Transforming lives in Ethiopia

Gigi’s Story: “We see the world from a different angle.”

Reading time: 3 min

We would like to introduce you to Gigi, a 17 year old student currently in Grade 10 who studied at Mekele Blind School.

Gigi wasn’t born blind. He contracted glaucoma as a small baby and, unfortunately, by the time his parents understood what had happened, it had become incurable. Gigi told us how, “It was very, very terrible in the past and people thought it was curse from God”, including his mother. Gigi’s family travelled for days to see traditional healers, but, with no cure, they believed he would be a burden on them forever.

After years of living in poverty and without hope, Gigi’s uncle heard of a boarding school for blind children in Mekele. And so, at 9 years old, Gigi arrived at the school gates. He was immediately welcomed and accepted and, for the first time in his life, no longer felt frightened or alone. Gigi became determined to learn so worked hard. He loved school so much that he wanted to stay during summer holidays and continue reading braille and listening to the radio.

Gigi Reading braille

Today, Gigi is living independently in the local community and is going to the nearby secondary school. His fierce determination has helped him learn how to shop, cook and care for himself. Without the support of SENEthiopia, Gigi would not have been able to prepare for independent life away from the school.

You see, when Gigi first attended classes, there were no textbooks in braille and so he relied on his sighted friends to read them to him. Furthermore,

“…as a blind student they had classes that we couldn’t take, for example science, maths, physics, chemistry and sports. This narrowed our future.”

However, SENEthiopia were determined to solve these problems. They stepped in to provide Gigi with a talking textbook; a handheld MP3 player with voice recordings of every textbook he needs. Gigi has even shown Hester, our Youth Ambassador, how to use this during her visit in July 2019! He enjoys learning English most of all and excels in all his subjects. In fact, he is incredibly intelligent and has the highest score in his class, even above his sighted friends.

Gigi and Hester

Often, when children like Gigi reach secondary school, they have to live by themselves: walking to school alone–often on the road and down busy streets—with nothing but their memory to guide them. There are also overwhelming noises and smells, rocky and unpaved paths, and social stigmatisation that causes exclusion and often bullying.

SENEthiopia and Mekele Blind School have torn down these barriers and provided the means for Gigi’s dream of being a lawyer to one day become reality. Gigi said:

“I think we’re changing people’s positions and attitudes. We see the world from a different angle.”

Please help us raise £20,000 to help impaired children stay in school, improve their health and wellbeing, and enable them to one day see their dreams become a reality too.

Click here to donate today.

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