A lost boy has been given a second chance to live a normal life after being rescued from the streets.
Fourteen-year-old Barack* was born in a small village in southern Ethiopia but he had a very unstable upbringing; his father was a heavy drinker and would often beat him.
When he was just a few years old, he moved to live with his uncle and aunt, and gradually began helping them with domestic work around the house.
But not long after he had started in primary education, Barack ran away from his relatives, following an argument. He had also recently heard of his parents’ divorce.
“He feared a repeat of his past experiences,” a member of Hope for Justice’s team said. “No one knew where he had gone.
“As a young boy, Barack suffered discrimination, he was kicked and beaten. He was unhappy. He used to think he was created unlucky and cursed.
“In contrast to his upbringing, his uncle’s home was a safe place, he was registered for school and began his education.”
Family separation and desperate poverty force some children to flee to the streets, where they are at risk of being targeted by traffickers.
Barack was homeless for about one week, during which time he faced many challenges.
A staff member at Hope for Justice said: “Barack was sleeping in the sewers and gutters. To survive, he ate leftover food from restaurants. He was at huge risk of exploitation, he faced physical abuse, and he lacked access to showering facilities which left him with poor hygiene.”
Hope for Justice’s outreach team found him, dirty and malnourished. The team regularly visits the streets to try and build trust with vulnerable and exploited homeless children with the aim to move them into transitional care at the charity’s Lighthouses. Here they receive temporary care before being safely reintegrated with their families or to family-based care.
At the Lighthouse, Barack received night shelter, food, good sanitation, counselling, life skills training, catch-up education and access to health facilities.
“At the beginning, he was aggressive and nervous when interacting with the other children,” a member of the charity’s team said. “But after several counselling sessions, he became active in class, participated in games, developed interpersonal relationships and managed to gain weight.
“Soon his writing and reading improved. He began to identify English and Amharic – the official Ethiopian language – alphabets and words.
“Hope for Justice helped him not to be ashamed of his grades but to strive ahead and continue his learning and development.”
Barack told our staff that he hopes to become a doctor in the future. After a few weeks at the Lighthouse, he began asking to return to his uncle’s home.
His relatives were happy to hear that the lost child would soon be coming home.
*Name and image changed to protect identity of victim