During a later overseas stint, although we had children of our own, they were by then all adults, and none of them were living with us. Fairly soon we took in 3 teenagers, let’s call them Mesfin,Tadessa and Solomon.
Mesfin and Tadessa were cousins. They had families who lived about 400 meters apart and a kilometre or two from us. Once when we asked how close they had been growing up, they said ‘we used to dig one hole and go back to back’. They were good friends. Solomon was a double orphan.
How did we get them?
Mesfin had a much older half brother, who had left home, and a tribe of sisters. He had a gentle mother and a fiery father. He himself could get pretty hot headed. We already knew him because he gardened part time after school at a friend’s place. He used, from time to time, drop in for a chat. I think to get a drink and improve his English. One day he and his father had a real blow-up. Not fisty cuff wise but so intense that he walked out of the home. Later that day he stormed into our place, still seethingly angry, saying that he was going to live on the street. Nobody should be street kids with all that implies. After some pretty stiff negotiating he became our first teenager. Later on we got to know his family and peace was made, but he stayed with us and one of the sisters became our cook. Mesfin is now the president of the bus drivers’ association of Addis Ababa, a city of about 8 million people; he is married with a small family.
Tadessa, his cousin, was the older brother mentioned in a previous Heated Stew post ‘A little boy grows up’. He was a keen student. Whereas Mesfin’s father was well motivated, Tadessa’s was plain lazy. The father did, however, know his maths – multiplication-wise at least, and he had 13 children. The family wanted Tadessa to leave school; he tired of siblings stealing pages from his books to use as TP. (I think that the pages were softer than banana or inset leaves.)
We had given Tadessa a part-time job in our place as a guard to help him stay at school. He, without discussion left his home and we found him sleeping on the floor in one of the partitions of our ramshackle old shed. After negotiations he became teenager number 2. We got to know his family but only superficially. He, however, repaired his relationship with his family but stayed with us. He is now CEO of a mission which runs a school of over 1400 in a very poor area in a countryside area and which provides 2 meals a day for the kids. He is married with 3 sons.
Solomon has a very interesting history. Both his parents were dead, his father before he was born. His mother was quickly married again to a widower. She also died soon after her remarriage. The step father remarried then died, as did his third wife. Solomon was then homeless, but kept in contact with his brothers, who were not in fact his brothers. When I arrived at that hospital one of the ‘brothers’ was in hospital being treated for TB of a joint . The nurses gave out medications and changed dressings but did not care for the patients. He (Solomon) was sleeping under the ‘brother’s’ bed and caring for his ‘brother’.
This was in the 90’s, just after a major political shift in the country. The staff were not happy that I had come. The hospital was the only one in a tribal population of about a million. It was a 120 bed hospital with only 5 inpatients when I arrived. That number ‘exploded’ and the staff did little to help me. They suggested that they had been getting as much money before I came and now they were working much harder – perhaps I should leave! I had to wheel my own patients to and back from the operating room, as well as give my own anaesthetics, getting a cleaner to watch over the anaesthetic. He was very clever. Whenever Solomon heard the trolley wheels ran to help me. He also did lots of other things to help me.
Having spoken to my wife, we determined that when the brother was discharged from the hospital we would take Solomon off the street. He came to us near naked and with nothing. We made a bed for him in the shed until we could get him trained a bit. Soon he was number 3 of our group of teenagers in our home. The first Saturday we sent the 3 of them to market to buy groceries Solomon suggested to the other 2 that they should pocket a little money for themselves. “We don’t do that” was the reply and we never had such trouble from any of them.
He is now an adopted son, a health care worker, married and with children of his own.
We are proud to of all 3 of them. I may tell their stories in more detail sometime. The article is entitled a house ‘full of teenagers’ because kids have friends! There are youth galore in this area! The median country age is 19.