Visiting Boys' & Girls' Towns of Ethiopia by gabriele delmonaco / Jan. 2019

"I would like to join you on a trip to Ethiopia," Federico Rampini announced to me over the phone. As I love to show our Towns to people, and I knew Mr. Rampini to be one of Italy's most prolific and respected journalists, I was thrilled. Over the course of the conversation, I was informed that there were, in fact, nine other people who wished to accompany us. Despite the 3,000 miles to cover in Ethiopia through flights and bumpy drives on off-road paths, A Chance In Life accepted the challenge. On January 11, our group of ten visitors from Italy, France, and the US reached Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

Our crew of journalists, media professionals, and business men and women were greeted by the Cardinal of the Diocese of Addis Ababa.
Four hours of driving later, we arrived in rural Emdibir, a village south of the capital. Here, at Boys' & Girls' Towns of Ethiopia, A Chance In Life supports 400 children. Our three different programs serve orphans and vulnerable youth, children with disabilities, and high school girls.

First, I took our guests to visit our program for orphans and vulnerable youth. There are an estimated 4.6 million children in Ethiopia who are have lost one or both of their parents. Even if relatives or neighbors take them in when their parents pass, their new guardians often lack the means to provide them with the basic necessities they need to grow and thrive. Through A Chance In Life's program, these children are given clothes, food, medical assistance, school supplies and any extra support needed to attend school.

We currently serve two hundred extremely poor or orphaned children every year through this program. Additionally, their guardians are given training in income-generating activities to provide social and economic stability to the children and family.

They can be a bit shy around newcomers...
But it never takes long for their natural joy to shine through!

Once our mob of new playmates reluctantly returned to class, we went to visit our program for high school girls. From primary school to high school, the enrollment of girls decreases dramatically. In higher levels of education, schools become scarcer and students must walk many hours each day to continue their studies. Faced with this exhausting and perilous journey, many girls drop out.

A Chance In Life’s project for high school girls provides homes for one hundred Ethiopian girls in a community setting close to their high schools. The program offers them the opportunity to live with other young women. Through monthly meetings, the girls come together to support one another and share their dreams and challenges.

Sinkanesh, one of our high school girls, told us she never thought she would get to spend so much time and live with other girls her age. Before they lived together, they were always too far away, too busy with chores, too burdened trying to support their families to be able to spend time together and form relationships.

Now, her and her roommate Meteke have lived and attended school together for over a year. They were especially excited at the beginning of this year, when A Chance In Life moved all of our girls from their four-person homes nearby to a newly-renovated, hostel-style home that allows them to spend more time with the other girls.

Living together doesn't just save our girls from dropping out of school. It enables them to study together, encourage each other, and participate in after-school leadership workshops. Their support of each other is always inspiring for us to see when we visit.

We then walked to the nearby village of Zizencho, where many of the young children of our program live with their families or guardians. Almost exactly one year ago, a fire swept through 28 of the village's wood and straw homes, burning them to the ground. Our donors rallied and were able to raise $28,000 within a matter of weeks to provide food, immediate medical care, and rebuild all 28 homes. This incredible act of generosity ensured no family was left without a roof over their heads when the rainy season arrived just a few weeks later. We were excited to see how the village was doing one year on.

Traditional Ethiopian homes (called gojobets) aren't only home to the families. They also serve to house their livestock and store their harvest. Losing a gojobet is tantamount to losing your home and your livelihood in one blow.
With the support of A Chance In Life's donors to buy supplies, the local community came together to help rebuild their neighbors' homes.
The Tofik Tezo Family in front of their new home.
To prevent future fires, the people of Zizencho decided to use roofs of corrugated metal instead of the traditional straw and grass.

When one of the elders of Zizencho heard that we were from A Chance In Life, he called us over. In front of one of the houses our donors helped rebuild, he gathered the community and thanked us for restoring dignity and hope to his fellow villagers. He offered a blessing asking that the kindness, happiness, and generosity that A Chance In Life had given them be returned to us in our own lives.

On our last day in Emdibir, many of the children of our program gathered in the newly-equipped auditorium to celebrate with music and dancing. You, our supporters, have given these young people a chance in life and opportunities they would never otherwise have. On their behalf ... Ameseghenallo ... Thank you!

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