As we continue commemorating Women this month, a song by world renown soul singer Aretha Franklin comes to mind. The song is Young, Gifted and Black and is fitting for an incredible experience I had here in Addis. I had the pleasure and sheer honor of being a guest at The School of St. Yared, celebrating their 10th Anniversary with an incredible display of talented future poets, painters, actors, singers, inventors and more…all under the age of 13. My dear daughter (from another mother) Sorit Mahde, compelled me to skip my Friday morning ritual of writing and join her up the mountain around the Bella area of Eyesus Orthodox Church. We were also joined by fashion designer Furdo DawiDesign, Artist Merid Tafesse, and the Australian Ambassador Jenny DaRin. The morning began with a telling of the history of The School of St. Yared. Narratives of teachers and store keepers who began with the founder – poor daily laborers, uneducated and vulnerable women – now teachers, administrators and the backbone of the school which serves almost 300 children.
The students are provided everything from books to uniforms, meals to medicine and everything in between with support from various individuals, organizations and countries including Australia, Israel, UK, USA. Some have given formally others informally through valuable volunteer efforts. The children are bright, clean, confident, hopeful, talented, proud and inspiring. They sang songs to assert their aspirations and potential. They delivered painful poems – one of a girl raped and having a baby while herself a baby, yet she declared herself victorious and filled with hope. They performed a play depicting an evil character cooking up hatred and divisiveness between the ethnic groups who were peacefully eating together, very graphic. The sound and other effects were bone chilling but by the end of the skit, Mama Ethiopia, portrayed by a young girl clothed in the Ethiopian flag, brought love and unity and life back into all the tribes. Words do this no justice, sadly. Wow… I said to myself, if the children can express such observation, why do we stay quiet? But that’s another story.
Suffice it to say the star of the day was the youth co-founder of The School of St. Yared who is simply outspoken, defiant and let’s just say a young man on a mission. He thanked all the guests after recognizing and awarding his tried and true team and unapologetically spoke to the non-support of the public sector and internationals alike. His name is Yared Wolde and he has travelled the world seeking support for his passion, the least fortunate children of Ethiopia. He can neither be bought nor sold, on this mission to care for children – some afflicted with AIDS, some horribly abused and discarded by society, homeless, hungry, hopeless with numerous psychological issues. Yared is an advocate and voice for these children and the perfect one. You see, Yared too was homeless as a child and he ran the streets, much like most we see on the streets of Addis today. But he made a choice to change, not only his life, but the lives of others. Yared challenges us to think about the children. He insists that “it is my responsibility to care for Ethiopia’s most needy children…”. Yared stands firm that if everybody does something positive, we can end this nightmarish poverty which is the greatest enemy of Ethiopia. His mantra for the school is “Fighting poverty through education” with a commitment to “empowering the future leaders and change makers of Ethiopia.”
Yared’s vision is great and coming to fruition every day right here in a holistic, nurturing and safe environment where the children have agency and ownership of their future. I want the world to know about Yared and about the great things going on in Ethiopia where young people ARE the ones we are waiting for. They are not waiting for us, sadly as we have let them down. But it is not too late. We can support the school which also has a robust art section already yielding some serious budding scientists and artists, based on the exhibition displayed for visitors and parents alike. The images of PM Abiyi Ahmed, Ghandi, Bob Marley and a host of international leaders spoke to the sheer local pride and global knowledge possessed by these babies. I am sold on the School of St. Yared and the notion of planting a seed and helping it grow. Why? In a twist of fate, Yared was actually one of my lijyuch at the Children’s Village Project which I established with Merid from 2005 to 2010 in the Arat Kilo Piassa area. No, it was not an NGO; simply a safe space for the most vulnerable children especially the homeless. But that is another story. The take away here is when you make time to touch someone’s life, you never know what will occur in the future. Further, you don’t need a million dollars to do good, just letting a child know how much they are worth and that you love them CAN make a difference. Yared is my child and I am filled with joy, pride and tears with the surprise I received at his school. Yared Wolde is an Ethiopian Change Maker.
Dr. Desta Meghoo is a Jamaican born
Creative Consultant, Curator and cultural promoter based in Ethiopia since 2005. She also serves as Liaison to the AU for the Ghana based, Diaspora African Forum.