It all started about 3 months ago. I was walking home from the hospital and two young boys said they were hungry and wanted food. I didn’t have any with me, so I invited them over for dinner. They were filthy, so I offered them a shower while I warmed up dinner. They came out of the bathroom dripping wet with their clothes back on. They had never used a towel and didn’t know what to do with the one I gave them, so it sat folded on the floor. A few days later, two women on the street asked for food, so I brought them home with me. It was pretty interesting. I don’t think they had been in anything but a hut before. They were not comfortable coming into my house or sitting at the table, so we sat on the cement floor next to the table and ate. I felt so blessed by these people I started looking for them.
One night on my way home, I came across some of the street boys, six to be exact. I invited them over for dinner. I didn’t have dinner ready, so I started cooking. One of the boys had been over previously and he asked if they could all shower. Next thing I know, all 6 boys are in the shower. I offered to wash their clothes, so we threw them in the washing machine. I obviously wasn’t thinking too far in advance, because I do NOT have a dryer…. and it was the rainy season. So, they all got to wear, yep, my clothes. Now for those of you that do not know me, I am not exactly petite. And these boys were all 9-12 or so years old. I wish I had taken a picture of them all. Scrubs, sweat pants, sweaters, t-shirts to their ankles, bare shoulders from the neck of a sweat shirt… They were quite the site.
When they finished with their showers, I put in a movie for them to watch. We all got on the couches and I attempted to translate part of the movie into Amharic and then one of the boys that spoke Amharic would translate it to Wollaitina. We eventually ate dinner and did the laundry. In this time, I found out bits and pieces of their lives. It is hard when their primary language is Wollaitina. I just don’t know enough to be able to talk to them. I cannot tell you how hard it was to send these kids back to the street that night.
Then next day, I was checking to see if their clothes were dry and I noticed they all had a bunch of “fuzzies” on them. With closer inspection I realized that they were completely infested with body lice. I spent the next few hours picking the lice off their clothes. I finally just gave up. The clothes were INFESTED, thousands of bugs. I decided to shower and got the heebie geebies when I found the lice crawling on my clothes. I took a deep breath, read some about body lice and decided I was bigger than body lice and could get over it. In my reading, it said that if you have access to washing your clothes once a week, you should not be infested with lice, so the weekly dinners began.
Most weeks there are 10 or 12 boys and I am learning more and more about them. Every week starts with showers and clean clothes; then we eat, play games, watch movies or just talk, “aka stare at each other and try to say things”. Some of the boys come back from week to week. This week I only knew one of the ten. Most of them have one set of clothes. I have done some shopping in town, so now when they come over they don’t leave in my clothes. Well, that isn’t entirely true. I haven’t found enough clothes for all of them, so some of them wear my clothes. But the rules are: you come in with one set of clothes, so you leave with one set of clothes. The next week they can get their clean, lice free, dry clothes back.
Now, I would like to introduce you to some of my new friends. Abiti is 11 years old. His mom left. He doesn’t know where she went, but says she went a long ways away. He hasn’t seen her in years. His dad and only sister both died. He lived in a small village outside of here, so he came to Soddo for a better life. And he says it is much better because “there is food”. He is wearing a sweater that has been sewn to pseudo fit him and is falling apart. He got a t-shirt from me that goes down to his ankles. And his pants only go down to his calves. His smile is amazing! Just today I saw him on my way to work and he ran to me and gave me a big smile and hug. He then showed me where he sleeps.
Ezekiel is 10. His mother died and his father remarried. He said life with his new mom was very hard. Everything I have ever heard about step children here
is that they essentially become the slaves to the family. He has three siblings and he is the oldest. He said that living in the country was hard. He said there was no food, so he came to Soddo. He told me he begs or works and is able to make about 25-35 cents a day. He pays a family six cents a night so he can sleep on their porch. And then the rest he can use to buy food.
Everyone of their stories has common threads. They sleep on the streets. They find medians during the day if they don’t get enough sleep at night. At night, they sleep under overhangs of buildings. During the day they go to the market
and offer to carry things for people to make some money. They all beg. Some have families. Some don’t. One of the boys told me he wanted to go home for New Year to see his family, but would come back because life is too hard at home. I just cannot imagine having a ten year old and knowing that they would be better on the streets, so letting them go. I don’t think any of them are in school. School is free, but if they aren’t working they can’t afford food. And they can’t afford notebooks, pencils, pens and clothes that fit. I do not know how many street boys there are, but if I had to guess… several hundred
Today, I am asking for you to pray for these boys. I would like to help them get into school. Their is a church that has a ministry for the street boys, so I am going to contact them. Hopefully, they have something set up. My house helper has taken over the duties of cooking and clothes washing. I don’t know the best way to help these boys, but I am going to love them, feed them, let them shower and wash their clothes.