#BetterTogether- Program Specialist for Addis Jemari, Sophia Kassa
Addis Jemari is sharing with all of you a unique series about the heart and soul behind AJ…all of YOU and how we are better together. Here is a word from our program specialist, Sophia Kassa, and why she agrees we are #BetterTogether.
Where my heart for AJ comes from
Addis Ababa, the city I grew in, is one of the cities in Africa that is rapidly growing and evolving. Urbanization has brought many changes in the daily lives of its residences, including the gradual erosion of the social structures that used to support accountability, tolerance, transparency, and dialogue among community members.
Almost thirty years ago during my childhood, shared enclosures were distinctive and always a recurring feature of Addis Ababa’s residential settlements. Many families used to live in small squares of shared, open compounds that used to endorse strong social ties and neighbourship. These days however, much of the inner city is demolished and replaced by business centers, whereas old forms of settlements are being replaced by condominiums. The city’s peripheries have also expanded by new real estate developments. As the result, dwellings which cater communal ways of social life, as well as the raising of children, are perishing. In light of these changes, the landscape of childhood has also changed and so does the common responsibility to care for children without parents.
When I was a child, there were of course children living on the streets of Addis Ababa, for they fell out of the extended family network. Currently however, we are witnessing an increased number of children in difficult circumstances, placing high responsibilities on us to protect and serve them.
Childhood is part of everyone’s life. Whether it is a present or past life experience, it is either remembered as good or bad. But why do some people remember their childhoods as good whereas others call it bad? Although many factors come into play, I believe, parental care comes on the top of the list. Parental care is vital to the healthy development of children and creates better opportunities for children to capitalize their potentials. Yet, whereas some parents have it all to provide for their children, others don’t. Taking a common responsibility for finding alternatives for children who have lost parental care or are prone to such situations is therefore expected from us. Being from Addis Ababa, I personally experienced one of the best childhoods of my time and became the person that I am today because my community has done a lot for me, on top of what my parents did.
These days, many families in Addis Ababa struggle to get what is needed to raise their children. No matter how much they love their children, extreme poverty often robs their capacity to care for their children. Due to the fast urbanization and associated changes I mentioned above, such families need alternative support systems for caring for their children. I believe, well-planned and coordinated efforts targeted in changing the lives of families in extreme poverty and children in difficult circumstances have the power to lift them out of such difficulties. Such families are resilient and are not in need of temporary handouts but rather seek for forms of support that could ensure self-sustenance. If we all connect to causes that strive to support such families and children without parental care, we can bring positive changes in their lives. My connection to Addis Jemari lies in this strong belief but also in the moral obligation to give back to my community in Addis Ababa that has given me a wonderful childhood.
~Sophia Kassa, program specialist for Addis Jemari