Dispatches from Ethiopia: Gode town life
Ann explains what life in Gode town is like for some of the children who live there...
"I sense that life inside the Children's Village didn`t change much during the drought – food prices went up dramatically, town people visiting the clinic experienced a higher rate of water related diseases, but largely the children in the Village were protected by the compassion of those around the world.
Because of this generosity, children in this Village will have enough to eat, a dry bed to sleep in and a family`s love regardless of drought. But life in Gode town was very difficult and many lost their lives and livelihood because of the prolonged drought. SOS Children responded to the needs of many. In some cases I could see that the outreach really did save lives.
One thing a resident of Addis Ababa notices on arriving in Gode, is that even though there are lots of children around, they are not begging on the street. As Mustafa explained to me, in the Somalian culture, an orphaned child is absorbed into a town household. No matter how many people there already, the child will find a home and their new found brothers and sisters will take care of them. It`s not unusual to find eight or nine children sleeping in one small home. But if the parents don`t have the money to send their own child to school or feed them nourishing meals, then the new child will not get these privileges either. All members of the community do what they can to bring income into the family. For many children, this is at the expense of a formal education.
There is a spot provided for shoe shine boys near the local bar or coffee house. Small stools are set up for the boys and the customers. He sits down and without conversation goes straight to work. He does a great job applying the polish with his fingers. There`s no point in scrapping the mud off the bottom right now because the whole town is floating on mud it seems.
The customer balances strategically on the stool in order to keep the feet off the muddy ground. Sometimes the customer is offered a piece of paper or a rag on which to place the feet. The boy can earn about 30 Etb per day – or about $1.50. It doesn`t seem like much, but he can buy bread for this amount, or even a barrel of water for the family house which will last about three weeks In Addis Ababa, the shoe shine boys set up their own station usually close to an office building or bus terminal. They get pretty creative with recycling material and often the customer is perched in a pile of rocks.
For sandals the customer will pay the handsome price of 10 cents, a person`s shoes are cleaned brushed and polished. For this reason, most Ethiopians don’t own a can of shoe polish – they all have their shoes cleaned and shined every day. And they notice each other`s shoes.
Donkeys pull carts which are fitted with metal barrels that are open on the top. Children take the carts around town and fill the barrel with anything a person needs to be transported. This afternoon we saw the barrel full of gravel. Often you see donkeys heading down the road by themselves as in this video. They are smart animals who know the way – the boy is no doubt close by watching but it`s not obvious to the unaccustomed observer like me
These push carts are seen everywhere around town. Kids load them up for a few cents will help a person transport a load from one place to another. When the load is big, several children will get their back behind the cart and help move get the job done.
Children collect water at a nearby pump which is located near the river. The men who run the pump charge each child 4 Etb per fill up. They come with a cart drawn by a donkey. On the cart there is a barrel with an opening on the top and it is filled by inserting the pipe in the hole. The contents of each barrel is sold for 15 Etb (just less than a dollar) to a household. This full barrel will last a family about 3 weeks
Of all the jobs I saw children doing, this is the one job that I would have enjoyed doing. The boys sell water to households around town. They wander through the main and back streets of town with their barrel of water strapped on a donkey cart calling out to neighbours.
In the blistering sun the boys got to go back to the pump about 5 times a day, and each time they seemed to be drenched in water. They looked like they were having fun around the pump. They back the donkey and cart close to the filling station and aim the hose at the barrel. The hose has leaks in it, so even if they get the hose aimed right at the hole, they all get wet. There is a big puddle of water so even the donkeys have clean feet before setting off on the dusty roads of town. The donkeys however show no signs of change as they trudge in and out like soldiers that they are- In continual service to the community.
The contents of each barrel for 15 Etb (just less than a dollar) which will last 3 weeks. A boy can make about 300 Etb ($18) per month which is considered an excellent wage. This is a full time occupation so there is no school for them and most can`t read or write. They said they would go to school if the chance came up but for now they are happy to help their families with income.
Some families from neighbouring communities send their sons to Gode to engage in selling water and send the money home. They don`t go to school and most of them can`t read or write."