From Scavenger to Top Student

by Wondwosen Hailu

Wondwosen, who works for URC, is a quality improvement advisor with ChildFund’s Strengthening Community Safety Nets project in Ethiopia.

Biruk is now a scout leader.

Biruk,16, had lost both of his parents due to prolonged illnesses associated with HIV/AIDS when he was only nine. His aunt gave him refuge since he had nowhere to go. However, her $100 birr pension (less than $10 monthly) was too small to adequately care for Biruk and her own three children.

 

Biruk had to supplement his needs by scavenging in Addis Ababa’s biggest garbage dumping site, located few hundred meters from his home. He was on the verge of dropping out of school.

New hope came to him through a local NGO called HAPCSO (Hiwot HIV/AIDS Prevention Care & Support Organization), which receives funding and technical support from ChildFund Ethiopia to assist orphans and vulnerable children impacted by HIV/AIDs. HAPCSO awarded Biruk a full scholarship, which enabled him to afford school materials and fees, and made him eligible for a dry food ration and a cash allowance of $100 birr per month.

His social life also took a new path when he joined the Scout Club, which he currently leads. The Scout Club provides children with life skills, counseling support and recreational activities. Club members play games and perform music and drama. They also learn skills needed to become successful team players. The club, which has 110 regular and 300 associate members from Kolfe Keranyo sub city in Addis Ababa, regularly conducts life skills and health training for children.

Through their performances, children and youth educate members of their community on the negative effects of stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS and promotes desirable behaviors. As a result of their activities, 70 iddirs (a form of indigenous social insurance for help members during bereavement) revised their bylaws to include an article on providing care and support to vulnerable children.

The Scout Club has been instrumental in turning Biruk’s life around. He continues to amaze the school community with his extraordinary work. For the last three years, he has been the top scorer in his class.

Biruk, who escaped a life of garbage scavenging, aspires to become a medical doctor. He wishes to save lives of Ethiopians who suffer from diseases.

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