Getu* was 15 years old when he left his home, walking for three days and nights to the nearest town before continuing on to Addis Ababa. Getu’s mother died when he was just 10 years old, and after his father remarried his life became even harder.
Getu thought his father did not care for him as he did nothing to stop the mistreatment he suffered at the hands of his stepmother. Getu was forced to work on the farm and so could not attend school. Getu finally got tired of life at home and the constant verbal abuse from his stepmother and decided to leave. He felt he had nothing to lose by leaving and set out to Addis.
When he arrived in Addis, things were far more difficult than he had thought possible. When it was getting dark, he found some children from his region and they told him how he could get food and where to sleep. He was happy to get help but he soon realized that the food was making him sick. Getu couldn’t resist the chilly weather at nights where he suffered from common cold and flu. To forget all these problems, he started smoking cigarettes and chewing chat.
After a month on the street, Retrak’s outreach team contacted him and invited him to ATC. He started his rehabilitation process and managed to shrug off his addiction issues successfully and started to look happy and motivated. When he was ready he was reintegrated with his family.
The social worker dealt with the major factor that sent this child to the streets while visiting his parents. His father admitted that he was not paying attention to the child and his step mother realised that Getu needs to go to school and needs support from her.
Getu was happy to go home but it was not long after he was reunified that serious violence erupted in his town. Buildings were damaged, schools were closed, cars were burnt and some people were shot dead. Young people in the village were accused of breaking and burning the school property. Getu’s parents were terrified and decided to send him somewhere where he could not be arrested. The only option was sending him back to Addis.
It was one lucky evening when one of the social workers saw Getu on the streets. He approached Getu and tried to talk to him about why he came back from to Addis from his home just months after being reintegrated. The child looked weary, he was hungry, the clothes Retrak gave him were worn out and he looked helpless. Getu returned to Retrak’s centre and stayed for 2 months until stability was ensured in his home town.
Getu said he used to think he was a child who was created just for an uphill struggle. But then he said ‘Retrak changed everything, the way I look at this world. Retrak taught me how to be resilient and successful.’
*Name changed to protect the child’s identity