Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | May 2, 2014

A Deeper Awareness

Adi Haroush and Mai-Ayni Refugee Camps in northern Ethiopia

Walking slowly among people who are struggling to survive in difficult places can change you. Prior to coming to Ethiopia, I had read about the plight of Eritrean refugees — especially the unaccompanied minors living in the refugee camps. Caring for unaccompanied children presents special challenges for the agencies that aid refugees. Those challenges certainly came into sharper focus for me this week.

The first stop for Eritrean children who have fled to Ethiopia without their parents is the transition center in Endabaguna. While adults and families are processed quickly and then transferred to one of four refugee camps, unaccompanied children tend to stay much longer — often months longer. This waiting period is tough because the children have nothing to do all day. No school. No sports equipment. No planned activities apart from meals. Nothing.

Adi Haroush Sign
After spending two days with the unaccompanied kids in Endabaguna, we drove on winding mountain roads to visit the kids in the two refugee camps that accept unaccompanied minors. Our first stop was at the Adi Haroush Refugee Camp located at the outskirts of the small town of Mytsebri. Unaccompanied kids at this camp live in group homes under the watchful eye of house parents who are also Eritrean refugees. The kids at this camp have some structure to their day. They are expected to attend either school or one of several vocational training programs.

A short distance down the road from Adi Haroush is Mai-Ayni. Of the 18,500 Eritrean refugees in this camp, 468 of them are unaccompanied minors. The downside to this camp is that there is no school, only a large soccer field where the kids can pass the time. The kids at both camps have little more than the clothes on their backs. We were given permission to distribute clothing at both camps. I have never seen a more organized distribution or more polite and grateful children.

Cover Kid
Our partnership with Innovative Humanitarian Solutions includes helping to fund a secure dormitory for girls at Endabaguna and providing bunk beds for both the girls and the boys. In addition to that, we would like to hire a teacher(s) so that the kids at this transition center can at least continue whatever education they may have started in Eritrea. We agree that adding some structure to the daily schedule can make a big difference in the morale of the kids who are waiting to be transferred to one of the other refugee camps.

Fence Boy 2
The stream of unaccompanied minors from Eritrea will likely continue for some time. As this particular segment of the refugee population grows, aid agencies will continue to face even greater challenges. As Christ-followers, we should be concerned about the welfare of children like these, who through no fault of their own have become the victims of an oppressive government. We can and should work to change their world, to help them experience the love of the God, and to teach them that they are valued by God.

No Orphans
There is a responsibility that comes with having a deeper awareness about the plight of those who are hurting and in desperate need. Once you know, looking the other way is no longer an option. Like the good Samaritan, we must instead respond in a compassionate way. This summer, we will once again challenge the kids who attend Kingsland’s Vacation Bible School to make a difference in the lives of children they have never met.

Leslee and Boys
Leslee McWhirter, Kingsland’s Interim Children’s Minister, and I have videotaped the story of the unaccompanied minors. We will share their story every morning at VBS and challenge our kids to help make a difference in the lives of the hundreds of kids who come through the Endabaguna Transition Center. We will also tell the story of these children in the next issue of our Go Beyond Just for Kids magazine. I can hardly wait to see how God will once again use our kids to bring glory to His name among the nations.


  1. I have been praying for you and following your blog daily. So blessed by what the Lord is doing through your team! Glory to God! May the Lord open up the heavens and pour out blessing, pressed down, shaken together and running over into the laps of the Kingsland Kids families such they can scatter their gifts abroad to the poor.

    • Thanks for following our journey, Cathy. Thanks also for your prayers. We have a unique opportunity to love and bless these Eritrean kids who have been through so much. Trusting God for good things as we proceed.

  2. I’m following the account of this endeavor with great interest. How I would love to be there, but health does not permit. With every entry, I’m struck by the beauty of these children, and particularly by the joyful spirit that shines in their eyes, despite the grimness of their situation. May God bless each of you as you try to improve their lives, and teach them about the God who loves them, through it all.

    • Thanks for following our journey, Lanni. The Eritrean kids are indeed beautiful. Grateful for the opportunity to serve them.

  3. This truly is such a huge need to pray & minister to these precious children who have no one.

    • We are indeed grateful for the opportunity to help provide for the needs of these kids.

  4. Omar, these children appear to be well nourished. With the poverty and droughts is malnutrition a major problem for them?

    • The kids are fed well at the transition center. None of the kids had any complaints about the food. They were all grateful for the regular meals. They do not always get a lot of meat, so we bought four goats as a special treat. They enjoyed this meal!

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