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"We're the lucky ones:" Young people reflect on growing up in an SOS Children’s Village

From left: Hiwot, Tamrat, and Sintayeh
From left: Hiwot, Tamrat, and Sintayeh

Hiwot, Tamrat and Sintayeh all grew up in an SOS Children’s Village in Ethiopia. Now young adults, they have recently been interviewed about their experiences of being raised in an SOS family.

Hiwot Wassihun Abate, 30, grew up in the SOS Children’s Village in Harrar. Recently married, Hiwot is now expecting her first child. A graduate of Alpha University, she previously worked as a secretary at Save the Children Sweden.

Tamrat Adem, 32, grew up in the SOS Children’s Village in Awassa and is a graduate of Pune University in India. He currently works as a sales supervisor at BGI Ethiopia PLC, a leading national beer and beverage company.

Sintayeh Tsegaye, 25, grew up in the SOS Children’s Village in Addis Abeba. She is a graduate of Gondor University and now works as a supervisor at the government’s Education Bureau.

Q: Looking back, how would you describe your experience growing up in village?

Hiwot: I think it was great. I’m thankful that I have many different sisters and brothers. I really liked growing up there.

Tamrat: I feel positive about the experience. In my family, we are all truly sisters and brothers. We love each other and we keep in touch. When I remember that time, I feel very good.

Q: What are some of your memories?

Tamrat: We were raised just like a regular family, with our mother, sisters and brothers. We were encouraged to study hard. We had everything we needed: shelter, food, everything. Others don’t get that. We’re the lucky ones.

Q: Did you face any particular difficulties or challenges growing up in the village?

Tamrat: I don’t think there were any real challenges until we actually finished our studies and had to leave the village. The transition can be challenging. After finishing our studies, some people get jobs, some people don’t. They may struggle financially. That’s when the real challenges come.

Q: What helped you to get through this transition period?

Tamrat: Our youth leaders were very helpful. Because of their advice, we were able to manage.

Q: How do young people feel about telling others that they grew up in an SOS Children’s Village?

Tamrat: When people see you as being different- an orphan - they may put you down. But we are very proud to say that we grew up there. Actually, our upbringing was better than for many families - even rich people, really. I will tell them, ‘I am from SOS and I am proud.’

Q: Who are your role models?

Hiwot: My SOS mum, because she made feel like her real daughter when I was growing up. She treated me very well. We still are in contact, like any mother and daughter.

Tamrat: My role models are my older brothers and sisters. When I saw them going to another country to study, it made me want to study harder and be like them. When I saw them working at good companies, it also made we want to be like them. Our brothers, sisters, even our mothers and coordinators and teachers, they are all role models. I’ve been successful in my life because of them.

Sintayeh: I feel the same way. My mother and also my brothers and sisters were good role models for me.

SOS Children support thousands of young people to become independent adults. Learn more about our youth work in a special edition of Family Matters.