Kids of the Dump
The sun was low in the west as I clambered up the final few metres to the top, behind Naomi, Abera and four of the boys from the house. I surveyed the scene, trying hard not to breathe through my nose. In all directions, and for many metres under my feet, was rubbish. Nothing but rubbish. And it stank. Plastic bags everywhere fluttered in the breeze. Carrion birds circled overhead, perhaps eyeing the rotting carcass of a dead cow just behind me. In the distance mechanical diggers were working, but it was getting late so few people were around. Abera tells me upwards of 1000 people live and work here – scavenging daily through other people’s rubbish to find food, anything that can be sold on, or anything that can be recycled. They sometimes build ramshackle dwellings around the tip – no services, no water, no sanitation. And here they live. In abject destitution.
Check out this photo from Google Earth – the grey mass in the centre is the rubbish dump. The road down the south-western edge is the ring road. I was standing on the north-eastern edge where it approaches the housing the closest. Here’s a link to Google Maps so you can see how this sits in the overall map of Addis.
Abera’s story is hard to relate in detail. He’s now an Amharic teacher at Bingham, but he grew up here, by the dump. His story involves a family devastated by poverty, rape, HIV/AIDS, bereavement and mental illness. Abera survived, became a Christian, and now through the local church in the community next to the dump heads up a project designed to rescue children from some of the worst poverty in Addis Ababa. He doesn’t want people to suffer what he went through.
So “Korah Kids” was born. With social work help, 150 of the most poverty-stricken children in the community (“Korah”) next to the dump were identified for support. Some teachers from Bingham help the project and Abera in his work, and I came with one of them - Naomi - to see what was going on. The project provides sponsorship for the children in a similar way to “Compassion”, and has also rented a house to provide accommodation for some of the kids who are orphans and would otherwise be homeless. I visited the house and met the five boys living there, and also the social worker who monitors the educational and social progress of all the sponsored children in Korah. A couple of the boys were doing a little homework, but the end of term is near as the rainy season is about to start. We walked from the house through the rapidly developing community to the mountain of rubbish, then popped in to see the church – a single story building capable of holding around 200 people made of wooden poles, corrugated tin and plastic sheeting. The mud and tin building attached to the hall was the church office. A full time pastor is employed, and paid the equivalent of £28 per month. A man who works there explained to me that they pay him as much as the congregation, made up of very poor people, can afford. The pastor’s family supplements his income as well. Under the stage at the front of the church is a pit in the ground recently tiled by some visiting Americans (who also decorated the church interior) in which the five boys from the house will be baptised this weekend. All of the sponsored children from the community come to the church hall on a Saturday morning for activities, and to hear about Jesus.
Abera is soon to give up his post at Bingham to work here full time.
Forty or so of the children identified for support still have no sponsor. If you are interested in learning more, here’s the “Korah Kids” website. I’m fairly sure this will not be the only time I visit this extraordinary project.