Vulnerability does not have an age limitIn Ethiopia, 70% of orphans are aged between 12 and 17 years, with no parents to guide or take care of them, many of these teens end up on the street. Beyond the Orphanage (BTO) is committed to supporting the needs of children and to educating and encouraging them to develop the...Read now
At Beyond the Orphanage (BTO), we care for the most vulnerable of the most vulnerable children. Our policy is to care for children regardless of race, religion, gender and any special needs they may have. We are a small organization but we are strong enough to provide the care each child needs until they grow into independence. We are striving to provide that care for as many children as we can and with your help we are seeing very special results. The stories of Birtukan and Lemma reflect BTO’s accepting community and our commitment to provide assistance to those children who need it most.
Before coming to BTO, Birtukan grew up in a situation of constant tension at home. Her father had passed away when she was 11 years old, and money was always in short supply. Her step-brother had no job and sometimes her mother had to beg.
“This made me worry a lot,” says Birtukan, “I felt I could not explain myself.” Birtukan was experiencing headaches which were preventing her from concentrating at school.
When we became aware of Birtukan’s situation, we arranged for her to see a psychologist. Our commitment to supporting all children means we do not shy away from taking on children that have serious emotional needs— and we acknowledge that such fraught issues often accompany the tragic loss and hardships that the children have endured.
Birtukan regularly sees her psychologist and her health and studies are improving.
When BTO originally took on Lemma – who has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair, he moved from his orphanage to live with a new guardian and burst into tears as soon as he arrived.
“He cried for two hours saying he wanted to go back,” says Hailu, the grandson of Lemma’s guardian. “But some friends came over, and after we put on the film “Mr Bean” he was happy.”
That was four years ago and now Lemma and Hailu are both in their mid-teens. Hailu says that he and Lemma have become like brothers.
BTO is now dedicated to supporting Lemma with two carers who look after his daily needs. We ensure that accommodation costs are met for him and his guardian as well as other necessary expenses such as ensuring he has a good wheelchair.
Martha Kafato, BTO Head Social Worker, remembers Lemma’s reply when asked about his ultimate goal in life, “He said, ‘I want to stand up and walk one day.’”
At BTO we encourage children to set their goals and not to be inhibited by their challenges. Each child receiving our support has their own individual needs, as well as their own dreams.
Only through your support can BTO’s care give children like Lemma the opportunity to someday take steps toward achieving his goals and ours; caring for vulnerable children.
Thank you for supporting children like Birtukan and Lemma. If you would like to know more about how you can support children with special needs through our work you can do so through our child sponsorship program.
By Jo Smith with additional reporting from Addis Ababa by James Jeffrey.