaned and cool off or warm up in most areas of this country. For many areas of our world, clean water is not available and millions of people get sick every year. One of the goals of my trip is to investigate other potential partners here in Ethiopia. Our board of directors are very interested in the area of Wolayta because it is underserved. We arrived in to Soddo (the largest city in Wolayta) in the afternoon and met with the two directors of the organization called Busajo. This organization has developed a stepped program for boys living on the streets in Soddo with the ultimate goal of family reunification whenever possible. One of their staff used to live on the streets himself as a child until early adulthood and understands completely the many family situations that force children to live on the streets. He also understands the realities of what it is like to survive on the streets. We spent many hours with the two staff and talking with the children in their program. The teacher for their program has a psychology degree and once was a boy in the Busajo program. The dedication of these two directors and their compassion and passion for children living on the streets was clearly evident to all of us. Our boys were welcomed to ask questions of the directors and of the children in the program and we later talked about their thoughts. Our boys were very impressed with the program and so was I. Thank you Busajo and Marcella for your dedication, commitment and your personal sacrifices to show love and compassion to children who have felt cast aside, forgotten and disliked by the people of their country.

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Ethiopia 2014 - Oct 6 Entry

October 6, 2014 First thing we accomplished was to ask Tilahun’s principal for permission for him to travel to Wolayta from Tuesday until Sunday. When we left the office (after getting the okay from the principal), Tilahun sighed a big sigh of relief in my ear and later told me that he had been nervous to ask the principal. Tilahun and three of the other four boys attend private school and one of the other boys attends college. We drove to Korah to visit the women who make our jewelry. On the way, I noticed again how driving in Ethiopia is really a well-developed skill. Gecho is an incredible driver and is constantly navigating around goats, cows, dogs, donkeys, horses, people (lots and lots of people) and difficult road conditions. There is only one traffic light in the whole of Addis Ababa. There is the occasional traffic director but for the most part, the drivers use a system of hand gestures, body language and their horns to communicate.

Ethiopia has the second largest population in Africa (second to Nigeria) with reports of 91 million people. Approximately 80% of the population lives rurally. The volume of people and animals in the capital city is unbelievable to a Canadian. Everywhere you look in the capital city there are people. Children, women, women and their children and men live on the streets and beg or find ways of surviving. In a very short time, I saw old people, the disabled, young women with babies in their arms and children as young as five living on the streets.

Imagine how vulnerable these people are (especially women and children) when they have no shelter, no protection, no means to provide the basics of life for themselves. Many young girls and women are raped while they are living on the streets and pregnancies result from these rapes. For the women who have children, they then have a child to care for and protect while living on the streets. I saw an older woman begging on the streets with no shoes on. You could clearly see toes missing and the ends of her fingers gone due to leprosy. I saw men and women who clearly had some form of mental illness wrapped up in big blankets and very young children with no shoes, rags for cloths and sitting together with other children who were living on the streets.

I don’t think there will ever come a time, no matter how many times I travel in Ethiopia that I will ever be used to seeing such abject poverty. I think of the value we put on children and human life in our country and know that if anyone saw a child of 5 walking on their own, we would be calling the police to make sure this child was reunited with her/his family and was safe.

Arriving at the workplace of the women in Korah, I quickly saw faces we saw in June of 2013 when I was last in Ethiopia. The women were all working on our order and expressed their gratitude for our support. I saw Casa, a man who has no fingers due to leprosy and yet he is able to make mats beautifully. Korah is the poorest community within the capital city of Addis Ababa and is populated by orphans, men and women with leprosy, the physically and mentally disabled, widows, the elderly and individuals who have HIV/AIDS. Korah borders a dump and many people living in Korah go to the dump daily to look for food or anything they can sell.

Through our jewelry sales, we are trying to make a difference in the lives of the women and their children. 90% of the women who make our jewelry had never been formally employed before. They tried to support themselves and their children through begging, going through the trash dump and selling what they could from what they found. Buying the jewelry we bring to Canada is a way Canadians can help make a difference here in Ethiopia.

When I arrived back at the guest house, a very young girl came with her little wooden tray and things to sell. When we asked her if she went to school she said no because she was working to support the family. This beautiful little girl is probably no older than 7.

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