Story from the community
Tofik is from the community surrounding the youth centre. He is from the Genda Tesfa community and has been instrumental with the integration of the youth centre and its activities within this community. As a boy he struggled to attend school and was forced to drop out as his family could not support his basic needs so he worked. His sister graduated from school, and got a job and encouraged him to return to school as she could now provide for his basic needs. Tofik, went on and graduated from school. He worked as a day labourer and as a musician at night to make money and support himself. He graduated with a very high grade and his goal was to go to university as soon as he had the means. While at university he worked as a musician at night “It wasn't easy but working as a musician at night meant I did not have to miss my lectures”.
He spoke to us about his experience growing up in Genda Tesfa. This area was once an agricultural area where people with Leprosy were placed outside the city. There was huge discrimination about the people living in this community as it was known as an area of Leprosy. He spoke about the huge psychological impact that, that stigmatisation from decades has left on the community and continues today. We visited some of the homes of the beneficiaries' of the children and saw the victims of this disease. There are huge improvements in medical treatment and education about this disease compared with the past but many of the children's parents that had leprosy still face decimation from others that they are infected. Tofik spoke about this affecting parent's attitude to send their children to school, in fear that they would be bullied by their peers.
“I am working at the Youth Release centre since the beginning and I am glad to say there have been huge improvements in this community since the programs for the youths have been implemented”. This program is invaluable to the community as it allows children to attend school. Many families in this community cannot afford to buy exercise books, school uniforms, shoes for their children. The program can facilitate this which promotes enrolment in school. Another important factor is that the parents of the children are uneducated and previously have not understood the value of education. “Education is the only way out of poverty for this community”. We have seen a difference in the attitude of family members; we have coffee ceremony's where we educate the families on how to parent their children, how to deal with challenging behaviours and the importance of education. We have seen a steady improvement in the children's grades since the beginning of the program. They now have resources, daily tutorial classes, a library and psychosocial support. There has been a certain level of trust gained within this community, with more parents asking for support for their children to attend this school. There are many children that would like to include on the program and we hope in the future we will be able to support more families within our capacity.