GOAL in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

GOAL is an Irish developmental, rehabilitation and emergency relief NGO founded in 1977. GOAL has been working in Ethiopia since 1984. The objective of their Street Children Project is to provide street children with access to basic facilities, counselling, information and referall services. They operate two drop-in centres in Addis Ababa and also offer four night shelters (two for boys and two for girls).

The Street Childrens’ Project

It is impossible to tell how many street children there are in Addis Ababa but at a rough estimate, it is believed that anything up to fifty thousand children live on the streets here. The majority have been driven from the countryside to the city because of dire poverty, war (along the border with Eritrea), drought or HIV/Aids. They arrive in Addis Ababa with nothing and no-one to call on.

GOAL offers a lucky few a second chance. They cater for two hundred children at any one time between their two centres. Approximately one hundred children are catered for at the Woreda Drop-In Centre. They provide basic services such as food and sanitation, informal education and skills training for those ready to enter the workforce as well as guidance and counselling. The vast majority of the children find permanent employment when they leave the program. GOAL itself has hired a number of former street children and more go on to work in construction and mechanics. Those who have demonstrated academic ability are enabled to complete their schooling and one street child is currently attending University.

Is the program a success? The answer is a resounding ‘YES!’. The vast majority of the children who join the program stay with it. The vast majority of attempted reunifications are successful. The vast majority of those who leave the program succeed in securing permanent employment. But most importantly, it is the behavioural changes in the children themselves as a result of guidance and counselling that most clearly indicate that the program is a success.

Our visit to the Goal Street Childrens’ Project

Arriving at the GOAL office in Addis Ababa, we didn’t dare imagine that we would be lucky enough to visit one of the street children projects. But within ten minutes of arriving, it was all arranged for that very afternoon. we would meet Emanuel, one of the psychologists, at one thirty and drive to the Woreda centre. We couldn’t believe our luck.

When we arrived, the hall was filled with children taking part in a tae-kwon-do class. Sports and recreational activities are an important part of the program. Apart from the health benefits, group activities are used to encourage behavioural improvement and to promote team building. Others were helping with food preparation or washing clothes. Still more were gathered in small groups playing draughts, table tennis and a local board game played with stones called ‘Gabeta’. The level of activity in the centre was impressive to say the least.

What was truly inspirational about the project was the behaviour of the children themselves. I’ve never seen such joi de vivre. I’ve never seen such happiness. The children were so friendly and welcoming. It really was touching. I complimented one girl’s earrings and a few minutes later, one of her friends presented them to me as a gift. When I told Emanuel, he said “… these children don’t know love so this is how they react …[to friendliness]”.

If only GOAL could help more children. If only we didn’t have to encounter children as young as seven or eight, sleeping on the cold, dark streets. If only every child could have a second chance. If only…

– Written by Niamh O Riordan and published in The Imokilly People

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