In 2005, Ethiopia had 4,414,000 orphans, the second-highest number in Africa. You could easily double if not triple that number to determine the number of Ethiopian children being raised without a father or a significant male member of their household.Among our 90 students, the number with an adult male living permanently in the household could be counted on one hand. For both the boys and the girls, it is a tragedy born of the AIDS epidemic and a patriarchal society. I say this without judgment, only stating the facts that I have witnessed and researched.
This picture was taken by Francesco, who along with Todd, comprised the two male volunteers on the April trip to the Academy. Both of them are young single men in their 20s, but they seem to me to be “old souls,” natural-born fathers, the kind who will be “hands-on” dads. Watching them interact with the kids was a delight for me, but for the children themselves, their presence must have been something altogether different.
Only time will tell how this generation of Ethiopian children will fare without fathers or father-figures. My hope is that, for the kids at the Academy at least, they will benefit from the example set by Anteneh, Muday’s husband, and their friend Hilu. Both are teachers at the local high school, and both of them spend a lot of time with the kids. Certainly the men who volunteer with Friends of Fresh and Green (including Trish’s husband, Gregg) provide wonderful examples of how a man can be both strong and nurturing at the same time.
Muday speaks highly of a local man, a pilot for Ethiopian Airlines, who regularly stops by and takes some of the boys home to play with his own children. There are trekkers who stop by the Academy often (it is a Geo-Cache site http://www.geocaching.com). All in all, Fresh and Green Academy students have more exposure to positive, male role models than many of their peers.
On this Father’s Day eve, I want to recognize all the men who are working and have worked so hard to make a difference in the lives of the children. There are many of you, including my own dad (and Trish’s dad) who taught us the value of “giving back.” And I want to acknowledge all the male sponsors, who are providing support “behind the scenes” as it were. Although the children may not know you by name, you are making a difference in their lives nonetheless.
Kathleen Murphy Vilicich, Vice President