After the Fire

One of the girls cookingHave you heard the saying, when things could be worse: “Well at least you have a roof over your head?” But what if a roof is all you have?

When some of the Y’tesfa girls were rehoused after the fire in what was probably a storage building, they thought that this might be a temporary move. However they are still there, living in close community with their neighbours, and dissatisfaction and disagreements are rife.

Three of us went to visit last week. We bought two very large pink carrier bags full of bread rolls on the way. As we drove off the road over an uneven mud pathway between piles of bricks and half-built warehouses, we saw the children ahead. They greeted us eagerly with their mucky faces and sticky hands.

In the first large room we entered, followed by the children, women were sitting around on the mud floor. Some we recognised; some we didn’t. About a third of the floor was covered by thin grubby mattresses and there was a pile of clothing in one corner. Bags bulging with probably more than just school supplies were hanging from the chicka (mud and straw) walls. Our girls were squatting on the floor, each stirring a small steaming pot of ‘something’ over a small charcoal burner.

We greeted everyone individually. “Chris!” Habtum exclaimed as she looked up from her steaming pot, “Yene enat!” (“my mother!”). Just to see that smile brightened up the whole room. They were keen for us to sit and we were shown to the only real pillow I noticed at the end of a mattress and two of us shared it. One of our party was Ethiopian and was able to interpret as we heard a sorry tale of disputes over the little food they had. I didn’t have to hear the words though - the defeat in the eyes of those Mums was so evident.

Before the fire they lived in the humblest of circumstances, but daily life had rhythm and purpose. Some sold grass, others candles, to the worshippers at the large Orthodox church beside the fire site. They are now probably located too far away.

The repaired roof. It still leaks though.Here’s a photo of the roof where some Bingham folks had repaired the worst of the leaks using materials purchased with money donated for the purpose. “Photo! Photo!” called a lady from across the room, so I went across and also took a picture of her rather startled baby.

We went to the car to fetch the bags of bread. Fortunately, enough for our girls’ house and the one next door, who were also telling us they had little food. Outside there was an old lady and man who really looked ancient although were probably closer to my own age than I would care to admit. There were also about seven or eight toddlers running around. One had a stem of a leaf and he kept hitting the others with it, but they didn’t seem to mind.

A startled babyAs we left we met one of the mums who had been brought to Bingham in the aftermath of the fire as the baby wasn’t feeding. She uncovered the baby on her back. He looked about the same, but his lungs have grown stronger judging by the yells of protest.

We left with heavy hearts, confused by the enormity of an impossible situation but with renewed energy to pray and do what little we can to love and support the Y’tesfa girls that we have built relationships with week by week.


I am really pleased that the y'tesfa girls have developed such good relationships with you and the other workers. But my heart is very heavy - these poor people, barely coping when what little they had has been stripped away. Your observation of their purpose being taken away is really powerful - how difficult it must be to have your role taken away from you, when that's all you know. i pray the Lord will provide in abundance for these people.

This is so very sad and distressing to read.  The one thing that brings hope is that you and the people with you are there to bring love and support and to let them realise that they are not forgotten.  May God give you the wisdom to know how best to support these dear ones.

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