Date: November 1999
Ethiopia is a very poor but magic country in East Africa. Okay, we know
that they are having this stupid and unnecessary war with Eritrea, but
it's not a people's war. It's two presidents not liking each other, for
which the people pay with their lives.
Although very poor, the Ethiopians are a proud and hardworking people.
Maybe that's why so many die every time drought strikes an area. They
are too proud to ask for help. Or maybe it's because originally the Ethiopians
are warrior-tribes and it's not part of their culture to go and help enemy
tribes that are dying of hunger. Also with an infrastructure next to non-existing,
it's very hard to transport any help from non-tribal capital Addis Ababa
to the areas in need.
During the whole of our world tour we've met many peoples in need. Especially
in the poor African countries they start talking to you as soon as you
stop for petrol, a cup of coffee or just to drink some water. They mostly
were sitting under a tree in the shade, waiting for you to come and tell
you that now that you are here their problems will be over.
In Gondar, Ethiopia we met Endalew, who needed help more badly than
anybody else we'd met before.
But Endalew never asked. He worked instead. And that's exactly why we
decided that he deserved all the help we could give him. We started writing
this article about him, which generated so much help that Dafne went back
to Ethiopia from Bombay, India only two months after the article was published.
Please read our newsletters about India and Australia to find out more.
This article is like a real Christmas carol. Please print it out and
read it under your Christmas tree, in front of a cosy fireplace or curled
up on a warm couch. It's specially written for children so you may read
it out aloud and share it with others. You may also want to help Endalew
and others like him. Please contact us through e-mail: email@example.com
The Shoe-shine boy of Gondar
The new day will soon start when Peter Endalew (13) finally closes his
eyes and sleeps for a moment. It's not safe to sleep in the street, but
Peter does not have a home. Now that the rainy season has started it is
also not easy to find a dry spot to spend the night, but to sleep in the
poorman's hostel, one needs 3 birr (US$ 0,30) and Peter is not often so
In half an hours time the streets of Gondar Ethiopia will be busy again
and will it be time to visit the local grocery shop. Maybe shopkeeper
Mr. Tadesse will be going out to get new products and Peter hopes he may
help to load and unload the boxes from the truck. As he gets up his stomach
feels terribly empty. Mr. Tadessy has given him food and hot tea before.
We ride our sidecar into the streets of Gondar and Peter is the first
one to spot us. "Hurry up Johannes, there are tourists and look what
a great bike they have!" Peter is crying out happily upon his friend.
Often they can do little jobs for tourists, like buying groceries. Or
they accompany them to the market and make sure that they don't pay too
much, because the vendors at the market always try to get twice or even
three times the normal price from tourists. The more money the tourists
save the more they will give Peter and his friend Johannes (11) afterwards.
"Hello, how are you?" The boys greet us as soon as we stop.
It's long since we heard somebody speak English that good and we return
their greetings. "You know a cheap hotel that has a safe place to
park our sidecar?" Rob asks them and the boys agree on where to take
As Peter, who adopted this name especially for the tourists (so that
his name is not forgotten), trots on in front of us we see that he strangely
walks on a twisted left foot. A foot like this is called a logfoot. Peter
is bothered a lot by his handicap, and everyday people tease him because
of it, which hurts him even more. Being handicapped in Ethiopia means
not getting any chances.
"They think I am stupid, but there is nothing wrong with my head!"
Peter protests one time. It's not at all fair.
We buy tomatoes at the market and sit down at a terrace to have a glass
of fresh mango juice.
"Mmmmm," Peter thinks, "I had never expected this this
morning." We ask him where he learned to speak English so well and
Peter tells us proudly that he goes to school. After having made his homework
at the school library, he brings his books and his school uniform to Mr.
Tadesse and turns to the street to find some work and something to eat.
Peter likes to talk and when we meet again next day after school, Peter
tells us how his mother left him shortly after his father died. "Maybe
she is in Addis Ababa, (the capital of Ethiopia)" thinks Peter aloud.
Peter was 9 years old and has lived on the street ever since. He saves
money to buy his schoolbooks and one time a tourist gave him a new school
uniform. He receives free education. "A good boy," Mr. Tadesse
tells us about Peter when we buy eggs and bread and off course we agree.
Both Rob and I think the same: If only we could help him. This foot
is a great pain to him and makes him so unhappy. Yet Peter is full of
life and despite his foot refuses to sit down in despair. He dreams of
being a doctor, wants to help all handicapped street-kids and is determined
to study hard and make it happen. For now Peter is busy to earn enough
money to buy a shoeshine box and shoe polish, a piece of soap to wash
muddy shoes and brushes. He already has half of the 50 birr (US 6,-) needed
and Rob and I decide to send Peter out on a job while Johannes helps us
buying him the present. "Now I have a real job!" Peter cries
out happily and insists on polishing our shoes.