Her greatest wish is to go to school. Instead, Stacey (15) runs the household and takes care of her traumatized mother. This is the depressing story of a lonely but strong Congolese girl who fled to a city where she knew no one.
She is barely sitting down on a chair, in a somewhat dull room in a refugee center in Addis Ababa, when she starts to cry. Tears flow from her eyes; she looks broken. Stacey is a girl you don’t usually see outside of her little house. When she gets up in the morning, she makes lunch for her two younger brothers and cleans the house. She spends the rest of the day at home with her mother, who, as Stacey says, has ‘problems in her head.’ Often, Stacey’s mother will start talking about the problems caused by a trauma, without Stacey giving notice. About how her father and her brother were murdered before their eyes, when Stacey was still a toddler. And about their flight, into the bush, running for safety. Her mother also tells her how they ended up in Addis, in the small home where they now live.
Stacey is at home all day. “But sometimes I need to go to the doctor with my mother. She doesn’t speak English or Amharic, so I must translate for her. Since we must go to the hospital regularly, I can’t attend school. It is heart-breaking; I would love to go to school and improve my Amharic and English. Staying home doesn’t help me. When I go to church on Sunday, the other children laugh at me because I cannot read well. It feels terrible. Nevertheless, I keep going to that church as I learn English there, and the church gives me a lot of hope.”
“Besides learning to read, I would also really like to learn how to cut hair. I like doing that. I want to become a hairdresser and designer. Designing clothes seems like terrible fun.”
When I ask Stacey if she can tell me about a fun memory from her childhood, she stays silent for half a minute. “Do you mean if I had any friends?” She asks desperately. When I give her an affirmative nod, she shakes her head. “No,” she answers. “My childhood was difficult and painful.” Fortunately, she still has her brothers. “I love them because they are always friendly to me. They are called Francis and Micha. They can go to school and have friends; I like that very much. Every day I wait for them to leave school and come home. Sometimes I cook while I wait, sometimes I do nothing. When my brothers are home, we talk, and I ask what their day was like.”
A while ago, Stacey heard of a training course offered by ZOA. “I wanted to participate. It was a course for girls called “life kit for girls.” The training was great. I was able to forget about my problems, and I met new people. I also learned to be strong, to share my stories with others, and to give advice to others. This helped me a lot.”
ZOA Ethiopia aims to support urban refugees by giving psychosocial and business trainings to teenagers and young adults. In 2019 ZOA started a project with a well known IT company to provide internships and trainings for 30 young people. This project aims to fight unemployment in Ethiopia.