This is the third year that Mediterranea has been in Abugida.
The 4 and 5 year old children that we met three years ago have grown up, finished pre-school and are now studying in the local state school.
There are always some children who stand out more due to hardship and terrible living conditions. This is the case of E. She was only 4 years old when we took up the task of the Abugida school. She was the type of little girl that you were drawn to straight away because of her permanent wide smile and perfect plaits, never a hair out of place.
After one of our school parent meetings, we were left at the end with some mothers and grandmothers of the most needy children. To our great concern, we noticed one very young mother who was pathetically thin and whose face was etched with extreme sadness. She didn't say one word during the meeting but at the end approached us and asked us to accompany her to her home.
It turned out that Z suffered from HIV and was E's mother. Due to her illness they had both been ostracized to live in a corner of the family land. Mother and daughter lived in an unsafe, cardboard and tin, make-shift dwelling. They were not allowed to eat with the rest of the family.
E was being used by her relatives as a maid and in exchange they fed her.
While we were visiting another family, Z came into the house to see us and showed us a picture album of her life before HIV.She wanted to let us see how she used to live, to make us understand that once-upon-a-time she had been "normal".Z used to be a model. She had been married. She had baby E. She showed us the photos of when she had been a model; her wedding photos with her husband (what a spectacularly beautiful bride she had been);the lovely baby photos of E.Then tragedy struck. Her husband died of AIDS and she was diagnosed with HIV.Her whole family life just fell apart. She had to return with E to her home town of Akaki because she had nowhere else to go.
Her health was getting worse.
One day when we returned to Akaki, the official version was, quite simply, that Z had left home.E went to live with her aunt and grandmother. The child we had known had changed. She was unhappy. She wasn't smiling. E left the Abugida school at the end of the academic year. She, along with a group of children attends the state school but she comes to have breakfast and lunch in Abugida.
During our last trip, as chance would have it, we found Z. She was emaciated. The family had thrown her out of the house but she left E with them so that her child could continue attending school. Z had found a job working in a bar 20 kilometres away from Addis Ababa. They were paying her 10 birrs a month (0.55 euros). She would use the money to visit her daughter every month. At one point her situation became so bad that she almost ended up prostituting herself. She would cry and cry while her daughter did her best to console her mother during her visits.
Z's life has now changed. She is working in Abugida and is living with her daughter. She is happy and has put on weight.She has dreams and hopes for a better future. She aspires to become a teacher.
Z's experience is a drop in the ocean. At the moment her story has a happy ending but there are so many more mothers like her, victims of poverty, illness and fate.
Mothers who can't live with their children... children who can't live with their mothers. All of them are victims. Gulity of nothing but circumstance, of poverty. Like all of us, all they want is to survive, prosper, live without fear, hunger or suffering. They dream of a better life and of ways of improving their lot and of being independent.
Every day, one fifth of the inhabitants of this planet, 1.200 million people, are unable to fulfill their basic needs never mind have dreams or aspirations. So many of them, through circumstances, cannot even live under the same roof as their children.