In Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, an estimated 11,000 children are living on the streets. They beg, scavenge and sleep here, without shelter or comfort. But the strange and sad fact is that many of these children are not orphans. They have families and homes (often in rural areas) but for a variety of reasons have been forced to leave and come to the city.
“Other people see us as worthless – all we can do is scavenge in the rubbish. The police see us as criminals. Other people think we deserve to sleep in the street, in the dirt, with the dogs and in the rain,” says Boja, 13.
Children on the streets in Addis Ababa begin to believe what others say about them. But when they come to Retrak, they discover their value as precious children of God. Retrak, a UK charity that has been operating for over 20 years, endeavours to end the suffering of street children in Africa by providing them with overnight shelter, nutritious food, health care, life skills training, educational classes and intensive counselling. Even more than that, Retrak social workers seek to reintegrate children with their families, and help families and communities to care effectively for children.
As Retrak is a faith-based charity, Retrak workers have seen that when children experience love and care, God reaches into their hearts, heals their pain and renews their sense of dignity. Over time, children begin to make plans for their future.
After spending time at Retrak, Boja now says, “We see ourselves as children in our family. Our parents take us to school and we work hard. We make our dads proud. We are Christians and we go to church and belong.”
Due to a separation of ‘development’ and ‘spiritual’ activities in Ethiopia, in this country Retrak is limited in its outright evangelism. But this has not prevented God from working powerfully to bring children into relationship with him. CMS missionary Lynn Kay, Ethiopia Country Director for Retrak, says “The atmosphere at Retrak is so different to what children have experienced on the street that they are amazed. They often ask questions about why we care for them, giving us the opportunity to share the hope within us. We pray that as we plant the seeds, others will water and tend the seeds and God will grow the fruit.”
Retrak is currently working in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, DR Congo, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Malawi. Additionally, in 2016 Retrak moved into working in Brazil and hopes to continue expanding into more countries. CMS worker Maggie Crewes, Retrak’s Director of Programmes, says, “Street children are a group of extremely marginalised children who are not in school, not in a community, not in church… there are very few people reaching out to them with the hope we have. We are keen to open up new opportunities and have impact in more and more lives.”
If you would like to help Retrak continue providing practical assistance and eternal hope to children living on the streets, why not give a gift through the 2016-2017 CMS Gift Catalogue? Just $10 will help homeless girls reintegrate into school and family life, so that they can have a future full of bright opportunities. Find it here.