Ian Madigan’s Ethiopia blog: ‘The kids loved Leo Cullen, they’d never seen such a tall white person!’
It has been a great first day in Ethiopia. The highlight was our visit to the ChildSPACE drop-in centre, where GOAL supports children who live and work on the streets of Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.
The staff showed us around, and then myself and Leo played a few games with the kids, such as football and table tennis, and obviously a bit of rugby, which was great fun.
“The kids didn’t have a clue who we were, but they seemed very excited to have so-called ‘special guests’. They loved Leo, especially; I don’t think they had seen such a tall white person before!
“Addis is a massive city, with a fascinating history. There are so many street children in this city alone; about 60,000, I’m told, but GOAL is definitely making a difference in the areas where they work.
“I think GOAL really gets the balance right. The ChildSPACE project doesn’t feed the children; it gives them the means to feed themselves by giving them skills for a future career and ambition to get off the street. It helps them learn a trade like metalwork or carpentry, for example and the income they can earn from this would be much higher than they would have been able to bring in on the street.
“The philosophy is that if they feed them, they become dependent and lose their ‘street smarts’. They need those instincts to survive, to look after themselves. The GOAL staff who run the project don’t see the kids as victims; they help them where they can by reuniting them with their families, by providing them with counselling, training, and many other services. The drop-in centre itself is seen as a safe space to escape for a few hours; it’s not a permanent shelter. It’s a place to learn, to wash, to play, to talk.
“GOAL focuses on each child’s strengths, but caters for their weaknesses at the same time. If they can’t read or write, or if they have been abused, then staff are trained to deal with that. The kids at the centre we visited are so positive and resolute, and no doubt that’s down to the great work that GOAL does.
“As for tomorrow, we are flying down to Buramino refugee camp in south-western Ethiopia, where GOAL works with thousands of Somali refugees. It should be an eye-opening experience.”
Ian and Leo’s trip to Ethiopia with GOAL is being sponsored by Bank of Ireland. Keep up to date with Leo and Ian’s progress on GOAL's Twitter account on @GOALIreland