The main aim of Sport – the Bridge is to reintegrate street children into their families. And the children are made to know that from the first day they participate in the program, though of course it is the children themselves that set their goals and decide if and when they are ready. It is the reason that Sport – the Bridge does not provide them with a shelter for the night. It is also the reason that there is no special food or sweets given to them. Nothing their families could not provide them with at home.
What we know about family integration is that there are two types, the Addis Ababa and the country side integration. When a child is integrated inside the city, there is an extensive follow-up; it comes back to Sport – the Bridge during the day until able to go back to regular school and later check-ups at home and in schools are done to see whether it is attending or not. If the child is reintegrated to the country side, because of the far distance the follow-up is less extensive and it is not possible to check school attendance.
Our actual insight into the integrational work is, however, very limited. We do not follow the phone calls that are made with family members, do not understand the discussions of the family workers with the children or the parents and usually do not go with, when a child is brought back to its family. What we do experience is that sometimes parents come to the compound to talk to family workers. That one morning a child is dressed in new clothes, about to be reintegrated to its family in the country side. That one boy looks anxiously into the compound to the telephone where a family worker is calling his parents. That some children suddenly show up with comparatively clean and not torn clothes and we learn that they are already reintegrated into their families inside the city, but keep coming back during the day until they can attend regular school again in the new school year. Or that a boy says goodbye to the others, about to be reintegrated and hence does not show up again the next morning.
What we do experience is that this integration has an influence on Myriam’s English classes. She is preparing a little theatre with some of the children and last week she “lost” three of her main characters because they have been reintegrated. So she had to declare twice another “proud cat” and nearly also another “girl cat”. Fantastic to hear that these boys are now back at home, living with their families again – difficult to manage a continuing class program with all these changes. Anyhow, now, the “new proud cat” can go on on his journey to find his “girl cat”, teaching the children to communicate in English and having fun to act as a cat, a fox, a cloud or a fire.
What we do experience is that this integration has an influence on Leonie’s sport classes. One morning her fitness boxing program does not take place at all, because she is allowed to accompany one of the family workers, when he reintegrates a child. They leave the compound in the morning alongside the boy, who leads them to his home. He is
seemingly nervous, anxious and very quiet, unlike other days. They get to his house and first encounter the small brother outside. The boy runs towards his brother to give him a hug and cannot hold back some tears. Then they enter the home and Leonie is able to experience how the parents take their son into their arms, how they explain to the family worker what happened and how he informs them about Sport – the Bridge and how the boy was found. She does not understand what is said in Amharic, but cannot fail to sense the emotions in the room, the mother holding her son around his shoulders, the father, in thoughts, looking straight ahead, the worry about his son seemingly still noticeable. Finally the little boy goes down on his knees in front of his parents to apologize. “Yikirta”.
When the discussions are finished and the further procedure agreed on, the boy comes back to the compound. He missed too much time at classes to go back to regular school right away. Thus he keeps on following the daily program at Sport – the Bridge until the next school year. Thus he is back also the next day to follow Leonie’s sport program in the morning and to participate in Myriam’s theatre preparation in the afternoon. And Myriam is happy to have her “girl cat” again and the “girl cat” is happy to perform as a protagonist in the play.
We are thankful for the opportunity to have come here to Sport – the Bridge in Ethiopia and to have been able to make all those experiences. Seeing children coming from the street and being brought back home, experiencing how one of them proudly introduces us to his big brother, who came to accompany him home and being allowed to personally experience the reintegration of one boy into his family. “Amasagnallehu”.
Myriam & Leonie