This week sees the start of the Y’tesfa Birhan (“Light of Hope”) programme for underprivileged and vulnerable girls living in the local community. The day on which it’s held and also some of the helpers will change, but the girls will just have grown a bit taller when we see them next week.
They will collect a bag of school supplies ready for the start of Ethiopian school following the Ethiopian New Year (11th September 2018 – it’ll be 2011 here). We will pay their school fees and encourage them to stay in school, although when home life becomes desperate some are placed under enormous pressure to leave school and earn money. Left to their own devices they do have healthy aspirations and ambitions as this short video shows.
In June 2017 we guided a small group of the oldest girls to graduate from the programme. Naturally they weren’t keen to do this, but we had paid not just for their schooling but also for some post-school courses as well. There were younger girls waiting to join that we were told had significant needs too. The transition was supported by an Ethiopian parent who was keen to assist and help the oldest girls to the next stage.
Birtoquan (in English – “Orange”) was one of these girls. She had a simple dream, more modest by comparison than those of her contemporaries. She wanted to have her own little coffee stall on the street. With help from the Ethiopian parent her dream came to fruition. She has a pitch on the corner of her own street, a short walk from the Bingham gates. She works from 8am until 5pm and charges 20 Ethiopian Birr (60p) per cup and will add “tena-adam” - a flavoursome leafy herb believed to have many health benefits - on request. She was the only girl to accept assistance. The others are working selling or mending clothing or selling jewellery. One is finishing her accountancy course.
We visited Birtoquan, finding her happy, and her Mum who joined us for a coffee is clearly proud. We enjoyed her brew which she served with a big smile.