Kyle in Lake Assal, Djbouti

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Finding Dube

The street boys in Bahir Dar have a wide range of reputations, mostly negative. For many reasons, a lot of boys come from families that cannot afford to put them through school, so they works as shoe shiners, minibus doormen, or selling small items like tissue paper and lottery tickets. Others have no job at all, so they wander the streets, sometimes drunk or high on Chat. The ones who work are often so persistent in their attempts to sell things to tourists that they can be quite off-putting. The ones who drink or get high can be obnoxious, and even dangerous.

All these preconceived notions toward street boys make it hard to give them the benefit of a doubt. A little over a year ago, I met Dube. He's a smart, funny, and kind-hearted boy, who attends school in the mornings, but has to work his afternoons to help support his family. It's amazing to watch him charm the tourists with his impressive English speaking and honest approach. He never tries to scam anyone, and is upfront about just looking for honest pay for honest work, like carrying bags or guiding people to their destinations. While many of his peers are ripping people off and doing drugs, he's sticking to his morals and getting by with integrity.

Whenever I run into Dube, he's always warm, and remembers not only my name, but detailed accounts of what I've told him over these last 12 months. I honestly enjoy his company, and he's been a huge help with some small tasks, like buying souvenirs at a fair price. In exchange, I'll buy him a juice or some lunch. Never soda, never coffee. Something nutritious. I also bought him an English dictionary when he got me out of a jam.

I don't know where he lives, and he doesn't have a phone. I haven't seen him in a couple weeks, which is no reason to be alarmed, but I want to find him. Before I leave, I want to see if there's anything I can do to help him. I'm not in a position to send money after 4 years of living on a very tight budget, and sending money just creates dependency on outsiders. I want to be sure he has a plan to finish school, and doesn't end up carrying bags for tourists for the rest of his life. I have a couple weeks left, so I'm going to get him in touch with some local organizations before I go that could help him and his family. He's earned his stripes.

Sometimes the system works. Let's hope this can be one of those times.


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