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Annual Report (2005-06)

LINKS

Hope for children US

www.suddenflowers.org

www.ericgottesman.net

Hope for Children Organization

PO Box 24550 Code 1000

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Office Telephone: 251-1-22-26-21

hopeforchildren2001@yahoo.com

 

THE STORY OF HOPE FOR CHILDREN

Letter from Yewoinshet Masresha (Founder and Director, HFC Ethiopia)

 

To understand a child is to be present in their lives. Like a bird flying over them,

you have to watch patiently, carefully, constantly, while keeping enough

distance to let them move. Respecting and listening are the most valuable tools

that we as responsible caregivers can keep with us.

The community of AIDS workers, in our desire to meet as much of the great need

as possible, sometimes try to stretch resources thin. I have found that only by

going deep into these children's lives can I begin to comprehend their

experiences.

 

Until the year 2000, I was working with another successful social services

organization in Addis Ababa as head of the orphan support program. Though

my colleagues and I were committed to the well-being of children affected by

HIV/AIDS, ultimately we were limited in our ability to care for the children. Like a

mother, I wanted to be able to do everything I possibly could for a child, even if

it meant blending my personal and professional lives.

I began to consider the possibility of striking out on my own to create a new,

community-based organization in which I could work side-by-side with

community members to provide holistic care and support for children within the

Shiromeda/Sidist Kilo neighborhood, one of the five most poverty-stricken areas

of Addis Ababa.

 

With 8 women who were caring for children affected by HIV, and with the help

of an American woman named Sara Jewett and initial funding from the

Jerusalem Church of Sweden, I decided finally to embark on the adventure that

would become Hope for Children. We started small; our first office was a room

lent to us in the local neighborhood kebele women’s association office. We

had one chair and one desk. At our first meeting with officials from the HIV/AIDS

Secretariat, they did not want to enter our offices because there were more of

them than we had chairs!

 

We had long ago learned that caring for children meant more than just

providing schooling, food and medical care. It meant providing children with a

childhood. Our first programs were geared toward just that, providing basic

needs as well as psychosocial care. We enrolled the first of many groups of

children in scouting programs and found spaces for them to play. We began a

series of Saturday programs that encouraged children to meet one another in a

fun, child-friendly atmosphere.

 

Though we were now free to care for children as we pleased, there were

frustrations involved in creating a new program, but someone always came to

our rescue. Partners in the Horn of Africa helped us to secure a new office when

the kebele decided that it needed the room that it had donated to us within 3

days. Through the work of a number of Ethiopians living in Sweden,

Norway and Japan, we found sponsors for the basic needs of the children.

Local organizations and individuals have been inspired to help us as well.

Ibnsina Herbal Clinic and Sara Clinic have been providing medical care to our

clients for free. Business people like Fasika Pastry and Coca Cola are providing

services and reduced prices for us.

 

My focus has always been on the children, first and foremost. But as Hope for

Children grows, we need to build our capacity as caregivers. Our volunteer

caregivers are so committed and willing to do what they can for their fellow

community-members but many of them did not have the skills to provide the

home-based care and peer counselling that many of our home-based clients

needed. Again we were rescued, this time by UNICEF, who enabled us to train

15 caregivers in peer education, 32 in grief counselling, 10 in traditional laundry

and 26 in home-based care for children and their carers.

 

In addition to my goal of providing services for children, I also want to help the

community to understand what these children are going through. By creating

understanding amongst community members about these children’s problems,

we believe it will bring everyone together to unite against the threat that AIDS

poses to our community. I want the community to hear, as much as possible,

directly from the children themselves.

 

You will see from this report that we have already begun to do this. Some of our

children spoke to thousands and, via Ethiopian television, millions on World AIDS

Day 2002 about issues that included five of Hope for Children’s basic concerns

for children: health care, education, right to basic needs (food and shelter), the

right to inheritance and the right to play. An exhibition prepared in

collaboration with 15 of our children and American photographer Eric

Gottesman was recently exhibited at Addis Ababa City Hall and will now travel

to 21 Kebeles (neighbourhoods). Now, by teaming up with local anti-AIDS clubs,

we are now doing this on a larger scale.

 

As we look toward the future, I hope that our children will have more

opportunities to speak to their community, as some have already begun to do

already. Their stories are too important, and their voices too beautiful, not to

hear. We have trained some of our older children in puppeteering and they go

out into the community to teach about HIV/AIDS. We hope to have more

exhibitions and other events to allow children to speak to others about their

experiences. As well, we hope to continue to provide home-based care and

social support, to increase opportunities for voluntary counselling and training, to

devise income generation schemes and to continue to increase our

membership and welcome community members to be part of our efforts.

Since Hope for Children was started as a volunteer organization, a spirit of

voluntarism still pervades our organization. As a result, we always welcome

newcomers – foreign or local, rich or poor, HIV-affected or not – to be part of

our efforts in any way they can. If you are interested, please contact our head

office or drop by and see what our work is all about.

 

Yewoinshet Masresha

2004  

 

Hope for Children,2006.