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Episode 79

The Work of the House of Hope Ethiopia

Hosseana Solomon, Child & Family Social Worker for The AGCI & Tim Tebow Foundation House of Hope Ethiopia

Welcome to Together by AGCI. I’m Marisa Butterworth. Today I have a very special guest all the way from the AGCI and Tim Tebow Foundation, House of Hope in Ethiopia. Hossana Solomon is a child and family social worker with years of experience serving children and families throughout Ethiopia and we are so fortunate to have her on our team. Since the home opened in August of 2021, I had a chance to finally meet Hosi in Ethiopia this January and she is a powerhouse serving vulnerable populations with compassion, love, and grace. We are so lucky to have her join us today.

Hello. Good morning. It is so wonderful to have you on here all the way from Ethiopia. I am over the moon excited. I’ve been looking forward to talking to you for a really long time now since I knew that we were doing this podcast and get to hear more about the House of Hope. And I’m extra excited because I got to meet you way back in January when our team finally was able to get back to Ethiopia or my team specifically. Others were, but it was my first time back and I had seen you and met you online and so it was such a pleasure. But thank you so much for being here. Thank you Marisa.

I’m very honored and very happy to be here too and I’m very much excited that I get to meet you besides the screen in physical. Oh, thank you. Thank Nice meet you yourself. Sweet. Yes. So will you just start us out by telling us a bit about your role at the House of Hope? Sure. My role in the House of Hope is I’m a family and child social worker. So my main responsibility is supporting the family and the children through the transition from being separated to be reunited. So making that pass or transfer smooth is mainly my responsibility. So in this process I have the responsibility of admission, making sure girl I would house, also have girls from different stakeholders like the government, the police. So that’s my responsibility, that’s my role. The other might be I assisting the family social searcher to identify the family and search access the, if the placement is suitable for the children. So making sure the best interest of the child is made while doing the transfer. And during the transfer and after transfer I’ll be assisting the children and the families too. So that’s mainly my responsibility. So you have a big responsibility, a lot of responsibilities, you’re kind of doing all of it. So I’m so glad to have you on, you know, I feel like you’ve really touched like every part of the process, so you’re kind of the perfect person to have on here.

So ha will you tell us how many girls are in the home now and then how many of the girls have been successfully reunified with their family or a caregiver? Currently, as of today we have 19, but just now before two or five minutes ago, we have admitted another one. Girl, my, so we, oh my goodness, current down to 20. Yes. We have 20 girls and we have unified about 33 girls with their families out of, out of the 33 girls she have completed the post-placement service. So Wow, that’s amazing. That’s how we’re, well, and I have to mention, I, and correct me if I’m wrong because there’s a solid chance that I’m wrong here, but I think that the like average, there are other organizations that are doing reunification work, but I, I heard that the like average for those organizations of successful reunification is around like 30%, is that right? Yes. Okay. And then what percentage of our girls have been like, when we say successfully reunified, are there girls that haven’t been successfully reunified or are we doing, are we, I think you guys are rocking it over there. This is what I’m trying to get to.

The reason why we say our home, our reification of House of Purification is more unique and successful RA rather than those that are existing in, in Ethiopia are because of the different frameworks that we use, we make sure that the, the family and the children stay together. We mainly focus on the sustainability rather than the number of childrens that were are re unified. So out of the 30 girls we may have faced the challenge with one girl, but we haven’t lost, we haven’t lost it yet. We are on progress because the post-placement service to a follow up that we do make sure helps us to know where the family are and yes know makes us know that where we and how we can support the family regain that trusting connection that they had once we rein invite them. So that’s mainly the reason why we said our ours is more successful. Yes, and I mean like a hundred percent success rate and I know it’s not been easy, so I, I don’t say that lightly and it’s because of the systems that you guys use and that you’re checking in on them and, but there’s so much work obviously that goes into it before you even reunify the girls with their families. I know that you’re working with the, not only the girls, but you’re also working with their family and trying to, you know, help them both find healing in that, which is just incredible.

So Cool. Can you tell us just a little bit about maybe what the girls have, some of the girls have gone through before they’ve even entered the House of Hope? I know that sometimes their stories have some similarities. Most of the girls that can join out the House of Hope are victims of different abuse traumas and different challenging experience that meet them, deprive them of their childhood and the laughter that they have to have as a child. So mainly those children are, came from the urban rural side of Ethiopia or so by being offered a false promise for better educational opportunity or for better work opportunity so that they can support themselves and their families. So they’re being tricked and manipulative to come to the city. Those who are, who are born and raised in the city ran away from their home, be due to the different abuse and neglect that exists in the family. So they have been, they have reached their limit of enduring that pain and challenge them. They decided to break out of home and go out on the streets. So mainly false promise for better educational opportunity, job opportunities, abuse, neglect, all sort of abuse are the main reason why they push the girls to go out in the streets. So that’s me, the main factors. Wow, that’s, it’s heartbreaking and devastating and makes it all the more important that you’re there.

And so many, I mean that’s happening to so many kids in Ethiopia, girls and boys, just thousands and thousands. So it’s just, yeah, makes it all the more important Yeah. To talk, I’m sorry Marisa. No, go for it. Just to add on this, some of the girls also came with are forced to leave their home due to the peer pressure that exists because they are, they’re being paid that there is a better chance of having it a better life in the city. And their peers have experienced that. Not only their peers are not the ones who are, are pressuring them, their own families are pressuring the children to go out on the streets because your peer, your friend is doing this in the city and you’re not doing anything in the ho in staying at home. So be supportive, be like your peers and earn some money and support the family. So some of the reasons are just, hmm. And yeah, and peer pressure, especially at that age is even, you know, we all remember being that age, it’s even harder and if you believe that you know something good, you know, other people are doing things that are helping their families and I better do that. That’s just heartbreaking to know that they’re, you know, all being tricked into that and where they’re ending up, which is just devastating, just awful. So once, what does it look like?

Where are the girls coming to us from? Like where did they come from when they entered the home? Like I said, most of the girls came from the rural part of Ethiopia and they end up working as a domestic worker in, in different family homes out when they cannot handle the pressure and abuse, they run out from their workplace and they’ll be staying on the streets of Adi. So police is mainly our source, the police is our main source of providing this. We back on January or something that we did a national training with the police commission, which made us, which created a good work connection and network with the police so they understand the violence that we stand for, the work that’s been done at the House of Hope. So they’re mainly our source of, they’re the main source to provide us for the House of Hope and the others will be the government. The minister of that is our ministry of womens and children, girls, womens and children’s affairs is the other source for our girls. Okay, that’s amazing. That’s incredible. And so cool. I, I know that obviously I know that you guys did that training with the police, but then you also did another training with just leaders from all over the country with and and I think there were over, am I right and there were a little over 300 people there for that training as well.

So you guys just are amazing at building those relationships and teaching people first what these kids have been through and what they’re going through, that they’re not bad children, and then how from the beginning to not cause another trauma in their young lives by putting them in jail or you know, more abuse, but instead getting them to you guys to a safe place where they can come in and heal. Also, I’m so proud of the work that you’re doing all over, your team is doing all over the country, but it’s just incredible. Thank you. Thank you. We have your support too. You know, you do, you know, you do, we all, we all love you so much. So what does the work that you and everyone on your team there do what the girls look like on more of a daily basis? Like how, what are you doing to work with them and help them heal? Like I said before, like what makes Yeah. House of Hope different from other ramification home is the approach that the framework that use in a daily day, day-to-day basis. So we use T B R I intentionally in every activity. So by, by doing, by doing this, we provide the girls that’s the feeling of safety and security because they know their daily schedule, which is placed in, in a place that’s visible and makes them understand.

So the special mothers are mainly responsible in making sure the girls follow through the daily schedule. So the girls are very much aware how their day will be and they’ll not be suspicious or not be worried about how their day will eat. So special moms will be responsible in supporting this and making sure the girls are doing well through bible study devotion time. So this is how the special mother supports the girls when the other care team mainly supports with identifying, tracing the girls family location, where they’re from and why the reason they came from they live their home and work on that area. And the other is we support them, the, our team supports them with counseling service. So they’re provided counseling service regularly depending on the cases. And that’s mainly how what we do every day. That’s amazing. I got to see just a little bit in action and it’s so impressive to see.

The cool thing that I think, or I would say unique thing that I got to experience when I was there was that I was there when some new girls came to the home and were being placed and then we got to come back towards the end of the week and visit again and see the change even in that short amount of time of how the girls were doing that were new and how they were, you could tell like when we first met them, they seemed, and this is just me guessing this, but they seemed nervous obviously I would’ve been terrified. I’m probably putting myself in this too, but it’s a new place, they don’t know what’s going on and, and they don’t know who they can trust yet and they’ve just been through so much living on the streets and then so for just to be days not even a full week later and be back and see that they felt comfortable, you could tell that they felt safer and they’re on a journey. It wasn’t just like some miraculous like change, you know, where they’re like, oh now we’re happy.

But that they really were starting to feel like it, it seemed like they just were letting down and relaxing a little bit and it was so cool to see how all of your team took care of them, but also how the other girls were taking care of them was like so beautiful to watch and how gentle they were with them of like, oh no, here’s, here’s what we’re gonna be doing. And like explaining things to them was just like so beautiful. So there’s no question in that. It just was incredible to see it in person like and how impactful it really is. So yeah, just amazing to add on this like Marisa, like I said, most of the staffs at the House of Hope were working previously with the with AGCI and they’re very much aware about the values and the principles, the mission that exist on a G I and those who have joined currently to the A G A has been going and having the same vision, sharing the same vision. And by doing this, by providing the C B R training, all staff can understand and know how each of us can work together. So the main, the main, the main focus that we do is lead by example for our girls. So we make sure that we have a good connection among ourselves and we make sure the girls receive that connection from day one.

Then through that we make sure that the girls can pay forward with among the new girls. So yes, that’s how it goes. Well you could tell that whatever was happening was so beautiful. So when you’re doing this kind of work with the girls, like why is it so important? Can you tell us just a little bit about TBRI and why that’s such an important part of their healing? And we talk about it a lot on the podcast, but in case someone’s listening that they heard you say TBRI and they have no idea what that is. TBRI is a Trust-Based Relational Intervention framework. It’s a framework and approach, a tool that’s been provided by TCU and our, our a GCI I Ethiopia has been adopting and using it as a main framework to facilitate work that exists in the House of Hope. It, the trauma informed tool. TBRI helped us build a connection and how to empower our girls not only our goals but our the staffs too and how to co show correct the girls. So TBRI is a tool that helps us put all the theories and that things that we have learned in interior to the ground. So it’s, I could, I don’t know how to say, but I may say it’s a bullet, a silver bullet for us specifically because it’s making, it’s working, showing a progress on the ground.

So yes, I that’s that’s totally the right way to say it. I think that’s perfect. Yeah, that’s, it’s exactly what it is. It’s providing that framework for healing, for real healing. And it’s not like a quick, it’s not a quick fix necessarily, but if you are following the framework for it, it provides that place an opportunity for healing and then also gives the the kids, anyone and kids, adults, whoever is learning it, like the tools that they need to be able to continue healing far past their time in the House of Hope. And it’s for any, it’s for kids, anyone that’s been through trauma and yeah, AGCI didn’t create it. I’m glad that you mentioned TCU, Texas Christian, they’re the ones that created this beautiful framework and it’s, it’s made such an impact on the work that, you know, we’ve done at AGCI and that you guys are doing ev in practice every day. So just thank you for explaining it. So I know, I know, and we’ve kind of talked a little bit about this, but I know there are other organizations that are reunifying kids in Ethiopia and we, we touched on this just based on the fact that we have a really good track record of these kids actually staying in their homes once they’re reunified. But what, what else makes the House of Hope approach unique?

So I know you have family searchers that are going and looking and then what kind of work has done with the families as well that make this really unique? Prior to the opening of the launching of House of Hope, our care team was doing an, was researching on doing, opening the House of Hope and doing this, they have gathered information from other different reunification, orga reunification homes and what makes our home different from them as they do the tracing and they place the girls, the children on the day they found the finalist, the tracing. The tracing. No work has been done with the family. Just they take back the girls and place that Yeah, that’s the train that’s been done by different Oh, I didn’t realize it was that fast. Wow. That, so as soon as they find them it’s it’s, they just bring them back. Yeah. Wow. On top of that they provide iga like income generating seed monies that’s backfires and makes draws other go other children’s to come to the city and do the same thing and earn that many. So that’s been the train by different reification homes. So by learning from their mistakes, house of Work has not doing that. We do from three up to five family visits. Once the family is located, our family searcher will be doing the first searching of the tracing.

Once the tracing is done in the family is located, we’ll be doing the family assessment, we’ll use our tools, the family assessment, we we’ll assess their holistic development, the family’s economical wellbeing, health, wellbeing, social status, and everything based on that will provide counseling service and one-to-one talks. We’ll be also providing them T b i Right. So that they can understand their children and they can understand themselves and the traumas they have experienced as an US children when they were tested and how they’re passing it to their children. So by doing this, we’ll be visiting the families three up to five times. It’s, that’s how we work with families. The girls will be staying with us from three up to six months. And even if, even though we find the family during the first month or second months will not be transferring, there will not be reifying the children with their families. We have to do few works with the girls and the families. So that’s how we do it. Wow. Well no wonder, I mean, it’s not quick work. I think that’s the biggest thing is and that, I mean, thankfully we’ve been able to learn from other people’s mistakes and hopefully do a better job.

And I’m always so impressed with you guys because I think and the work that AGCI is doing, because we are also always trying to learn and grow and do better on our end and make this something that’s successful and you guys are the, you’re the model, all of you, there are the model of what that looks like to do that work and continue to be excellent at it and do better. So I’m so impressed and, and I think you’re doing the deep healing soul work that needs to be done that a lot of places aren’t brave enough to jump in and do or they don’t have the experience and, and thank God you guys are there and, and doing that work, it’s really so beautiful. So the Home is named the House of Hope, which I just have loved and it was named that because there are so many beautiful redemption stories that are coming out of this work every day and I get to hear a lot of them and it’s what keeps me going and being a part of this and inspired. But can you maybe share a couple of stories that have touched you since you’ve been working there? Sure.

Everyone at the household Hope is very much honored to be a change in that the likes of this girls, so having said this, if I have to choose, there was a girl that was at the household, she lost her mom at the early age and was abandoned by her biological father at the early age too. She lost, she was separated from her biological father, but brother when her mom was deceased during that time, she was also used as a used for begging. Yeah. Her stepfather used her as a way, used her on the street so that he can earn money. After that she was, she got a guardian, but even though she got a family who, who couldn’t take her in, she was, was not loved that much. She didn’t receive the love that she deserves. Mm. So through that she’s started to experience some feelings that son up has not been addressed properly and her needs live to different behavior, bad behavior behaviors, making her do bad habits, get into bad habits and getting conflict with her guardians. So she was placed, she was placed out of the her guardians and given to another foster care, which she would not be able to stay with because of the conflict that exists and unresolved behavior at Alicia that she has been enduring through this whole time.

And that’s when we found her, she was being thrown by the society and hold the foster care system and she was being placed in the government institution. And when she, once she was in the government institution, she has started to experience seizures and starting to fall and due to severe anxiety and an anxiety and depression. Oh. So that’s when we found her and we took her in, we took her in. She was very much willing to come and work with us so that she can help and maybe able to find a family that her family so that she can verify. We know once we, when we are taking her, we know it’s a long shot to find her biological father, but we are hoping to rekindle the relationship that exists with her guardians. So, and hope for that. We brought her into the House of Hope during her first weeks and the House of Hope. She was falling and having seizures twice or three times a day. Oh gosh. But through the love and the care that she saw and received from the special moms and the different, the children’s that were in the home and the other care teams, she starts to trust in the, in the home and she starts the trust on her and she received other medical treatments that she deserves and she started to heal from her anxiety and depression through that. She stayed with us over six months or so.

And during, in, during this time we were not able to locate her biological father, but we were able to locate her brother, her sibling, and we made sure that they get to see each other and we were able to trace other related family relatives, her godmother, and we make sure that she ca she gets that relationship too. But even though we felt to invite her with her other families, we managed to transfer this girl to a like-minded organization that has the support that follows the same T B R I framework. And currently she’s been transferred to that organization and living with that family forever family and receiving good care and attending her education. So love for me being able to restore the hope that she lost and was something that was priceless for me. During her first time. She was very much unsatisfied with her life. She feels that she’s not worthy of love. She feels she’s not worthy of living life itself. She’s not feel, she doesn’t feel she’s worthy of it. So being able to see her smile, stop her crying every day, being able to smile, restore her childhood play, being playful with her peers and being hopeful for the future is something that’s what’s priceless for me. So love, that’s why you love that touched me more. That is amazing. I I haven’t heard that story before, so thank you for sharing it with me too.

And I love, I love there’s just something that you, you said that, oh, that hits me. I’ve just like them being able to reclaim some of their childhood and like laugh again and be silly and play is such a huge part of, of healing. And, and that’s something that these kids have, you know, not been able to do because they’re just trying to survive. So to give that, give them that chance again to be young and playful and have that chance to heal is beautiful. Are there any other stories that you’d wanna share with us? Put you on the spot. That’s, that one stands out more. That’s, I, that’s a pretty good one. I have a lot. I, it’s hard to choose, but, okay. My second favorite might be a girl from the most remote area came to ADIs to be, to live with her uncle. She was promised that she was going to be, she was going to receive better educational opportunity and she was not going to be treated as others, but she’ll be treated as one of their child, child. But once she came to Aade, that was not true. She was not enrolled to school. She was responsible to care for, she’s eight years old when she came to other to House of Hope. And when she came to add this, she was about six years old, some somewhere in that evening. Oh my God.

And she was responsible to care for a two year old toddler. She was six and she was responsible to care for a two year old. And in that process she was being beaten, called names and told that she’s not worthless, she’s not worthy, she’s worthless and that she’ll not be able, she’ll not reach anywhere and this is her life. So that’s what she was being told. And so that’s what she was believing when she came to the House of Hope. So one day she ran away from her uncle’s home. He was, he used to beat her, threaten her. So she couldn’t handle it and she ran away. When she came to the house of fore she was very shy, extremely shy. She isolates herself from the, her peers engaging with the adults is so much far. It was a very huge mountain that she couldn’t climb or can push because oh yeah, there was something frightening for her. But she couldn’t even relate with her peers because she feels like she’s not that much equal with them or not able to at be as a child with them during her stay. She stayed about four months or so. We get to see how she changed because she was very shy. She wouldn’t smile, she wouldn’t come close anybody.

She started to get close to one special mom and she would always be sitting next to her being clingy to her and wouldn’t interact with other girls or with other adults. But through time she started to get more relaxed. More playful. She started to smile. And the fact that what she said when she goes to her home is she get to be happy and be as how she is today through the support that she receive with the moms. And mainly by learning the Bible. She got hope by reading the Bible and during the defor time. So she understood that there is a higher power that care for her and you wouldn’t believe how the way she preached about God and the way she talks about the things that he did to uplift her life and her be as all at some something that I wouldn’t forget when she speaks, nobody can can talk, you’ll be you just, you would be mesmorized by the way she talks about God and how she changed. So wow. I love her story very much. Her, her families were very much happy to see her and until now she has completed the service, post placement service. But she is still strong with her family and she has taken everything that she thought she was taught in the House of Hope and applying it with her siblings. So I’m very much proud of her. Wow, thank that is amazing.

I’m so, I love hearing that. I mean, it sounds like you guys unearthed a a new, a future pastor there. I don’t know. She’s gonna be preaching about God’s love and how valuable they all are. And to hear that that coming from a child that age is so powerful and makes me all choked up. I’ll try not to cry, but I haven’t heard that story either and I just, that’s just incredible. That’s why I could just sit and listen. I won’t make you tell me any more stories, but I could just sit and and listen to these literally all day long. So I I promise you I won’t. But, so what are your dreams for the future of the House of Hope? Like what do you hope for this beautiful place? So many things. My wish for the House of Hope would be to see all of our girls flourish with their families and with their future, with their education, with their whole being and come to meet, come to use their full potential in blossoming in this world. So I want to see all the girls that are coming to the House of Hope flourish and pro prosper with grace, with their own, with their own peace. The other would be, I would like to see House of Hope branch out more. Cause there are a lot of childrens that need to be address that needs the support in the healing. Yes.

Not only children, but by the, by the opening of House of Hope, we can reach out families, communities, and even the i Influe groups. So having another branch or having more House of Hopes will help us, will give us the strengths to make an mark as in the country as a whole. So yes, I want to see the other would be, I want to see boys receive this care too, because they do deserve it. Yeah, I know it’s an affirmation, affirm manufacturing in our case, and the most vulnerable group groups are the girls, but boys are also suffering in the city. So yes, I would like to see those boys receive the care they deserve and the, they, they should be taught that they don’t have to be responsible at this early age. They don’t have to be the bread winners at this age. They are children. They’re, they have to be treated like children. So I wanna see that chance being given to boys. The other would be to have it more in the, for, in the other rural parts of the country too. Because once you stop the main source of this migration and the main cause of this, the load might be reduced, then more children will not be suffering. So I would like to see, did say expand and flourish. That’s, I love it.

Well, on this end, we’re going to do everything that we can for that to happen and are standing with all of you and fighting for this because we also believe this for, for the girls and the boys and everyone there in Ethiopia and everyone everywhere, that this is something that, that they deserve to have and know and experience healing and that beauty in their life and redemption. And it’s just, you’re, you’re living it every day. And I’m just forever impressed and inspired just to see the work that you’re doing with these kids and how, what a huge blessing and gift it is for them. And then for us to be able to hear about it and be a tiny part of it is also so powerful. So as we, as I’m, as we’re wrapping this up, what can our listeners do to support the work that you are doing there in Ethiopia? How can they all be a part of this as well? Like always we want you and all of our listeners to keep all of our girls, our staffs, our country at the same time. And those children who are vulnerable all over the country, all over the world in their prayers because the highest, the highest support, the highest care will be from God. So we want you to keep us in your prayers. And the rest would be, everyone can contribute, can make a contribution in different ways.

Making that contribution, knowing that it’s not too small. It may be they might, it might be small in their own ice space. It might not be small with other o with others because it’s something they might need it so given in any way that they can. So that’s what I want. I love it. Thank you. Well thank you so much for joining me Hosie on this and just sharing from your heart, explaining how you do this work. And it’s, I should also mention we’re recording this with the time change. It’s like dinnertime for you and you’re probab you’re done with work and you took the time to do this with me and it means so much that you would get on and share with all of us. I so appreciate you. Thank you very much. It’s been, it’s an honor for me to be on this because I get to speak up about House of Hope, so. Well, it’s an honor. Thank you. That was Hossana Solomon, a child and family social worker from our AGCI and Tim Tebow Foundation House of Hope in Ethiopia. I hope you enjoyed hearing about the incredible work that they’re doing in the country and throughout Africa.

If you would like more information on how you can personally be involved in supporting this work, please reach out to me directly at M as in Mrs. And I would love to share with you, if you like what you heard, make sure to follow us and rate us wherever you listen to podcasts. Keep up with us on social media by following us on Instagram and Facebook @AllGod’sChildrenInternational. Thank you for watching or listening to together by AGCI.