By the time he was 12, Bereket was tired of poverty. His dad had died long ago, leaving his mom sick. His mom, a hairdresser, and his aunt, a carpenter, brought in barely enough money to keep him and his cousins alive. Many days they simply did not eat. So Bereket stopped trying. He began hanging out on Addis Ababa street corners with friends rather than going to school. Twice he flunked 8thgrade. Little by little he picked up his friends’ bad habits—cigarettes, alcohol, khat (an herbal stimulant common in Ethiopia). He treated his mom shamefully.
Somewhere his mom heard about our child sponsorship program and put their names on our waiting list. After a few months, our staff found a sponsor for them, and their lives started changing. With the nutritional support they received, they began eating 3 meals a day. In addition, his mom began attending a self-help savings group, where she learned to manage money and take care of her health. The social and spiritual support she found there gave her strength she had never had before.
Not until he was 18, however, did Bereket seriously feel sad about the many times he had made his mother cry. He began noticing the fortunes of his street friends, who were now addicted to drugs and in trouble. He started meeting weekly with one of our staff for counseling. He also started paying attention to the trainings the staff put on for teens and to what they were telling him about God. He dug into his studies, pulling his grades up to “A’s.” And he began painting in every spare moment.
Last spring, he took his two paintings shown here to a national art exhibit several hundred miles away and sold them for a good price. Upon his return, he paid his mom’s rent for several months and filled the cabinets with groceries. This summer, at our teens’ retreat, he took the podium and advised his fellow teens to dream big, to think outside the box about their own futures, and to put their hope entirely in God. They were astonished.
He is now helping other children grow in their own skills. And he continues to paint. Now in 11th grade, he’s hoping to win a scholarship to college to study architecture. But what he’s building in his own life and the lives of teens around him is already beautiful.