Deacon Patrick O’Toole is a deacon for the diocese of Springfield, IL. Deacon Patrick is participating on the Global Fellows immersion trip to Ethiopia.
Alex was a bright young boy who was doing well in school, and while his family was poor and living in the slums of Addis Ababa (the capitol of Ethiopia) his parents were able to earn enough to keep a roof over their heads, food on the table, and allow their children to attend school. Unfortunately, tragedy struck as both his mother and father were diagnosed HIV positive.
At first his father and then his mother began to suffer the ravages of the virus. At the end of his seventh grade year, Alex was forced to drop out of school and do whatever he could to earn some money to help support his family; including begging on the streets. Slowly his parent’s health declined, and at the age of 15, with only a seventh grade education, Alex found himself orphaned and living on the streets.
When I met Alex he was in the midst of an eight-month training program to learn carpentry. The program is one of many sponsored by Catholic Relief Services in Ethiopia, that serves orphans and vulnerable children. During his training, Alex is paid a small living stipend by the program as well as a small wage by the owner of the carpentry shop. The owner of the shop has already guaranteed Alex a full-time job which will pay him 500 Birr a month, a good living when you consider that an entry level teacher in Ethiopia makes around 600 Birr a month.
In talking with Alex, you could hear and see the pride, the gratitude, and the hope in his voice. He has returned to school and, at the age of 16, has just completed eighth grade. He ended our time together by thanking CRS and assuring us he would ‘make us proud.’
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