The Lost Boys

This is a guest post by Andrew Haberer a volunteer at Children's Home Ethiopia drop-in center.  Hope you enjoy it... When Joe and Karyn asked me to write about the “New” drop-in Center Boys, I jumped at the opportunity.  However, when it came down to writing about them it was a little more difficult.  It is somewhat complicated to really sit down, and put in to black and white, the amazing personalities of these wonderful kids.  Each day that I get to spend with the Lost Boys is wonderful, stressful, and shows me the unbelievable tenacity that each one possesses.

So, without further ado…here are the new boys.

Ashenafi Birihanu-13 years old

Ashenafi is the leader of the pack.  He has a rogue streak that overpowers most of his activities.  Most of the time he tends to acts as a surrogate father figure to the younger boys in the group.  Several times I have seen him slip food to the boys and make sure that they are full.  Other times he has fulfilled the role of the disciplinarian (or spiteful kid, I haven’t really been able to peg the spirit) when he breaks up a fight (or starts it-he has really good aim with a small rock).

He is really eager to impress in class.  He remembers most of the English that he learns-although, sometimes he gets the pronunciation very wrong.  He always likes to finish first, and, when he does not, the disappointment is clearly visible on his face.  He, like the rest of the boys, has a sweet tooth and quick hands-sometimes you can give him a lollypop and it disappears before you can blink.

Aserat Tamrat-14 years old

Aserat is the second in the pecking order-and sometimes it seems as though he is trying to take the reigns from Ashenafi.  He is a quiet kid around the adults, but really opens up when playing football (that’s soccer to all Americans reading).  He tends to be aggressive with the younger boys, almost as if he is asserting his position in the pack.  Even though he is 14, he has still not completed kindergarten, and struggles with English.

The good thing about Aserat is that he continues to put forth effort, even when he is struggling.  He is clearly more agile than most of the boys and enjoys playing various sports (he was even supportive of Joe’s attempt to teach Foursquare-when compared with football, Americans play some pretty lame games…).  He is a tough kid who has seen some tough times, but deep down inside is a little boy who wants to be loved.

Addisu Worku-12 years old

Addisu is clearly the most emotionally sensitive boy in the group; frequently you will see the tracks of tears apparent on his continually dirty face.  He has large round eyes that silently scream a need for love and affection, but he is frequently picked on by the other boys.  Addisu is easily frustrated, and frequently will have a breakdown when his project doesn’t turn out perfect.

He feeds on positive reinforcement and sometimes just needs a hug to make it all better.  You can see, when watching from the outside, that he wants to be accepted by the older boys-even though they are, most of the time, the ones that cause him the most despair.  When made to focus, he does well in class, but he is easily distracted and hard to get back on track.

Yohanis Tefre-8 years old

Yohanis is the youngest boy in the group, and one of the toughest.  He has clearly been on the streets for a while, and bears the emotional scars of the life on the streets.  Ashenafi favors Yohanis, and often the two are seen side by side-thick as thieves.  It’s good to see that he is protected by the boys that he puts so much faith in.

He struggles with schooling in general-having no formal education-he has a hard time staying seated, paying attention, or remembering things like vocabulary and sentence structure.  Yohanis also has a very sensitive temperament and can easily have his feeling hurt when he gets teased.  He has a good aim with a rock, and he is quick to solve an argument that way.

Desalegn Tesfay-12 years old

Desse is one of the boys from the first group, but has just returned to the drop-in and has been attending regularly.  He is a challenging boy to work with because he cannot let go of the street.  He is hungry for love, and constantly desires outward displays of affection.  Desse is one of the first boys to greet you in the morning, with a big hug and kiss, and he is usually the last one to leave.

He does very well in school work, and has excellent pronunciation of English (far above that of his peers).  He doesn’t like to follow directions, though, and he often does his own thing.  Desse is a good kid deep down, but finding that good kid and coaxing him to come around more often may prove to be very difficult.

Tamrat Talema-13 years old

Tamrat is a very physical kid.  He doesn’t much care for School work, although he does well in class.  His priority is sports.  He is an excellent athlete, and he has superior ball handling skills.  Tamrat is old enough to realize that he has personal weaknesses, but he lacks the motivation to work on improvement in those areas.  During a rules wrap, he admitted that he “had to” fight everyday.  However, he has shown significant progress in learning how to deal with anger in a more focused and positive manner.

He is a good kid, and he is learning to be more of an adult.  Tamrat has some trouble with staying focused in class, and has only completed grade 3.  Getting him to leave the street behind is difficult because he comes from a history of street dwellers.

Misrak Talema-9 years old

Misrak is the smallest boy at the drop-in, and, sometimes, I wish I could put him in my hip-pocket and take him home.  He is a little firecracker, and he always has the energy-and ability-to run circles around almost anyone.  His older brother, Tamrat, takes care of him.

The other boys at the drop-in seem to care deeply for Misrak, and they watch out for him.  He does well with remembering English that he has learned, and, for the most part, pays attention in class-even though he is easily distracted.  Misrak is most often late to arrive, and he tends to follow the crowd…Ashenafi looks after him and protects him.

Fikadu "Abi" Getachew-12 years old

Abi is a strong willed, often stubborn young man.  He has a home, and a mother that wants him at home, but Abi prefers to live on the streets.  He is good in school, eager to learn, but when things don’t go his way he tends to throw a fit.  He tries really hard to remember, correctly pronounce, and effectively use the English words that he learns on a daily basis.  This is a refreshing difference, and a help to the other boys in class.

When he gets ample attention-and plenty of positive reinforcement-he is well behaved.  He often butts heads with Ashenafi and Tamrat, but they are able to resolve most situations without staff intervention.  Abi is very helpful to staff members-often helping Abezu with meal preparation.  He has a servant spirit, but sometimes it takes time to see what a great kid is inside the calloused exterior.   Abi needs love and attention, but he is a good young man who is a help to everyone when needed.

Bitros Fikray-14 years old

Bitros is the newest boy to the drop-in center.  He has only been coming for four weeks, and is only now starting to come into his element.  His story is still unfolding, but we know he came from Sodo.  He has a father there, but, like the other boys, the allure of independence has kept him in Addis.  He has been smoking glue and chewing chat, but he has really done well since starting to come during the day.

Bitros has had the most schooling of any of the boys, and he does really well with English.  It has been difficult for Bitros to fit in with the other boys-they have molded a strong group, but he is starting to fit in-thanks to football.  He tends to be more sensitive than the other boys, mostly because he has not been on the streets as long as the other boys.

-Andrew Haberer, CHE Volunteer