New store supports children in Ethiopia

Wes Grierson teaches children in Ethiopia his song "So much more than Christmas Day." INNT 51-818CON
Wes Grierson teaches children in Ethiopia his song "So much more than Christmas Day." INNT 51-818CON

Christmas brings more people onto our streets to buy those all important presents, and this year there is a new store to visit in Ballyclare.

‘Hope365’ is a charity shop which raises funds for street children in Ethiopia.

Making the music video in Ethiopia. INNT 51-819CON

Making the music video in Ethiopia. INNT 51-819CON

During the 18 months of the store previously trading as ‘Hope and a Future’, the shop was raising funds for a new disability centre for children in Shashemene, Ethiopia. Thanks to the generosity of local people, this project is now nearing completion.

After the success of raising significant funds for that project, and returning from a visit to Ethiopia, Michael Holmes, the husband of Jane who managed the Ballyclare shop, felt compelled to meet the challenges of a new group of incredibly vulnerable children - namely the thousands of street kids who sleep on the streets of the same town of Shashemene, Ethiopia. As ‘Hope and a Future’ would be focusing on running the new disability centre, Michael felt it was time to start a new organisation to work alongside ‘Hope and a Future.’

‘Hope365’ aim to bring hope every day of the year to the eight to 14-year-olds who don’t even have a bed, let alone anyone to care for them.

Michael explains: “Going out at midnight and seeing what I can only describe as ‘small piles’ of children lying on top of each other on the pavements, really got to me. Through no fault of their own these children have found themselves isolated and alone and living on the streets. Some will have been orphaned by AIDS, while others are trafficked from different towns, travelling on the promise of a job in one of the local hotels in this the largest town in the region.

An Ethiopian street kid. INNT 51-820CON

An Ethiopian street kid. INNT 51-820CON

“Whatever the causes, the terrible dangers of living on the streets are real and their needs are the same.

“We are working with the local authorities in Ethiopia to provide accommodation for children living on the streets. The ultimate aim is to build a series of small family style homes for these children with live-in Ethiopian carers.

“There’s no way Jesus would just walk past these kids and ignore them, so neither should we - God created us all equal and asks us to care for our neighbours. For me that doesn’t just mean Ballyclare.”

Funds are already being collected to start work on this ambitious project at the Ballyclare and Crumlin stores, which both opened in November.

“Its all about sharing - the shops are great because people who have finished with some stuff can leave it into us - clothes, games, bric-a-brac and furniture (we’ll even collect that free) - and then other people who perhaps have a limited budget can benefit from buying these items at really low prices. As well as them benefitting, the street kids in Ethiopia will also benefit,” Michael added.

If you want to help in any way call into the shop at 11 The Square, or call 028 93038792.

Meanwhile, to help raise awareness of the needs of the street kids ‘Hope365’, in association with local singer songwriter Wes Grierson and Burnside’s Jonathan Fleck, have produced a video to accompany Wes’ song “So much more than Christmas Day.”

The song contrasts the lives we in Northern Ireland enjoy, with the struggles facing the street kids. The message of the song is that these children really need us to help them, not just at Christmas. Wes took the time to teach the children the chorus of his song in their own language of Amharic, and this features at the end of the poignant song. The video can be viewed on Youtube or downloaded along with three other Christmas songs for free via the ‘Hope365’ website when you sign up to support the street children.