Every morning around 8:30 we get to work. Even before entering the compound we are greeted by a couple of children, who still linger in front of the door. Some of them walk towards us, others are sitting or lying on the side of the street, absent minded, not seeming to notice our arrival. Several other children are already inside the compound in the courtyard, playing, talking, sleeping or fighting over something. They are street children. It is obvious from their torn and dirty clothes, their unwashed faces and the countless bruises on their bodies.
But then the daily program of Sport The Bridge begins. The children wash their hands and faces and change their clothes. In their sport uniforms we encounter a seemingly different group of children. They look just like a football club, each of them in his own set of shirt and shorts. In the beginning this facilitates us to identify them by referring i.e. to the tall child with the red shirt or the one with the McDonalds ad on his sport shirt. The changing of clothes is accompanied by a change in their mood and behaviour. They are now just a group of normal children, eating breakfast, playing “dama” or table tennis, discussing, laughing, arguing. They are very present now, seem carefree and follow the daily program with attention, discipline and interest. As for us, every so often we forget about the fact that they live on the street. And wonder whether this is positive or not. We cheer for them when they score a goal in football, are proud of them, when they do well in a school exercise and laugh with them when we play clapping games or try to communicate with our little Amharic. Sometimes one of the children takes our hand, lays his head on our shoulder or gives us a hug. And for a moment we remember how much they must miss a mother, a sister or any close person to relate to. But as soon as lunch is ready, they run away from us to the table. And again we see just a group of ordinary children.
Until the moment arrives, at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, when the daily program is finished. Again they change clothes and in their torn, dirty pieces of garments they are transformed back into street children. Some of them leave us with a small goodbye or a last little game, others just go. They have again taken on their other role, less cheerful, some seemingly absent minded again, maybe thinking of the coming night on the street. They become somewhat anonymous, vanishing in the crowd, to a world we are no part of.
We stay back, thinking that they should be able to go home to a welcoming family, but knowing that instead they have to pass their time on the street, fighting for something to eat and somehow getting through the night on their own. We feel powerless, touched by their fate and maybe even a little shamed that we have the possibility to go back to our guesthouse, where we have enough to eat, a bed to sleep in and nothing to worry about. And we remain, hoping to see most of them again in the morning for a new day at Sport The Bridge.
Autorinnen: Myriam und Leonie Praktikantinnen in unserem Programm “Sport baut Brücken” in Addis Abeba