STORIES FROM ETHIOPIA
told by Don Angelo Regazzo or "Abba Melaku", as they call him in Ethiopia
Bosco Children Centre
PROGETTI DI VITA (Life Projects): the project is about taking care of people in a state of marginalization and poverty and offering professional training courses to fragile individuals identified in the family and community.
I took among the "Last", as Don Bosco would have done, three new boys who, from Saturday 19 December 2020, have started making hosts in place of the three young lads who have been reintegrated into their respective families.
Don Angelo Regazzo
From abandonment, loneliness and abuse, to the hospitality that restores life, dignity and future.
He is 16 years old. In his story, like that of almost all street children, there is the tragic abandonment and lack of love on the part of his parents. He doesn't know who his family really is. As soon as he was born he was abandoned by his mother near a garbage can and found by a good lady who picked him up and raised him as if he were her son. When he was two unfortunately that lady died. The daughter of the lady and her husband took care of the child for 5 years, but the husband, an alcoholic, mistreated him.
When he was 8, Tenaw joined a group of older kids and ran away from home with them. Together with them he started selling sweets at the bus station. A girl from the group, who often traveled with her mother to Addis Ababa to sell various products, convinced Tenaw to go to Addis where he would have earned a lot more.
In the capital he fell into the hands of a mafia group that forced him to steal along with many other street kids. He learned to smoke and snort glue. He was arrested by the police along with 5 other comrades, while they were stealing car mirrors. He was delivered to the Hope Institute, where he received some food, clothes and a bed to sleep in and where they taught him to do some small jobs.
After three months all his companions were taken back to their home while he no longer had anyone in the world and so he fled back to the streets. At the age of 14, one evening he was lucky enough to meet the Bosco Children's car and a Salesian cleric who was speaking to some street children and who told him that, if he wanted, at Bosco Children he could have learned to read and write, a trade and then he would have been integrated into the family or into the Society, as long as he detached himself from the glue and bad habits of the street.
He accepted and it was his salvation.
In one year Tenaw learned to read and write and now he is currently attending the first year of the leather goods course at the Bosco Children technical school. He has seen many smart guys, former street kids, who now have a good job and earn a living. He set out to imitate them. Now he is a calm boy and he has understood that succeeding in life, if he wants, DEPENDS ON HIM.
Don Angelo knew that Tenaw had what it takes to join the "il senso del Pane" project. He is now an Orthodox Christian and has been told the meaning of the Hosts that will become the Body of Christ (Kedus Kurban, as the Eucharist is called) and willingly accepted the proposal to make Hosts one or two days a week.
He used to be abandoned and to survive the street life by begging for alms. Then, he met the Bosco Children project, where he started attending school and working in the host production laboratory
He is 16 years old. He was born in Debrework, in the Gojam Region. He is an Orthodox Christian. He belongs to a family of 7: his parents, two older sisters, two little brothers and him. He lost his mother when he was still a child. His father, a "poor man" in every sense, without his wife, did not feel like raising all five of his children alone and decided to get rid of them by entrusting them to various relatives and acquaintances. He gave the two daughters to an aunt of theirs who lived in Debrework, who, in turn, abandoned them againg living them to some acquaintances in three different cities of the Region and telling them that life was difficult for everyone and that they had to make do (!). Poor children!
Jenberu was just 10 years old and he still remembers that terrible moment of separation from his father that accompanied him to Addis Ababa, where they arrived by bus late in the evening and where, once they got off, his father told him to wait for him in a place, where he would have returned to pick him up...He never came back. He never saw his brothers and sisters again. After 5 years he accidentally saw his father again who simply asked him "how are you" and disappeared again. (My God, what kind of "fathers" exist in this sad world!)
And so the poor boy for 5 long years wandered the streets of Addis, begging for alms, pilfering here and there to survive, sleeping where he could. Finally in 2019 he met one of the many street children who had been at Bosco Children for two years and then was back on the streets again because he loved freedom. This boy spoke well of Bosco Children so much that Jenberu wanted to meet the Salesian Brother who was talking to the boys on the street and decided to join.
It was the best decision of his life! For a year and a half he has been one of the best boys and he has been attending the Technical School in the leather goods department. After listening to the vicissitudes of his young life, Don Angelo offered him to join the host production workshop. He was delighted. Thank the Lord.
He has escaped from poverty, has lived on the street begging to survive and then he has fallen victim to the mafia. Then, one day, he was welcomed by the Bosco Children community, where he is currently studying and happily entering the "il senso del Pane" project.
He is 15 years old. He was born in Bichena in the Gojam Region. He comes from a very poor family of 8. They had a small piece of land that the father was able to feed the many mouths with but, suddenly, the government took it from them and still today Kasahun does not know why. His life became very difficult when his mother died and one of his older brothers lost his sight in an accident.
At this point, Kashun, at 14, not seeing a future ahead of him, decided to flee with his companion who was in the same conditions as him. One morning they got into a truck headed for Addis Ababa, without the driver even knowing he had them on board. When they arrived in Addis, their life's adventure on the road began, in all its negative sides. They also tried to be shoeshines but they were starving. Then they split up and Kasahun began begging to survive. He joined a group of street children who came from the same region and soon fell victim to a mafia group that forces them to steal and commit petty crimes in exchange for food, clothing and money.
Finally, one night of two years ago, Kasahun met the Salesian and the social worker who came from the Bosco Children community: he adhered to their proposals in order to change his life and he was saved. He has been attending the Bosco Children technical school for almost two years now. He is one of the best guys, respectful and obedient. Due to the pandemic, he has not been able to go home to see his parents, but he is on telephone contact and cannot wait to meet them in person. When I suggested him to make hosts he was thrilled. Now he works hard in the workshop.
Dreams Come True
Let's follow the path of life and dignity of the first 3 young people who worked on the “il senso del Pane” project, who left the workshop to be reintegrated into the family and community, making room for new young people.
16 years old, former street boy, now student and cook
The fourth of 8 children, Eyob was in fifth grade when his father died. From a very poor family, he immediately understood that he did not have a future ahead of him and at the age of 12 he decided to run away from home and moved to the capital, Addis Ababa. He thought he would immediately find a job as a boy but, instead, he wandered for three years the streets, begging and stealing for a living.
He slept wherever he found a sheltered place, covering himself with cardboard or pieces of plastic. Addis is on the Ethiopian Highlands, at 2600 meters above sea level and the temperature can drop to 5 degrees at night.
He suffered from cold and hunger for 3 years, until one evening he met the car of the Salesians of Bosco Children and...he was saved! When the Salesians gave him the possibility to choose between the academic branch and the technical branch, he chose the latter and in particular he chose to be a cook, sure that with that profession he would NEVER go hungry again!
He is of Orthodox Christian religion and when he was given the opportunity to learn how to make Hosts he joined with enthusiasm, also because he deeply understands the meaning of the Eucharist.
He is particularly inclined to be a waiter. His dream is to be a cook and one day to have his own restaurant, so he attends the cooking school and the hotel school.
Unfortunately, in the middle of his second year, due to the Corona Virus emergency, while he was already attending a restaurant for 3 months where he was practicing as a waiter and cook - to the satisfaction of the restaurant owner - he had to interrupt and experience the Lock Down, like all the other students of Bosco Children.
He left the workshop but the great conflicts that have erupted in his region dramatically separated him from the family he no longer finds. He then returned back and now he is currently working, thinking of helping the very poor mother that he hopes to find one day.
Habtamu has successfully completed his three years of technical school in the Leather Processing department. Unfortunately, he could NOT be reintegrated into his family in Wolkayit, near Gondar and on the border with Tigray, the region that rebelled against the Federal Government, so the Government had to intervene by force. A terrible fire conflict broke out between the Central Government and the rebel group TPLF which destabilized the area and forced more than 50,000 refugees to flee to neighboring Sudan. There have been several massacres of innocent people in the area where Habtamu's family lives. What still makes him suffer so much is the fact that up to now he has NOT heard anything about his loved ones. Are they still alive, have they been killed or have they fled to Sudan? It is a terrible thing for Habtamu to be completely unaware of the fate of his family. In fact, the area has been completely isolated from the social media. He asked for and received extra pennies to be able to travel, with great prudence, and go to his village where he could get news. But he made it known that he could NOT get close to his village since several checkpoints of government soldiers stopped him.
He returned to Addis and started working to set aside some savings to take home and help his mother who is very poor, hoping to...find her still alive. Don Angelo takes care of him personally and helps him as much as possible to rejoin his family.
He became a carpenter. His family life is not easy, but he wants to make it and open a small carpentry to be independent.
The only Catholic boy in our Bosco Children Center for street children: a good sign in a certain sense because it means that Catholics take better care of their children who do not run away on the street.
Daniel has been working in the host production workshop for a year, a time during which he successfully completed his carpentry course and was reintegrated into his family with his mother. After a week, however, he rented a room in his village, Endebir, starting to live on his own, because he was not happy with his stepfather who always treated him badly. His dream is to be able to set up a small carpentry and to be independent. Don Angelo really supports him, also financially: If Daniel needs a small loan to buy some machinery, he will help him, on the condition that he will pay back the money as soon as he is able to work and earn. This promise of help and closeness comfort him a lot and make him happy.
Don Angelo Regazzo's message to the Foundation, on 15 December 2020
Dear Arnoldo and all of you, Friends of the IL SENSO DEL PANE Project, as you can see Christ Crucified continues to suffer and His Passion is perceived in many street children. It is nice to feel "chosen by him" to help these children to grow and to experience that LOVE that we all experienced as children but which was denied to them.
With much love and gratitude,
Don Angelo and his good young lads.