Ethiopia, ECFWA

Ethiopian Child and Family Welfare Association (ECFWA) 1967-69

The ECFWA was a registered Ethiopian voluntary association (Mahaber) whose purpose was to provide shelter, lodging, education, and vocational training to street boys in Addis Ababa. It had been started by the Director of the Reform School (part of the Ethiopian Government’s Ministry of Community Development and Social Welfare), Mabrahtu Yohannes, the Anglican priest of the English Church in Addis Ababa, and Like Sultanat Habte Mariam Workeneh, Archbishop of the Coptic Church of Ethiopia. These three established the Association, and a Board for it which contained representatives of the Ministry of Community Development (Ato Kassa Kebede, Wo. Tsahai Etenesh), the Haile Selassie University School of Social Work (Ato Seyoum Gebre Selassie plus the Dean), Secretary General (Mabrahtu Yohannes).

The ECFWA managed a Thrift Shop in Arat Kilo, Addis Ababa (similar to an OXFAM shop in the UK) to which foreigners and rich Ethiopians donated free goods – particularly clothes – which were then sold to the public. This had an Ethiopian manager.

The children for the shelters were, for the most part, young boys who had run away from home to come to Addis Ababa to try and find education. Once they reached Addis Ababa they found they had to take on all sorts of informal employment (shoes shining, portering, guarding) to feed themselves, and this stopped them from going to school. In many cases they fell into stealing to feed themselves. The ECFWA got them into school, and fed and sheltered them so long as they remained in school. The children were sometimes referred by the Ministry of Community Development and Social Welfare, sometimes found the hostels themselves, sometimes were referred by Ethiopian families, and once (see later) by the Emperor. There was no other facility in Ethiopia which looked after street children who had not committed any crime (and thus could be sentenced and committed to the Governments reform School.

In the summer of 1967, Mabrahtu Yohannes got a two year scholarship to study Law in Canada, and it was agreed that Richard Holloway would take over Mabrahtu’s position as Secretary General, as a UNA volunteer posting, but without any salary – which he had to find for himself. Richard Stern, another UNA volunteer, working at UNDP, volunteered as Treasurer of the ECFWA.

 

The ECFWA under Richard Holloway’s supervision, over 2 years, achieved the following:

  • Opened up a hostel for approx 40 street kids in Lidetta.
  • Opened up a hostel for approx 40 street kids in Sedist Kilo.
  • Opened up a hostel for approx 30 street kids near the British Embassy.
  • In conjunction with the US Peace Corps, opened up a vocational training unit near Arat Kilo which produced waiters and restaurant staff with staff of two Peace Corps Volunteers. For the most part the trainees in this program were not from the same street kids who attended the hostels.
  • Got agreement from Catholic Relief Services to receive bales of their donated clothing and sell these in the Thrift Shop (this was a break through since CRS would not otherwise allow their donated clothing to be sold).
  • Got funding from OXFAM for Richard Holloway’s salary and equipment needed for the hostels.
  • Received one years volunteer placement from Harvard University of Chris Hoy.
  • Received funding from the Ethiopian Govt through the intermediation of the Archbishop.
  • Got all children attending the hostels into Ethiopian Govt schools.
  • Earned income for the ECFWA from making, selling, and installing playground equipment: from puppet shows with help from the German Evangelical Church: and from fund raising connected to a photo exhibition on street children.
  • Received 6 children from the Emperor Haile Selassie which he had very publicly freed from slavery, and brought them into the hostels this was managed by Ezra Tsegaye, a volunteer from the English School who worked with the ECFWA.
  • Ran a potato crisp factory as a way of earning income for the ECFWA. The 11 person factory had been given to the ECFWA by a well-wisher. It never made much money and was sold eventually to become a bakery.

 

The most important aspects of the work of the ECFWA were, however, to do with the self-governance of the hostels. Every month the kids planned with the cooks (who were more like house-mothers) what food was needed for a month, and they presented Richard Holloway with a budget. Richard Holloway gave them the required funds, and the kids went to the market (Mercato), and bought all that was needed and accounted for the expenditure. It only went wrong once, when one of the “freed slaves” took the money and disappeared.

With the help of the “house mothers” and a system of delegated authority, the street children looked after the management of the hostels. There were no girl children in the hostels, and the ECFWA did not receive referrals of girl children. Not very many girl children ran away to Addis Ababa to seek education.

At the end of 1969, Mabrahtu Yohannes returned from his Law Degree in Canada, and took back the position of Executive Secretary. Richard Holloway was replaced by another UNA volunteer, Bruce Mackay.

 

Postscript

The ECFWA and its activities continued until 1974. In 1974 civil war broke out in Ethiopia and a new system of Stalinist Government called the Dergue was imposed. Richard had little information on the ECFWA apart from the following:

  • The Dergue outlawed all private voluntary associations, and closed down the ECFWA.
  • In the fighting of the civil war, about 30 street kids in the Sedist Kilo hostel were killed.
  • Mabrahtu Yohannes became a fighter with the Tigre Liberation Front, particularly collecting information for them overseas (living in Germany), and came back as a hero when the TLF became the new government.
  • Kassa Kebede, one of the Board members, was a major figure in the Dergue, and was said to be responsible for many atrocities. He was close to the Israeli Govt (he had been trained as a probation officer in Israel) and was instrumental in organising the huge air lift of Falasha Jews from Ethiopia to Israel. One of those who emigrated was the house mother from Sedist Kilo, Wo. Etenesh.
  • In 1994 Richard Holloway visited Ethiopia, met Mabrahtu Yoahnnes (then living as a private lawyer), and five of the street kids who Mabrahtu was still in touch with. Nearly all of them had gone onto tertiary education, some in Eastern Bloc countries which offered scholarships to the Dergue. One, Tsegaye Shome, who had been the leader of the Sedist Kilo hostel, was working for CARE.
  • Mabrahtu died of natural causes in 2008.

 

Documentation

Street Boys of Addis Ababa by Richard Holloway (PP 139-144) Coordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service. 1970

 

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