Challenges of Countryside Integration

Article from Lilyana Ahmed, Program Manager STB Ethiopia

It is a significant change in the history of Sport –The Bridge (STB) Ethiopia to see the rising number of street children who come from various regions of Ethiopia in search of a better life in Addis Ababa. In 2006 out of 35 participants there were about 5 from outside Addis. Today, after 10 years, it is the reverse: only 5 out of 35 do not come from outside. Since 2012 STB has reintegrated every year – within the program-cycle going from October to September – between 30 and 45 children into different parts of the country. Although no issue-related institution did a research, all of the organizations working with street-children agree that this time there are not many children from Addis Ababa found living on the street. At least they seem to be organized differently while still being affected by other poverty related causes. As a consequence of these developments STB started working more and more with street children from countryside areas and focusing on uniting them with their families.

Children at STB-Ethiopia, who came from the south to the capital in search of a better life

Children at STB-Ethiopia, who came from the south to the capital in search of a better life

Interventions in the work with street children need follow-ups because it is a reality that issues of relapsing occur very often, especially in combination with drug abuse or mental disorders. In Addis Ababa STB has put in place an effective follow-up system to maintain and support the process of re-socialization of the reintegrated children at home, at the school and in the community. However, when it comes to children who are reintegrated with their family outside of Addis Ababa the follow up work is more difficult because of the distance. There are some big challenges we face every time:


  • When children repeatedly come to Addis to live on the street, our social workers cannot intervene quickly enough to bring the children back to their home because of issues of geographical distance.
  • Every child decides the time of being reintegrated to the countryside whenever he or she is ready. So, it may be odd or even impossible to enroll these kids into school during the reintegration (depending on the beginning and time of the school year). Regarding the time resources the question arises how it can be managed efficiently to register these children for school.
  • Normally, when there are parents of the street children who need support for generating income, STB can provide that support, but because of the distance, it is difficult to involve parents in income-generating activities. It is difficult to ensure support with a sustainable effect. This is why drop-outs occur most likely when parents or legal guardians are having income problems.

As mentioned, for five years STB has brought back between 30 and 45 street children to their families in countryside areas. Although it is difficult to estimate how many of them have come back to Addis Ababa, it should be less than 50% on average – at least we do not encounter more returned children.

The numbers for 2016 are satisfying so far: from 44 reintegrated children only 3 came back to Addis Ababa and one of them already went back home again, with the support of his older brother.

STB is working on establishing a system, which should be effective and can be put into practice within the given framework. What we are already doing today: Almost all of our beneficiaries – even from rural areas – have a mobile phone, or have at least access to one, which was not the case some years ago. So, nowadays, we make regular phone calls to the person who is responsible for taking care of the child. We are also planning to implement this callback system with the responsible government office and with the schoolteachers of the integrated children. This activity helps us to check the situation of each child from a distance and to help solve problems before a child decides to go back to street-life.

The program managers of STB-Ethiopia (f.l.t.r): Lilyana Ahmed and Fikirte Shimelis

The program managers of STB-Ethiopia (f.l.t.r): Lilyana Ahmed and Fikirte Shimelis

Additionally STB is also planning to build up measures to prevent children from coming to Addis Ababa in the first place – always in the hope for a better life, while in most cases they unfortunately end up on the street. In the course of a pilot project STB has proved that it is possible and even very fruitful to work with relevant government offices, schools, and volunteers while dealing with this issue.

In future, working for children coming from other areas of Ethiopia will entail the following: support in obtaining school materials as well as providing awareness raising activities about problems related to street-life for parents, responsible government office workers, and whole communities.. The goal of this new type of prevention activity is to encourage and enable the community itself to take care of the young generation.


The story about Melaku*, his process and the daily work in Sport – The Bridge

Beitrag von Céline Nadine Michel

I would like to visualize the work with street children, the difficulties, challenges, the future of them and the satisfaction of the work from the employees. All presents it by a biographic story from our street child Melaku who had been well reintegrated to his family in February 2015.


Some personal dates about Melaku

Age: 13 years old

Family: Parents are alive, 2 brothers and 2 sisters

Place of residence: Harar

Duration of stay in Addis: Since 2012

Melaku lived three years alone on the street of Addis Abeba, he travelled to the city by mini bus, without any knowledge about Addis Abeba. He imagined a better life in the city than in his countryside region. Unfortunately the challenges started as soon as he arrived: no living place, any support from adults, just him-self and the street. So, he started to get in touch with other street children and he made some contacts, as well he got some bad influences from them. Melaku started Glue sniffing to protect himself from the coldness of the nights and to forget everything.

Two years ago his life changed, a Sport – The Bridge Staff worker picked Melaku up on the street and he started to join the project from Sport The Bridge.

Some statements from the Staff workers about the beginning challenges with Melaku

“Attention deficient, as a result of drug intoxication. Resistance in the form of being absent, coming late to the counseling sessions.” (Health Department Psychologist Lastawusih)

“Melaku did Glue sniffing throw the night so he did not sleep, the consequences on the Compound were, that he slept the whole day long. Especially on Monday he could not participate our hygiene program, for example when we negotiate him to wash his own clothes, he started to sleep on it.” (Health Department Nurse Sister Aselefech)

“To settle a goal with Melaku was very difficult, he did not attend our appointments and he could not express how his future could look like.” (Family Department Daniel)

General difficulties of the work with streetchildren from different aspects and Department workers

“The biggest challenge to work with street children is to get their trust and so that they don’t drop out from our Project after some days. Our main goal on the sportsfield is to teach them the KRAFT Module, we expect from our children a lot of concentration when we have our discussion times, for every child it is at the beginning very difficult to pay attention, to stay calm and as well to teach how important the positive behaviors are. The last difficulty after the reintegration to their family is, that they follow their families rules and not going back to the street of Addis again.” (Sport Department Teacher Girmay)

“Sometimes it is a challenge to cook for street children because you never know how many are coming to the Compound, we need to calculate everyday for how many people we should cook. There are the staff workers who are eating on the Compound, the street children, the street kids who are sick and need food for the evening and as well we are sometimes giving food out for our follow up children.” (Nutrition Department Elsa)

How Melakus process changed into a positive way

At the beginning of the work with Melaku it took everybody of the Staff workers a lot of energy, to get in touch with him, to get his trust and to show him better possibilities of life. The duration to reach the point of the reintegration was almost two years. A big process happened when Melaku came one day to the Compound with a hematoma on his head. Somebody on the street hit him by a stone. So there was a need to handle and Melaku had been treaten by medication. The decision from Sister was to put Melaku to the Shelter (a place away from the street where the sick child can recover). From now on, Melaku took everyday his medicine and he was away from the Glue, his physical and psychological health condition changed immediately. He started to follow the schedule of the Compound, he did not sleep anymore during Compound time and he could follow the program.

“One of Melakus strengths: He had a relatively strong perceived self-efficacy.” (Health Department Psychologist Lastawusih)

“He started to look strong for playing, he started to participate on daily hygiene program, his face looked happy, he could smile for some whiles, as well he went to eat without any disturbing.” (Health Departement Sister Aselefech)

“At eating time suddenly Melaku`s behavior for disturbing changed, he ate in a silent way and enjoyed his food. When he took Glue I could observe he had no interest for food even no appetite.” (Nutrition Department Elsa)

“I observed a physical process from Melaku on the Sport field as soon as he was clean from Glue and he slept in the Shelter, he started to be active and very strong on the sports field he was able to follow our sport activities”. (Sport Department Teacher Girmay)

“Melaku was suddenly interested in joining the meetings we had together and we could start to settle a goal for his future.” (Family Department Daniel)

February 2015, Melaku expressed the wish for going home

So, there is now the last step to do for the Staff workers, the Family Department workers planned the trip to Harar, Harar is 250 km away from Addis Abeba, for bringing Melaku back home to his mother, to his family and his social network.

Melakus Feedbacks about the Sport – The Bridge Project

“The reason for me to stop Glue sniffing is: I know now the side effects from it. My favorite lesions in the Sport – The Bridge project were Karate and painting. I can say, I learned from the sportsfield a lot about acceptance. For me the Shelter was a place to recover and have time for myself and at the end to get away from Glue. I am excited for going home, to see my siblings and family. “

About the reintegration in the view from the Family Department workers

“The reintegration with Melaku was good but also challenging, the kid was joining our project two years long, we could observe many behavioral problems and he was not able to tell us properly his family situation as well we did not know his address. There was no other option for us than to go to Harar and check the situation. When we arrived we were not able to find his mother, but as soon as we found her, we recognized that she was living with some other individuals and also she does not have any job, she lead her life by begging on the street. Then we were fried to convince the owner of a home to give them the chance to start a new life with their own home. Because in this situation, the mother was living as well on the street there was no possibility to reintegrate Melaku. Our solution was, to take them to the Kebele (which is the government office), there we have been told as soon as they get an identification card, they can rent a home. But without starting capital there is no hope, many phone calls we needed to help them and at the end we covered their rent for the next 6months and we bought for them some necessary materials like blankets, mattress, dishes and so on. For the future we were tried to advise his mother to start working to support her child and also herself. At the end the government gave us a positive response and they will help them for the future even for the rent as well for starting a little business.“ (Family Department Daniel and Syatayehu)

My wishes for Melaku

“Many things which are positive are all my wishes. For the short term: I wish to him to regain the strong positive relations with his family members and being able to stable at his home. I wish also his strengthen against rejection to the substance abuse. For the long term: I wish him to join formal school and enjoyed with the fruit of wisdom and knowledge, a competent and moderate person for others.“ (Health Department, Psychologist Lastawusih)

My satisfaction in my daily work

“I feel very happy if I see our street children with a smiling face and they are playing together and they can forget for some moments their challenges and their problems.“ (Health Department, Sister Aselefech).

“Since 14 years I am working for Sport The Bridge, I like and I choose the right profession for me, because the people are appreciate my cook, we do our best for a high quality, quantity and hygiene.“ (Nutrition Department, Elsa)

“When the children are feeling happy, we can support them to solve some problems, if they are satisfied with our service, that makes me satisfied and happy in my job.“ (Sport Department Girmay).

“The story about Melaku made us very happy, this is our daily work and this is one of the good examples which gave us mental satisfaction.“ (Family Department Daniel and Syatayehu)



Informationsveranstaltung von Sport – The Bridge

Lyliana und Fikirte, die Programmmanagerinnen des Projekts «Äthiopien – Sport baut Brücken» haben am 28.4.2015 als Teil ihres 10-tägigen Aufenthalts in der Schweiz an einem Infoanlass im Goju Kan in Bern über ihre Arbeit vor Ort in Addis Abeba berichtet. Viele Interessierte haben den Weg ins Goju Kan gefunden und aufmerksam ihren Ausführungen gelauscht.

In Äthiopien gibt es zwischen 100’000 und 200’000 Strassenkinder, zirka 50’000 bis 60’000 davon leben in Addis Abeba. Etwa 70% dieser Kinder stammen von ausserhalb von Addis Abeba. Sie tauschen ihr Zuhause meistens aus Armutsgründen, wegen Drogenmissbrauch oder sexuellem Missbrauch gegen das Leben auf der Strasse aus. In Addis Abeba kümmern sich 4 NGOs um die Probleme der Strassenkinder. Nur Sport – The Bridge arbeitet mit einem sportpädagogischen Ansatz, anhand dessen sie den Kindern soziale Fertigkeiten beibringen, die sie brauchen, um sich in die Schule und die Familie zu reintegrieren. Dies ist auch einer der Punkte, weshalb Erik Golowin, der Gastgeber an diesem Abend und ein Unterstützer der ersten Stunde, von der Arbeit vor Ort begeistert ist.

Erik Golowin erzählt, warum er STB unterstützt

Die Sportpädagogik begleitet ihn schon das ganze Leben und stellt ebenfalls einen wichtigen Berührungspunkt mit dem Projekt dar. Erik war schon oft in Addis Abeba und ist immer wieder überwältigt von dem Blumenstrauss an Emotionen, den er dort durchlebt. Er betont, dass er von einem Äthiopienbesuch jeweils voller Energie in die Schweiz zurückkehrt. «Ich erhalte dort von den Menschen etwas, das nicht greifbar ist», meint er und berichtet von dem schwierigen Umgang mit der Armut und den schönen Begegungen mit den Menschen und den kulturellen Eigenheiten.

Die Besucherinnen und Besucher nutzen an diesem Abend die Gelegenheit, Fragen an Lyliana und Fikirte zu richten. Diese geben professionell Auskunft über die Rekrutierung der Kinder, die psychologische Betreuung, über den Umgang und die Aufarbeitung von Missbrauch an den Kindern und die Wiedereingliederung in die Familien.

Zudem schildern Lyliana und Fikirte an dem Beispiel von Bruke, wie mit den Kindern gearbeitet wird. Bruke kommt aus Südäthiopien und lebte auf den Strassen von Addis Abeba.

Wenn Bruke am Morgen auf den Compound von Sport – The Bridge kommt, wäscht er sein Gesicht und seine Hände, bevor es Frühstück gibt. Bruke muss sich zuerst wieder daran gewöhnen, Frühstück zu essen, weil er das gar nicht mehr kennt. Davor spielt er Ping-Pong und Volleyball. Nach dem Frühstück wechselt Bruke seine Strassenkleider gegen Sportkleider und macht sich mit den anderen Kindern und den Sportlehrern auf zum 5 Minuten entfernten Sportplatz. Nach einiger Zeit im Projekt entdeckt das medizinische Team, dass Bruke an Tuberkulose leidet und dringend medizinische Betreuung braucht. Das Team schlägt ihm deshalb vor, die notwendige 8-monatige Behandlung unter der Aufsicht von Sport – The Bridge zu machen und während dieser Zeit das Projekt zu besuchen. Bruke entscheidet sich aber dafür, nach Hause zu seiner Grossmutter zu gehen. Also kontaktieren die Mitarbeitenden seine Grossmutter, das Spital vor Ort und organisieren Brukes Behandlung sowie die Sicherstellung seiner Ernährung und entlassen Bruke in die Obhut seiner Familie.

Hinten: Foto von Bruke mit seiner Grossmutter

Hinten: Foto von Bruke mit seiner Grossmutter

Nach etwa zwei Monaten ist ein Sozialarbeiter von Sport – The Bridge vor Ort, um einen anderen Jungen in seine Familie zu integrieren. Bei diesem Anlass nimmt er die Gelegenheit war, um nach Bruke zu sehen. Er findet heraus, dass Bruke regelmässig Tej trinkt, ein äthiopisches alkoholhaltiges Getränk. Bruke kann aber überzeugt werden, dass das für seine Genesung nicht gut ist. Die Mitarbeitenden von Sport – The Bridge bleiben auch nach diesem Besuch in Kontakt mit Bruke und rufen seine Grossmutter an, um zu erfahren, wie es ihm geht. Bis jetzt scheint sich Bruke gut zu erholen und freut sich über den Erdnussbutter, den er durch Sport – The Bridge kennen- und lieben gelernt hat.

Wir freuen uns sehr, dass Lyliana und Fikirte eine gute und arbeitsintensive Zeit in der Schweiz verbracht haben und nun gut wieder zu Hause angekommen sind.

2012 Gigathlon Ethiopia held for one week

 Gigathlon is a big endurance sport event happen in Switzerlandonce in a year. It is the only endurance event in the world which combines 5 disciplines. The event is organized by Swiss Olympic. Since 2006 Sport – The Bridge held the replica of Gigathlon in Ethiopiawith support of Swiss Olympic.  Gigathlon Ethiopia  is participating street children and school children with the indigenous children games with objective of give equal chance for all children from different back ground to play and to learn.    

In 2012 Gigathlon Ethiopia was held for one week from 24 – 30 Dec 2012. In addition to sport event this year program included more activities which gave special opportunities for children and parents to learn. Main activities of the one week events were poems competition, panel discussion and on the last day the event concluded with exciting sport programs.  The poems competition among children was held on the topic of Education, Health and Sport. This program organized in Dilbetgile primary school and 150 children participated from STB and four schools.  On other day there was a panel discussion which organized on the topic of parenthood and on the benefit of play for children holistic development. For the panel discussion invited parents, teachers and social works from school and childcare institutes.  







On the last day of the event’s week, amazing sport event was held at Minilik the II Primary School sport fields, which participated 400 participants. The participants were street children and children invited from different schools. The sport event was a combination of four traditional distance games as we did every year. Each child has a chance to perform each game one after the other and to complete the disciplines they expected to cover 800m. The games were organized in a kind of competition. At the end individual and group winner were given recognition. Neverthless the event more gives value for group winners.  The participant children were grouped with a member of four children. Each member result was collected and at the end the best groups were awarded small gifts. The idea of the group formation was to teach and practice team work and cooperation as the one of the objective of the event. Beside to the game different educational and fun activities were done through music, drama, group song by street children and messages were transfer on the education and health issues.











The children had a fun and new experiences. This year Gigathlon was implemented in especial and more significantly combining educational values. Sport – The Bridge would like to compliment for two schools which give us their space for the event and for stake holders who supporting this educational and sport event to be realized.

Gigathlon Ethiopia, Children Sport Event 2011

After finishing Gigathlon Ethiopia children’s sport event, the 12 years street boy explain that  “We had came only for fun but the event challenged us a lot especially some drug user children were not able to finished the round”.  Similarly One 14 years girl from school said that “I like to do such kinds of games  especially riding Wheel but people discouraged me when I play at my village because they understand that the game is belong to boys only, but in this Gigathlon we all did boys and girls equally.”  Gigathlon is giving chance for all children with out the difference of sex, skill and background. It involves street children, school children girls and boys to play together.

2011 Gigathlon Ethiopia was held Dec.24 in Addis Ababa at big sport field, Janmeda, among children from street and school. The event was covers around 2km and combined four types of distance games which are familiar with Ethiopian kids. The participants were competing on the event by forming a group of four members. Based on the objective of the event different livelihood messages transfer during the event with different ways.

Regarding to the games the idea of Gigathlon Ethiopia has not to introduce new games for the children, rather to recognize the children traditional games and creativity in the big event. All games included in the event are familiar by all participant children. The event has given a big attention for the children thought and activities. Generally the objectives of the event are in one hand to transfer educational and health messages to participant children, in other hand to create especial sport and play event for all children to make fun.

During the event day street children had the chance to show their talent by presenting poem, drawing exhibition, messages and song of the new Gigathlon’s Anthem after trained for two weeks. The active and creative talents of participant street children have impressed other children and spectators.

All children had enjoyed on the event. They got at least one of their favorite games. Most of them except STB’s follow up program are for the first time to be part of this kind of children celebration.  All participated children approved that they learn different life values from the event like team work, fair play, striving to wine and etc. At the end all of them wished to be invited for the next year.

In this year event some new activities have happened, the two main ones were STB’s older club system boys were serving in the event as coordinators and the second one before one day of the event STB’s club system boys and parents of children cleaned the big sport field Janmeda where the sport event was held.

Gigathlon Ethiopia 2009, Addis Abeba

Bericht von Marion Bugmann, Praktikantin von Sport – The Bridge und Organisatorin des Gigathlon Ethiopia:


“Schulbusse fahren auf der Jan Meda, dem grossen Sportplatz in Addis Abeba, ein. Während laute äthiopische Musik über das Feld schallt, steigen immer mehr Kinder in farbigen T-Shirts aus den Bussen und beginnen sofort sich im Rhythmus zu bewegen.

Sport – The Bridge organisierte im Juni 2009 zum vierten Mal den Gigathlon Ethiopia, dessen Ursprung in der Schweiz liegt. Seit mehreren Jahren führt Swiss Olympic den grossen Anlass für Ausdauersportler durch.

Am Gigathlon Ethiopia nehmen allerdings keine Athleten teil, sondern 1000 Kinder aus verschiedenen Gesellschaftsschichten Äthiopiens. Strassenkinder und Schulkinder bilden zusammen ein Team und treiben gemeinsam Sport. In Äthiopien gibt es weder Inlineskates, noch Seen worin man schwimmen kann. Viele Kinder besitzen nicht einmal Schuhe. So wurden die gewohnten Disziplinen aus der Schweiz an die äthiopischen Verhältnisse angepasst. Anstelle der fünf helvetischen Disziplinen, wurden vier äthiopische Spielformen ausgewählt – Rennen, BiraBiro (Windräder), Ball Dribbling, sowie Macina; ein Plastikschlauchrad, welches mit einem langen Draht über den Boden geführt wird. Jedes Kind absolvierte zwei verschiedene Disziplinen über eine Distanz von je einem Kilometer.


Die Musiker und Tänzer des Circus Ethiopia verbreiten eine fröhliche und ausgelassene Stimmung auf Jan Meda. Plötzlich kommt Unruhe auf in der Kindermenge, das Gejohle wird immer lauter. Haile Gebrselassie, der äthiopische Weltklasseläufer, kämpft sich durch die Scharen Richtung Bühne. Sofort taucht er ein in die ausgelassene Heiterkeit des Anlasses und tanzt mit den Kindern mit.

Bevor die jungen Sportler am offiziellen Aufwärmprogramm teilnehmen, ergreift Haile das Mikrophon und richtet seine Worte direkt an die Kinder. Er motiviert die Kinder in die Schule zu gehen und betont die Relevanz einer soliden Schulbildung für ihre Zukunft. Er versucht ihnen klar zu machen, dass jede einzelne Person für sein eigenes Leben verantwortlich ist, auch wenn oft sehr schwierige Verhältnisse herrschen und die Leben von einer harten Vergangenheit geprägt sind. Weiter erklärt Haile wie wichtig es ist, dass man die sich eröffnenden Chancen packt und auch bereit ist dafür zu investieren.


Nachdem ein Regierungsbeamter des Sportbüros in Addis Abeba die Kinder begrüsste, bewegen sich die ersten 250 Teilnehmer zur Startlinie, wo Haile Gebrselassie den Startpfiff gibt. Alle Teams formen sich zur einen Hälfte aus Schulkindern und zur anderen Hälfte aus Strassenkindern. Mit den farbigen Windrädern in den Händen wird losgespurtet, wobei nach einem Kilometer alle Kinder ihr Rad gegen einen kleinen Ball eintauschen. Die zweite Hälfte der Distanz wird vom Team dribbelnd zurückgelegt. Dabei handelt es sich nicht um herkömmliche Bälle, sondern um Socken, die mit Abfallplastik gestopft und schliesslich angemalt wurden.

Schon bald kommen die ersten Bälle durch die Ziellinie geflogen und die rennenden Kinder ihnen nach. Kurz darauf ertönt der Startpfiff für die zweite Gruppe. Nun kommen die beiden anderen Disziplinen zum Zug. Gestartet wird mit der Laufdisziplin und in der Wechselzone werden die Macina’s von den jungen Sportlern mitgenommen und über den zweiten Kilometer bis ins Ziel balanciert. Mit den alternierenden Disziplinen starten insgesamt vier Teams mit je 250 Kindern, die alle erfolgreich 2km zurücklegen. Die schwitzenden Finisher dürfen sich mit kühlem Wasser erfrischen und an dem anschliessenden Rahmenprogramm des Circus Ethiopia teilnehmen. Traditionelle äthiopische Musik, Tanz sowie Akrobatik runden den fröhlichen und aussergewöhnlichen Sportanlass ab.

Sport – The Bridge dankt allen Teilnehmer, Schulen, NGO’s und Helfern ganz herzlich und freut sich bereits auf den nächsten Gigathlon Ethiopia im 2010!”