Supporting Older Orphans

Beyond the Orphanage

Vulnerability does not have an age limit

In 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 skills they need to grow into independent young adults.

It’s really important to BTO to support older orphans.

The inspiring story of Dawit reflects BTO’s understanding that there are times when young adults also need support. Dawit had lived in an orphanage for eight years when the organization changed its enrolment policy and would no longer house anyone over 14 years old—by then he was 18 years old.

Dawit and six of his friends had to leave. His friends all had relatives or contacts in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, who could help them. Dawit had no one. He says, “There could be no life – I did not want to exist.”

BTO usually focuses on providing for children up to the age of18 but when the 19 year old Dawit approached BTO, we understood his situation and made a decision to support him. This is a decision which, three years later still moves 22-year-old Dawit to tears as it has given him opportunities that he had almost given up on.

At BTO we know that Ethiopia is a beautiful country. But, like many countries around the world, its capital city Addis Ababa, can present many challenges and can lack support for some of its most vulnerable people. Due to its high altitude, temperatures at night-time can drop very sharply. The city itself is not always the safest place for a young person, with many people sleeping rough. “A lot of people cannot cope even if they have support,” Dawit says. “If you are alone then all you can do is take your chance on the streets.”

BTO head social worker, Martha Kafato explains, “If you grow up on the street how can anyone know what happens to you.”. “But if you are here, at BTO, you are monitored—we tell you to focus on life skills and to value the life to come which can be brighter with the support of the organization.”

We supported Dawit to help him try and get his education back on track by assisting him with various vocational courses that interested him. Dawit is now in undertaking a catering training course and hopes to finish in two months time.


BTO supports Dawit so that he receives assistance for his rent and receives a monthly allowance.

In addition, like all members at BTO, as part of his monthly allowance Dawit has entered into a mandated savings program with the view to him being able to achieve independence when he moves on from the organisation.

Dawit is one of BTO’s many success stories. His dreams are starting to take shape and he has benefited from the support that has been extended to him when he was at his most vulnerable.

Dawit has also stayed in touch with his friends from the orphanage, and he describes the children he has gotten to know at BTO as his “brothers and sisters”. It is this sense of family and community that BTO strives to achieve in both its children and extended support networks.

BTO are equally touched by the story of Dawit and of his goals for the future. If you would like to know how you can support young adults like Dawit, read more about ways you can help.

Reporting in Addis Ababa contributed by James Jeffrey.

November 26, 2015

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