Inspirational Teen Turns Her Life Around in Ethiopia

From Arnica Rowan, VCS President: I opened a report today, and read a story that I just had to share with you. Determined 17 year old “J”, despite overwhelming struggles and a dangerous life on the streets, has just finished our year long New Life program in Ethiopia. We couldn’t be more proud of her and her fellow grads (shown above.) J grew up in my daughters’ home city, so her success has special meaning for our family. Read on to learn J’s inspirational story.

Since it’s the holy month of Ramadan, we thought we would remind you that Vulnerable Children Society is committed to help kids of all faiths to thrive and succeed in Ethiopia. We are proud that our programs help deserving Orthodox, Protestant and Muslim kids and families. 💗 Arnica

From our partners in Ethiopia: “J” was born in the ancient city of Nekemt in the Western part of Ethiopia. J was born into a Muslim family, the first and only child. Her father passed away when J was still an infant and her mother took care of her as a single mother. J went as far as fourth grade in that town, but unfortunately, life became more and more difficult for J and her mother. They decided to move to Addis Ababa in search of a good work for the mother and a better future for the daughter. But the life they imagined would be waiting for them was only a myth. They were greeted with more poverty and unemployment.

Thank you

When J was a teen, her mother decided to go back to her hometown and her relatives. She thought it would be safer to have people who care about her around all the time. But J and her mother were not getting along well, so J decided to run away from home in Nakemt, back to Addis. She was fourteen years old at the time. She thought that she would find her old neighbors and they would take care of her. But when she got to Addis, the neighbours she knew had been displaced because of a road construction that was going on. She didn’t recognize any of the people currently living there, and was all alone. J had no choice but to become a street child.

J was on the streets for three years. During that time, she had to sell her body in exchange for food and a place to sleep at night. She says, ‘if you spend one night outside, you would know how absolutely terrible it really is.’

Fortunately, J met social workers from Hope for Children (our Ethiopian partner for the New Life program,) and after several orientation sessions, she came to the New Life Girls’ Group Home in hope for a better life. With counselling, drug rehab and medical care, her life started to come together.

Over the course of a year, J trained in cooking and has now passed the certification of competency exam for professional cooking. This enables her to work in any restaurant or hotel in Ethiopia. A recent graduate, she has just been placed in her first professional cooking job, and is living independently, off the streets.

J wants to thank all of the people who supported her and the other girls in Vulnerable Children Society’s New Life program.

This deserving, hardworking girl now has a chance at a safe and successful life, and we are so very very proud of her. If you’d like to contribute to give another girl a new life, please learn more or donate. Your contribution changes lives.

Thank you

Give a Teen Girl a New Life

Vulnerable Children Society’s New Life program enables teen girls to leave the sex trade in Addis Ababa and build a new life for themselves. Their year living in our group home, learning a trade, and receiving counselling opens a world of possibilities. It costs $2000 to give a girl a new life… a very good investment!
Learn More about our compassionate, effective program
OR Donate to Help More Girls Leave the Streets

 

New Life program grads running business at 17!

Last year, Tawnya and Arnica paid a visit to two of the girls newly graduated from the New Life program for teen girls escaping the sex trade

The last time we had seen them, they were frightened children, just newly entering the group home, and unsure of what lay ahead. Well, what a difference a year of support and training makes. The girls shyly offered us coffee, and toured us around their little apartment and injera making workshop. The girls were only 16 at the time, but with the help of a micro loan from Vulnerable Children and an inheritance (one of the girls’ mom’s had sadly passed away,) they had secured two injera mitads for cooking the national bread, and even brokered a deal with three local hotels to provide their injera each day. When we met with them, the girls were just waiting for their business licence to come through so they could begin operations.

It’s hard to believe that just over a year before these girls were indentured in the sex trade, living day to day under the control of a brothel. Now, with a year of counselling and cooking training under their belts, they were independent. The girls still suffered for a lack of confidence, but they were making their own decisions, and relying on each other (and our partner, Hope for Children in Ethiopia,) to make a new lives for themselves. Since, they received their business licence and have been operating their business successfully, even hiring another New Life program grad to work for them. We are so incredibly proud of them.

Donate to help more teen girls escape prostitution and build a New Life for themselves!

Our Grown-Up Christmas Wish: Helping Teen Girls Escape the Sex Trade in Ethiopia

Vulnerable Children Society Christmas holiday gift donation Ethiopia
Click to download your own donation card!

The holiday season is just around the corner, you are likely wracking your brain for a gift for that adult relative who just has everything already. Well, we can help! In fact, you can help!

Our New Life program for teen girls helps 15-20 year olds escape the sex trade in Addis Ababa, with counselling, a lovingly group home, and most importantly, vocational training to embark on a new careeer. You can read two of our girls’ success stories here!  It costs $2000 to put a girl through the year long program, and we currently have secured funding for 5 girls next year. Your donation gifts, in any amount, will be put towards our $10,000 goal of giving a new life to 5 derserving young girls. Now that’s a grown-up gift that anyone would appreciate.

We are happy to make your gift giving as easy as possible. Simply donate here, and then download a gift card here, that you can fill out and send, give or email to your loved one.

Many many thanks for your generosity! We wish you all the happiest of Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Omisoka, Yule etc. seasons!

With love and hope, Arnica, Tawnya, Menbere, Nicole, Flora, Dacia and Laura!

Bonding with at-risk Ethiopian teens, over cookies and nail polish

It’s been six weeks since we spent time with our favourite teen girls in Ethiopia. With one of our directors (Menbere) leaving this week for a visit, I find that I’m missing these special girls that we got to know. I don’t think I’ve ever met a more determined, sweeter group of young ladies, and I’d love to tell you about our visit.

A tiny bit about our program first: Vulnerable Children Society’s New Life Teenage Sex Trade Worker Retraining Program is a year long supportive program, helping girls indentured in the sex trade escape, and build new lives for themselves. Tawnya and I (Arnica) were eager to meet the newest cohort of young women, who had just started the program in June.

We met the girls at their new group home, a spacious new building that accommodates the ten girls we support (on the top floor) and ten girls supported by a US NGO. They’ve moved out into the outskirts of Addis, distancing the girls form the dangers of Entoto, the Stadium and other dicey districts. As the groups of girls we’ve met before, they were shy and on their best behaviour, treating us to coffee ceremony. I personally find that formal visiting stifling… Heaven knows how difficult it is for the girls to have us, the faces of the organization that sponsors them, sit in their living room. So we brought some icebreakers… Temporary tattoos! The Canada flags were a huge hit!

Vulnerable Children Society' s New Life - Teen Sex Trade Worker Retraining Program in Addis Ababa

The giggles started then, although, understandably, there were a few suspicious scowls. We can’t forget that these girls have been through unimaginable horrors, and are justifiably nervous around strangers. Tawnya and I then handed out the little gifts of nail polish and hair tools we brought with us, and the nail polishing began. The girls’ house mother, a quiet woman named Mulu, was delighted that she too had some new – orange- nail polish.

Vulnerable Children Society' s New Life - Teen Sex Trade Worker Retraining Program in Addis Ababa

We were soon treated to some delicious coffee, made by one of the girls. Addis said it wasn’t her favorite chore to do, but she did it with care. The girls take turns at everything, from cleaning and cleaning to serving their guests. Note the tattoo on her arm.

Vulnerable Children Society' s New Life - Teen Sex Trade Worker Retraining Program in Addis Ababa

The most amazing part of our visit for the girls are the letters that we brought with us. 20 teens from an International Development course in Prince Edward Island wrote the girls, with the hopes of starting a penpal relationship for the duration of their respective programs. It was incredibly meaningful to several of the girls. They had never received a letter before, and were astounded that astounded that young strangers their age, all the way in Canada, cared enough to share about their own lives and wanted to know how they were doing in Ethiopia. Over the next two nights, the girls worked hard on their return letters. Even Tigist, who never learned to read in her rural home, and certainly didn’t working in Addis, got a friend to scribe for her and sent a note back.

Over the next few days, Tawnya and I got to know many of the girls as individuals. We attended their lessons, ate supper cooked by them in their home, sat and chatted in the living room, shared stories of family and I even got to teach them something from home. Of the twenty girls in the program (ten supported by us,) fifteen are in cooking school right now. The other four are learning hair dressing and one is in design school. Since all of the girls supported by Vulnerable Children are in cooking, we volunteered to teach them to make some ferengi food… Foreign recipes to increase their employability at guest houses and restaurants. When I asked the girls what they wanted to learn to make, one tentatively told me “chocolates.”

Well, I thought chocolaterie was a bit difficult for their first sweets lesson, so we settled on cookies.

Vulnerable Children Society' s New Life - Teen Sex Trade Worker Retraining Program in Addis Ababa

With peanut butter and chocolate chips in hand, the next day I taught them two kinds of cookies. Tawnya would have been right in there, but she was terribly under the weather. So with help from our translator/public health nurse Meron, I taught the girls about the funny things called cups and teaspoons. What fun! The dear kids braved my teaching methods. Remember, I speak only Amharic Lite and traditionally teaching in Ethiopia is not interactive. We made several batches of the cookies in teams. They put much of the dough in the fridge to make later (not on fasting days!) so they could all sample them. Delicious! The only person who appeared unimpressed was the oldest girl, Ada, who hadn’t let out a hint of a smile since our arrival.

The last day we visited the girls, we popped by their house announced. They were all lounging around, playing games and watching TV, obviously not in their best clothes as the times we had stopped in before. This time, there was no formal coffee, but some honest conversation.

We asked the girls about their dreams for the future. We went around the circle, as they shared their own hopes: of finding a cooking job, designing her own clothes, starting a family and living in an apartment with a friend. Finally, we got to the oldest, Ada, who had a scowl on the whole time. She looked at us, and defiantly declared that she was going to start her own cookie business, and sell the cookies to foreigners at guest houses around Addis Ababa. Then, ever so gently, she grinned.

Vulnerable Children Society' s New Life - Teen Sex Trade Worker Retraining Program in Addis Ababa

An hour later we were sharing hugs with all the girls in the courtyard. Much to my surprise, Ada made a beeline for me. We hugged and hugged and cried and cried. I can’t believe what that girl has been through, but I believe with all my heart that she is going places.

In fact, all of them are. These girls, thanks to support from people like you, hard work and determination, are building new lives for themselves.

Think of a girl or a woman in your life, and consider donating in their name to help teen girls in Ethiopia this holiday season. We want to give another ten girls the life changing experience these teens have experienced.

with gratitude,
Arnica
President, Vulnerable Children

Healthy happy kids at the Love and Hope Centre

This time of year in central Ethiopia, the days are mildly warm, the sun is shining and the meskel flowers are in full bloom. It’s the end of the big rain season, and there is a daily vibrancy of growing things.

Vulnerable Children Society Ethiopia Helping Kids

Tawnya and I (Arnica) arrived at Vulnerable Children Society’s Love and Hope Centre three days ago. It had been a year since either of us had visited, and we were wowed on our first steps through the gates. The centre courtyard, which formerly housed a vast expanse of red dirt and a tarped shack for cooking, was full of gloriously growing. The vegetable gardens that our volunteer Stefan started six months ago had been producing beets, collards, lettuce and other vegetables for the children to eat for the last few months. The difference the gardens made was amazing… The whole centre felt alive and welcoming, even before the children arrived from school.

We spoke first with the guard who had taken on the gardens has his project at the centre. Ethiopia can be quite hierarchical, but I was very pleased to learn that he had started a gardening club, and several of the children were regularly attending the gardens under his supervision.

Our next exciting visit was the new cooking building. Vulnerable Children funded this wonderful improvement to the property last year. The new metal cooking area enables the guardians who cook for the children on a rotating basis to prepare nutritious food out of the sun and rain. When you are cooking for 70 children each day, it nice to have a place to store food and plates, chop and stir and prepare the lunches. The children just started at a new school that likes the children to stay onsite during lunchtime. So instead of all the kids showing up for lunch, the guardians were cooking 70 to go lunches, delivered to the school by community members. In discussion with the mothers and grandmother on this month’s shift, we learned that the lunch boxes provided by the families varied from metal tiffins to leaking plastic plates. So we mentally added new lunch boxes to our sponsorship wish list!

Also in the courtyard are a bathroom, two showers, and outdoor taps for washing feet and brushing teeth. The children started to filter in, and the foot washing shifts immediately began. When the centre opened a couple years ago, we realized that many of the kids had never had a bath or a shower. So we place a lot of emphasis on hygiene activities, with teeth brushing, foot washing and even weekend showers on the weekly schedule. No doubt these hygiene activities help keep the kids in good health. And should they get sick, our centre reimburses families for their child’s medial visits, prescriptions and dentistry. Basically, kids who attend our Love and Hope Centre have extended health care through our program.

After foot washing, it was an outdoor day. The social worker, Walalign, broke the kids into shifts for playing. To our amusement, one of the teams was the “keep the ball out of the garden” team! So two groups of kids played, one cheered, and one held hands in a line along the garden to protect the vegetables. And then they would switch. How fun!

The Love and Hope Centre’s gorgeous veggie garden, homemade lunches, routine washing and physical activity are growing some wonderfully healthy and happy kids in Kality, one of the poorest urban communities in Ethiopia. Thanks to much too our Love and Hope sponsors, whose ongoing monthly contributions are making a world of difference to 70 beautiful, deserving Ethiopian children.

Want to make a world of difference to an Ethiopian child? Become a Love and Hope Sponsor!

In the next couple of days, we visited some of the children’s families in their homes with Woinshet (the centre coordinator,) participated in an afterschool art class, labelled 70 toothbrushes, showed the nutritionist our nutrition oak shop adapted from Harvard, had coffee with the guardians, and planned technology classes for the older kids. But you’ll just have to stay tuned for those news and pictures!

VCS Directors land in Ethiopia and visit projects helping kids and teens

Love and Hope after school centre for poor kids in Addis Ababa, EthiopiaWarmest greetings from Ethiopia! Two days ago, Vulnerable Children Society‘s treasurer Tawnya and I arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s buzzing urban hub in Eastern Africa.   I stepped off the plane to the familiar scent of spiced chilies and diesel fumes. It’s my umpteenth trip to Ethiopia, but each time I get off the plane, it’s the same – a breeze swaying the palms, horns honking, taxi drivers jostling to get my attention, the sounds of melodic Amharic in my ear, and a feeling of coming to a second home.

Tawnya and I usually visit our society’s projects in Ethiopia every year; however, it’s been a year and a half since I’ve been able to visit the kids and teens that we serve. We are both excited to see how the gardens are growing at the Love and Hope Centre, featured above.

Our awesome volunteer Stefan spent 5 months here this spring, helping the afterschool centre guards and parents build a demonstration garden and spread food security in the community. I can’t wait to talk with the moms and neighbours, and see how their own crops are doing.

Vulnerable Children Society's adapted Harvard Healthy Plate for EthiopiaWe brought a new program with us teaching about balanced diets, using a culturally-appropriate version of Harvard’s Healthy Plate.

I can’t wait to see what the women who cook for our 70 kids think about it, especially in light of the crops they are now getting from our onsite garden.

The other project we will be spending time at involves ten special girls, who joined our Teenage Sex Trade Worker Retraining Program just a month ago. The girls are going through a year-long program, living in a group home, getting lots of counselling and intense vocational training. We heard from our partner organization, Hope for Children in Ethiopia, that the girls are learning about cooking and hairdressing right now.

raduates of Vulnerable Children Society's teen program, working in a restaurantSo Tawnya and I are hoping to do the same nutrition workshop, as well as a workshop on cooking for ferengies (foreigners,) to increase their chances of the girls getting jobs in the exploding guest house tourism industry.

Some of the program graduates are already working at hamburger restaurants and guest houses, so it’s a great chance to these 15-19 year olds another employable skill.

To the right: Zenebu and Alemtsehay with their new careers at Lemon Zest Cafeteria. We are so proud of them!

We invite you to follow along with our journey! We can’t send newsletters from Ethiopia, because the wifi is tooooo sloooowwww. But we can post to Instagram  and Facebook, and write blog entries! Please check out our social media accounts and see what we are up to.   Now out for a delicious meal of injera and tibs… oh yes, I can smell those roasted spices already!

Melkam Addis Amet from Ethiopia! Happy Ethiopian New Year!

Thanks for following along… Arnica and Tawnya