From my last post, you know that I connected with an American named Mary who does volunteer work with the boys from Kolfe orphanage. She is very close to one boy, Eyob, who has become a part of her family. Eyob speaks English very well and was willing to talk with mei informally about his experience. He will be a great help in putting the other Kolfe boys at ease when Mikiyas (my translator) and I interview them next Saturday.
I met with Eyob today to have lunch and learn a little bit more about the experience in Kolfe boys’ home. Eyob is 22 years old and left Kolfe 2 years ago. Since then, he has been in and out of work and training programs. He is currently completing his second program at Dorcas Aid International—he dropped out after 2 months the first time. Because Eyob, like most of the orphaned youth I’ve met, doesn’t want to be exposed, he asked that his picture not be taken. His name has also been changed.
Sports: I like to play football. I wanted to be a football player, but there was no opportunity for me to try for any team. All the Kolfe boys like to play football. My friends and I meet every week to play. Mary took me to a Christian sports camp last Christmas, I had a lot of fun there. I wanted them to hire me as a counselor, but they want me to be Christian first. My favorite team is Ethiopia. I think we are going to play in the World Cup next year! When I am not rooting for Ethiopia, I like Brazil. During the last World Cup, all the Kolfe boys were cheering for America, except me. I liked Ghana! Most of the boys have some sponsor parents from America, so they wanted America to win. When Ghana won the match, I was the only boy who was happy. I also like to play volleyball, but I don’t know many of the rules.
Dorcas Aid International: Right now I am going to classes at Dorcas [Aid International]. This week I learned woodworking. I am learning how to make furniture. Next week I will learn metalworking: making windows and frames. I like the training because I like to work with my hands. The Dorcas program lasts for one year, I have four months left in the program. At the end, we can choose to find a group and form an association or be independent. Dorcas will give us the tools to work. If we are in a group, Dorcas will help us find a business spot and give us some more expensive machinery. I don’t want to join an association. If you join a group, you have to rely on all the other people. If the other people want to drink or chew khat, then you have to do everything yourself. I want to work for a shop or have my own shop.
Kolfe Mindset: The Kolfe boys don’t have a good mindset. If we want to change our lives, we have to work hard and learn. The older boys just want to drink and chew khat, they do not want to work. The older boys also don’t think we have any future. We know the community doesn’t like us. We don’t have any family or connections outside Kolfe; it’s very hard to find good work or a place to stay. There is vocational training available, but they don’t help you find a job afterwards. Some Kolfe boys had American sponsor parents. Their sponsor parents gave them gifts, so now they think they don’t have to work. There was one boy from Kolfe who was very successful. He used to gamble, drink, and chew khat, but then he enrolled in a special program. He changed his mindset and then he got a job. Now he is in America and has a wife and kids.
The Army: My brother is in the army. There are many Kolfe boys in the army. The army gives them a job and they have structure, they don’t have to take care of themselves. Many boys like that. Eyob’s brother recently got into a barfight with a politician’s son; he is now in hiding.
Social Network: Most of the Kolfe boys only are friends with other Kolfe boys. I have many friends from the community because I am a social person. If you don’t talk to new people, then you won’t make friends. My friends help me; I stay with them sometimes.
Music: Music is my life! I love music, especially rap. Tupac is my favorite, he is amazing. Do you know the song “Nothing changes?” Wow! I also like Bob Marley and reggae, but really I like all music: African, Arab, Indian, Country. Do you know Yanni? He is great, I really like his music. You don’t need to understand the words to understand the feeling. Whenever I am feeling depressed or angry, I go to an internet café and listen to music. I don’t have an ipod or mp3 player; I don’t have a radio. The only way I can hear music is to use an internet café.
Food: When I was in Kolfe, all we had to eat was spaghetti, shero, and baeyenatu. Now I will never eat shero, spaghetti, or baeyenatu, I had enough in Kolfe! We only had meat on special occasions. Also if we were sick. We could go to the clinic and the doctor would give us some paper that said we should eat meat, eggs, and milk. We used to pretend to be sick and go to the clinic just to get that paper! Then there were too many boys who needed meat, and they stopped giving it.
My favorite food is doro wat, tibs, and firfir. I know how to cook too. In Kolfe, I made friends with the women who cooked and they showed me how to make everything. I can make all kinds of wat and injera, I can also make coffee. Most boys don’t want to learn how to cook, especially injera. They think it is women’s work. You know, every good habesha woman has to know how to cook, especially doro wat! But I like to cook, and I can make food for myself. I teach some of my friends so that they can cook for themselves too.
Religion: The older Kolfe boys don’t like to go to the Church and take the classes that Mary runs. I don’t like that church either. Many of the boys are from Orthodox and Muslim backgrounds, and most Ethiopians don’t like Protestant churches. In Kolfe, we were allowed to attend mosques and Orthodox churches, but not Protestant churches. I don’t like church because I always think about God and why I went to Kolfe. I have too many questions. Why did my mother die when I was 5 years old? Why was I sent to Kolfe? God gives no answer. So the Kolfe boys don’t like to go to the church.