Kuriftu is near the sugar plantation town of Wonji, 12 km south of the large city of Adama, which is 120 km east of Addis Ababa. This area has a very high rate of HIV/AIDS (90%) due to the presence of the Wonji Sugar Plantation. HIV spreads through transportation corridors and among migrant workers. There are medications available, so there are many women and children who are living with HIV. However, many have died, leaving children orphaned and destitute.
This is a very poor community. There are very few jobs and those available are often too strenuous for those who are ill. People find some work at the plantation but that is also often too strenuous. There are very few daily labour jobs and those that do exist pay next to nothing—certainly not enough to support a family or send children to school.
As a result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, there is a large population of orphaned and vulnerable children in the Kuriftu Kebele.
There is a school, which is a school in name only. The buildings are old and run down; there are no materials, desks, or even blackboards. There is no water or toilet facility. The children gather in the school compound because there is nowhere else for them to go.
There is a large population of orphaned and vulnerable children in the Kuriftu Kebele.
Rainbow for the Future visited this school compound in February 2015. Our hearts were touched by the plight of the children. In particular one young man stood out. His name is Leta Tulema.
At the time, Leta was 14 and in Grade 8. He has no mother or father. They left this world when he was just three years old. Today he lives with a guardian, Lensa Ibsa. She herself is not healthy and doesn’t have enough income to meet her own needs.
Leta works before school hours and sometimes as a day labourer, yet he still tries to keep up with his education. He is bright, enjoys learning, and is at the top of his grade. His future vision is to support orphans who are marginalized like him, and to be a doctor.
This brave, remarkable young man spoke out from the group of students to ask for support so that he may live and continue his education. He told us that, if he is supported academically, financially, and psychologically, his future will be bright and he will be able to reach his hope, by the help of God.
Our development partner, Save Generation Development Association, had been giving a small amount of funding to these orphaned and vulnerable children for the past year. Leta received about $10 per month, barely enough for food or the shelter provided by his guardian. To supplement, Leta goes out early in the morning and collects sticks for fuel and sells what he has collected in the village. He told us this burden is crushing him and he finds it increasingly difficult to keep up in school and with his classmates. He says he is hurting “psychologically as well as mentally,” especially when he thinks about how alone he is with no family.
The funding that was keeping these children minimally supported has run out.
Rainbow for the Future has taken on this project to support 60 orphaned and vulnerable Kuriftu children per year. The plan is also to rehabilitate the Kuriftu primary school for all the children of Kuriftu so they can all work toward a brighter future.
This project is expensive! The budget for the support of 60 children (school supplies, uniforms and fees, counseling, food, healthcare, clothing, and sundries) for a year is $30,000. The budget for school rehabilitation, furnishings, and education materials is at least $50,000. But it is worth the cost to give Leta and others like him a chance to achieve their dreams.