Hope restored for brothers found ‘cold and scared’ on the ground of market stall

A brother who has faced bereavement, homelessness and abuse at the hands of criminals has sought out the team who helped to rescue him 10 years ago.

Sharif* and Nassar* were aged just 12 and 14 when they were found huddled together trying to keep warm in a market stall in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.

Ten years on, Nassar has been reunited with those who helped secure the boys’ freedom.

“If it weren’t for the intervention of Hope for Justice, I would still be on the streets – hopeless and with no life ahead of me, still being abused and exploited, or even worse,” 24-year-old Nassar said.

The brothers were the only remaining children of eight siblings living at home when their mother died in early 2009. She and their father ran a small shop, which supported the family and paid for the children’s education. However, the cost of medical treatment and a funeral caused the business to collapse. Their grieving father, who also suffered from a physical disability, could no longer support them.

Nassar said: “The situation was so bleak at home. There was no food and we were unable to return to school. We felt we had no choice but to try to make our own way. We had heard that life in the city was better – there would be jobs, food, somewhere to stay.”

But Nassar and Sharif ended up sleeping on the streets near a bus station. They were forced to beg, carry luggage and wash dishes in a local restaurant to earn a few coins or a meal. They were harassed, beaten and abused, even by police.

In October 2009, two outreach workers from Retrak – which is now part of the Hope for Justice family – discovered the boys. They were invited to a drop-in centre.

The team was able to reunite the boys with their father. They provided a start-up fund to help get his business back up and running, and the boys were re-registered at school. Their hope was restored.

Just a few days ago, a smartly dressed young man walked into the Hope for Justice office in Addis Ababa.

Maggie Crewes, who is now Hope for Justice’s International Programme Operations Director, said: “I greeted a tall young man. I asked his name and my brain did a double take as I tried to match this now grown man with the young, skinny boy, dressed in rags, who I first knew.”

Nassar has just graduated from Ambo University with a degree in rural development, and his brother Sharif has almost finished an accounting degree.

“This is why we do this work,” Maggie said. “To see lives changed, to see children set free, to see them flourish and achieve their dreams.”