Abezash is 18 years old and was born in Yerba Boricha, a small rural town in Ethiopia. The death of her father when she was young devastated her family and led to a difficult childhood.
“Our mother raised us on her own before starting a new life with my stepfather. This is when life got worse.” Abezash explains.
“We didn’t want to say anything against him because she needed someone to support her, but he was not kind to us.”
She would sometimes run away to her grandparent’s house in the countryside to forget about him. But ultimately, she had no choice but to eventually come back.
“One day my mum sent me to the market and when I got back, out of the blue, my stepfather started yelling at me. I couldn’t take it anymore. I grabbed a few clothes and ran away to the city.”
Abezash is among the many children that end up on the streets in Ethiopia, alone, confused and with no support. They struggle to find food to eat and are forced to sleep rough. A dangerous environment for young girls such as Abezash.
Fortunately, she managed to find occasional work to put a roof over her head. She still struggled to get by.
“I was always crying in my small room where I slept without a mattress or a blanket. I had to sleep on my clothes to protect myself from the cold floor and used a sweater as a cover. I had nothing to feed myself.”
Abezash would cry every day after work. But she refused to give up. She knew there must could be something better for her out there.
Joining the ChildSPACE programme
“Before joining the ChildSPACE programme I was suicidal. I would ask God all this was happening to me. I would cry, wondering what I have done to deserve all this pain,” she says.
GOAL teams on the ground and their partners work together to help reduce the social and economic vulnerability of young people living on the streets in Ethiopia.
Young girls and boys like Abezash.
“I believe that when God helps us, he manifests himself through people. And one day I met someone who told me about the ChildSPACE programme.”
She remembers the kindness of the social workers: “They made me feel like I wasn’t alone anymore”
Through the programme, thousands of children like Abezash have received food, shelter, and education. She underwent training to help her reach her potential.
“It made me feel that I had the power to change my life. I was so inspired. They convinced me I still had a chance.”
She came out of the training strong and determined. She remembers coming out of the training thinking “You are right, I am young and powerful”.
ChildSPACE social workers provide help beyond professional skills and work on a wide range of issues with the children and young people. “Before the programme, I was hot tempered. I feel this has allowed to become a different person” Abezash says.
She was ready to start a new chapter in her life. With support from GOAL, she opened her own business selling hot drinks.
Starting a small business
Setting up her own new business, Abezash faced many challenges. She had many doubts until she started noticing customers becoming regulars. She knew then that she was on the right track.
“Day by day I saw my business grow by word of mouth. Customers started bringing their friends. It was all so exciting!”
She started catering drinks for local businesses in the neighbourhood. Her clientele grew so much that she needed help, calling in the support of her sisters from her hometown. She now manages a team of three.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am right now. Nothing is more exciting than gaining independence” Abezash says, glowing with joy and a sense of accomplishment.
“Saving my income and supporting others when I can is essential for me. My sisters and I are currently helping out our mother, sending her food and various goods. Recently, we also helped a young man get a job. He regularly visits us and is has so much opportunity ahead of him.”
Abezash concludes, suddenly extremely solemn, yet with a beautiful smile on her face, “I am so grateful for the support GOAL have provided me. I really would like to thank you. I have no words to explain my feelings. I have nothing to give you back except thanking you.”