Changing the World

Beyond the Orphanage

Lemma is a very special young man and a very special child of Beyond the Orphanage. He’s no different to any other boy his age in that he is causing havoc at home by staying up late to watch the World Cup, but he wants to watch to the end of every game… even on a school night!

He is not so disappointed that Ethiopia didn’t make the competition, but thinks that Aresenal should have been given a chance. Lemma’s special physical needs means he grapples with unique and difficult challenges daily. Football is one of the things Lemma is so passionate about that everything else just fades into the background. With the game in his heart, he’s just an ordinary boy.

Lemma has been a child of Beyond the Orphanage (BTO) since 2010. He is one of the brightest students at his school and one of the most popular friends in our community. Enjoying Lemma’s humour and talents is a pleasure. Thinking back to how things were when he joined BTO we wanted to share with you the story of how much support at home and in education has meant to Lemma.

In 2013, journalist and BTO supporter Sharon Hendry, wrote about her visit with Lemma when he had just started with Beyond the Orphanage.

You can read her story of here:

“I have returned from a week’s trip to Addis Ababa visiting Lemma a child have I known for many years and is now part Beyond the Orphanage. It was a very emotional time for both of us. I can joyfully report that Lemma’s current emotional state and living conditions far exceeded my expectations. Firstly, we met Lemma at his new school. The headmaster is warm and intelligent. He has grasped Lemma’s needs and is very proud to inform visitors that he is the first disabled child to attend the school – a groundbreaking step in a conservative and unbending education system. He informed us that Lemma is exceptionally bright and is catching up with his peers quickly in the core academic subjects but his passions are poetry and singing.


After school, we visited Lemma’s house. I chuckled to myself upon seeing the Arsenal logo that had been neatly etched on the front door. All the more relevant given that I had just presented Lemma with a football shirt signed by his hero Van Persie. “Very nice,” Lemma kept repeating as he gazed at it dreamily.

We met Lemma’s guardian – a serious although very kind natured lady who hurriedly prepared a coffee ceremony for us and Tigist – his smiley young carer – who hikes him in and out of his wheelchair and taxi. Lemma’s house is wonderful. It has a warm feel to it.

Physically of course he looks healthier but his demeanour has changed from that of a little boy who felt ashamed to be part of the world to a young man smiling and growing in confidence with every day that passes. His head no longer hangs down. His limbs are no longer contracting dangerously each day.

Of course, the sort of emotional roller coaster that Lemma has endured throughout his life does not stop in its tracks over night. I tried to explain to Lemma’s carers and guardians that he is dealing with two major hurdles… the emotional scars left from living in institutions that were at times very harsh and the anger, frustration and pain that comes from a severe disability.

I accompanied Lemma to a physio session. I came equipped with boxes of ibruprofen and paracetamol and he was able to endure an entire session without crying for the first time. The sessions are intensely painful but necessary if Lemma is to fulfil his dream of walking. We also spent some time with Lemma at the wonderful charity BTO where we sang and chatted together.

I emerged from a Saturday morning gathering uplifted and humbled by the children’s determination to defy their start in life. But of course none of this would be possible without BTO and its unique purpose. It’s not always easy for the so-called ‘lucky’ children who get adopted into a new life but it’s certainly harder for the forgotten tier of children who don’t have that option. Without Geoff’s vision the streets of Addis would be far gloomier for these amazing kids.

Danny the Driver and I took Lemma to watch the principle Addis team St George in a training session and were invited to watch their Saturday match as guests of honour. I loved watching Lemma soaking up every second of the experience with the boys. It was so hard saying goodbye at the end of my trip but so much easier also knowing that Lemma has now escaped the nightmare of his past and is feeling loved perhaps for the first time in many years.

He is a bright boy and knows only too well that his future is only possible because of BTO’s supporters. For him to know that so many people in the West are keeping him in mind a huge boost to him every second of every day. Please stay committed to his future. Some people say you can’t change the world but you have all helped to change Lemma’s world and that’s a good enough start.”

BTO thank Sharon Hendry for her wonderful story.

November 26, 2015

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