In May of 2016 staff members of A Chance In Life Gabriele Delmonaco (President/Executive Director) and Lauren Ross (Director of Development and Communications) visited Boys' & Girls' Towns of Ethiopia. Gabriele and Lauren attended the monthly meeting of the 100 high school girls in our program. During the meeting one of the emerging young leaders of the program, 18 year old Bethlehem, shared her story.
"First of all, I am happy to welcome all of you today to the 2016 program. I will be presenting the progress of our new project that has started this year. Every month, we have a meeting to discuss our needs, improvements and our future plans. We have been getting educational support and material support. Such as, text books and other school supplies and materials. From the beginning of the project until now many things have improved and it is going well. It is almost going to be a year since the project started. I have hopes that the things that weren’t finished will be finished before the end of the year.
I would like to welcome everyone and thank God for giving us the chance to be part of this program. I would like to thank the person who founded this program, Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing, and all the people who contributed to bringing this program to Ethiopia.
I want to speak about the joy that I have received from being a part of Boys’ & Girls’ Towns of Ethiopia (BGTE).
This program makes my friends and me full of happiness. The obstacles we had before made it very hard for us to go to school. Now because of BGTE we are continuing our education while we are living in town with one another. Living in the town has made it easier for us to go back and forth to school. When I was in 9th and 10th grade, going to school was very difficult because of the long distance from my home to school. It was hard to think about continuing another year. I was losing hope and thought about giving up. I sat down and thought, “What else can I do?”
I believe that God has a plan for me. It was God who brought BGTE to me. This program has taken me out of the bad situation I was in before and changed the course of my life. There were so many obstacles that prevented me from going to school.
The long walk to school in the burning sun was almost unbearable. It wasn’t just the distance, but also the fear of walking through the woods. I was so terrified to cross those woods. I would run as fast as I could through those woods to get to school on time but some days it was impossible. After running up and down hills, crossing through dark woods, I would sometimes sadly be sent back home. The school has a policy that if students are late, they are to be sent home. I would beg the guards to let me in. I came running to school exhausted and not even able to get in.
No one knows my struggle and how exhausted I was when I arrived each day. They don’t know that I had to go through the frightening woods and up and down the hills. Sometimes I would get so frustrated and think about working as a maid in someone’s house in the city so that I could be close to a school.
My father is not an educated man and all that he wants is for me to have a good education. I don’t want to let him down. I tell my father that it will all be okay. I will manage somehow. I know deep down that God would not let me suffer so much. God has brought me BGTE and many of my previous struggles are no longer there.
When the program first started, I was so excited and truly happy. I have received all of the supplies I need as a girl. I received supplies for school and studying. No more crossing the scary woods. I now travel to school by car. There is nothing God can’t do. There is so much more I want to say but there aren’t enough words to express my joy. Thank you so much for everything you have done for me.
I am waiting for the day that I will get a good grade and finish school so I can help my sisters and brothers who aren’t fortunate like me. BGTE has taught me to be thoughtful, supportive, loving and caring to others. Most of all I have learned to love.
Finally, I want to thank the people who have supported and helped me to be where I am today. God bless you and I will always pray for you to live a long and healthy life."