Featured Student – Genemo Ali
Good writers often say that the key to writing is “putting the readers in your shoes.” However, growing up in a small impoverished town in Ethiopia, I did not have any shoes in which to put the reader until I was eleven years old. From the ages of five to eleven, I walked to school for more than two hours every morning and every evening with problems around every corner. It did not matter whether the soles of my bare feet peeled off on the dirt roads of the countryside, melted on the hot asphalt of the city, or endured the numbing cold of winter. That did not stop me from walking to school. I faced teenage bullies and homeless thugs every day, but they did not stop me from going to school, either. I had to cross a bridge that was supported by three old logs with a deadly river lurking 30 feet below, and each time people crossed this particular bridge, they risked their lives and limbs, but not even those logs could stop me from striving for my education. In fact, witnessing these daily obstacles gave me even more reasons to go to school.
Before grabbing my worn out notebooks, each morning I would put on my ragged clothes that were bought during the last holiday. These clothes had been passed down from far-off lands and, as the months passed, I seemingly had a new patch for every new week. Once at school, I felt safe, yet nonetheless I would have to learn each lesson while sitting on the floor with only my lap as a table. For lunch, my siblings and I shared a small container of Injera with a sauce called Wot. These struggles have inspired me to help others who are still as barefoot as I was and fight for a change.
From the ages of five to eleven, I walked to school for more than two hours every morning and every evening with problems around every corner. It did not matter whether the soles of my bare feet peeled off on the dirt roads of the countryside, melted on the hot asphalt of the city, or endured the numbing cold of winter. That did not stop me from walking to school.
I understand the financial and health impacts of not having an education because my mother dropped out of school at sixth grade and my father did not go to school at all. When I was five years old, my father fled Ethiopia due to political issues and, as my mother cannot read or write, my brothers and I would always read my father’s letters for her. Without my father, our only source of income was gone until he would send us a meager 50 birr from the shantytown in Kenya where he then worked.
The first time that armed soldiers brutally stormed through my house looking for my newly-absent father – discovering even just an anti-government newspaper would mean jail for life – my mother’s health became very poor, with her epilepsy soon turning her migraines into seizures about every two weeks. I took care of my mother when I came back from school because her kids were the only doctors that she could afford. By age eight, holidays now passed with a humble meal and no new clothes, and I began selling bags to buy my own clothing and other necessities for my family.
Five years ago, my father reunited us in the United States and now my dream is to finish college successfully and one day open schools in impoverished countries. Through my adversities and seeing other people suffer, I have realized the importance of education and helping those who are in need. Many children living in third-world countries lack many important necessities, such as having an ambulance to get them to hospitals, suffering from diseases due to dirty water, and most importantly, missing parental supervision and care. These children end up on the streets because there are no organizations to provide them with housing, clothing, education and food. The key to solving these problems is equipping these young people with a proper education, and, based on what I have endured, my dream is to set up an organization that would build schools and provide homeless orphans with the means to graduate from high school with shoes on their feet, clothes with no patches, lunchboxes filled with nourishment, and medicine in their cabinets.
While it may be true that good writers put readers in their shoes, my dreams and aspirations are to put orphans in shoes that can help them cross educational bridges with hope in their heart and knowledge and success in their minds.
Reality Changers Class of 2011