An atypical typical life story

by Ruth Bücker,  2011/09/26

A lot is written and spoken about the situation of refugees; but nevertheless, only those who were forced to leave their homes due to different circumstances can really imagine what it means to be a refugee. If we even want to imagine this situation, is another question.

In the year 2010, 43.7 million people fled their homes. Their only hope was to reach a refugee camp. Photo: humedica/Judith Kühl

It is hard to imagine the hardship they went through. And the feelings, personal experiences and thoughts of the refugees are buried deep in their minds. At the same time for the public the things individual persons have seen and gone through become insignificant in face of the soaring number of refugees.

Alarming statistics of the United Nations Refugee Agency show that last year 43.7 million of children, women and men had to flee their homes. They fled from political upheavals, from environmental emergency situations, from overall poverty or natural disasters. And these statistics do not yet include this year's massive refugee flows at the Horn of Africa, Syria or Libya.

Getnet Tache Gebrewold is one of these 43.7 million people who could safe their lives - threatened and without perspectives - only by means of fleeing their homes. A flight into the unknown that was accompanied by many obstacles and challenges.

At this point we would like to tell you the story of young Getnet, who will give a face to the millions of refugees all over the world. His story is not a typical life story, but nevertheless it is typical for millions of other persons who depend on our help.

"I had responsibilities"

Getnet is a young man of the age of 27, who has already gone through enough experiences for an entire lifetime. On September 21 of this year, the Ethiopian got out of the train on German ground. After three years of hardship, fear and terrible experiences he finally reached the country where he had hoped to find a better future when he left Addis Abeba, the capital of his home country.

"I had responsibilities." His mother Mulu (Photo) and his sister were the reason for Getnet to leave the country. Photo: humedica/Susanne Merkel

After finishing his school and professional training, Getnet had worked in the banking sector a little outside of Addis Abeba for two years. However, he lost this job and with his young, and probably a little naive "African" way of thinking, as he describes it himself when thinking back, he wanted to leave the country in order to achieve more. The only possibility to achieve anything at all.

"I had to leave for my mother and my sister, in order to be able to provide for them", he reported on the day of his arrival in Germany. "I left, because I wanted to support them and earn money abroad so that I could send it to them. I am responsible for them." Getnet's mother is ill, his young sister cares for her, but she could not find a job after finishing her training.

For Getnet, the rude awakening from this dream of a better life he had lived so far came soon after his arrival, in Sudan. Together with 29 other refugees he crossed the Sahara in a small vehicle. Getnet said he had been lucky; others had been crowded into a truck together with 300 other refugees, like animals.

The planned destination of the trip was Tripoli in Libya. But it all went differently, as the persons who had organised the trip suddenly wanted more money. They would only drive on if their passengers paid.

There was no drinking water. They were only given engine oil and gasoline. The food, which was scarce to begin with, was reduced to one slice of bread per day. "They continued to tell us that, if we didn’t pay, we had to stay behind in the desert. What was worst was the fact that we didn't have anything to drink." Many of the other passengers had not fled from extreme poverty like Getnet and they could organise the demanded amount of money with the help of relatives and friends.

And so they travelled on. Many of his companions died due to the exhaustion, dehydration or diseases. Accidents happened almost on a daily basis. Why did the young man not despair? "Because I couldn't do anything, in the middle of the desert. I could only wait, pray and hope."

Refugee camps are no permanent solution for the people, but nevertheless they are a first step towards future. Photo: humedica/Sven Ramones

Enduring the exhausting journey paid off and when he arrived in Tripoli, Getnet got a job as cleaning staff at a hospital. But when at the beginning of 2011 political upheavals led to violent riots in many places, this place no longer was a safe refuge. And he still did not earn enough money to realise his dream and provide for his family.

By means of evacuation measures organised by the Church, Getnet was taken to Italy a little more than two years after he had left his home and family. "They took our fingerprints and for the time being we were taken to a centre for persons who had fled to Italy and taken refuge there. The act of giving my fingerprints obliged me to stay in Italy", reported the Ethiopian.

"Together with twelve other men I lived at a container near the airport for two weeks. We were given food and drink and after we had been registered as refugees, we were provided shared accommodation for seven persons at a camp. Later I could move to a place near Florence."

For three months, Getnet lived near Florence together with refugees from Afghanistan and Eritrea. An Italian relief organisation had employed an Italian teacher who taught the language to Getnet and many other persons living in shared accommodation with other refugees. Being a refugee he was entitled to 140 euros per month, which he received partly in cash, partly in form of vouchers.

In order to be allowed to leave the country you arrive in as a refugee and where you are registered and recorded, you need to get a residence permit and complete separate paperworks. After spending about four months in Italy, Getnet received these papers. Now he is allowed to stay in Italy for five years. He is also free to travel within the EU states, but without work permit he can stay in the individual countries only for a period of three months.

What is his biggest wish? "Currently, I am trying to receive a work permit for Germany. I want to earn money to send it to my family."

If he were given the choice to have a personal dream of himself fulfilled, what would he wish for? He wearily answered that he didn't need anything for himself, he just wanted his single mother and his sister to lead a good life.

Giving hope

The motto of this year's World Refugee Day is: "One refugee without hope - is too many". For Getnet a time of hope is now beginning after his flight. Hope that he will no longer have to worry so much for his family and that all the hardship he has gone through was not in vain.

Giving hope where it seems lost long since - that is possible thanks to your support. Thank you very much. Photo: humedica/Stefan Herla

In order to give back hope to more women and men who share Getnet's fate, humedica committs itself at the Horn of Africa by means of running sustainable projects both at refugee camps and the surrounding villages, the inhabitants of which also are struggling to survive in face of the drought and hunger.

In order to provide future perspectives, humedica is also active in Italy, where, together with partner organisations, we are currently making plans for sustainable projects in Sicily. It does not matter if the refugees fled their homes due to a war, a natural disaster or poverty.

Because there is one thing all these persons have in common: their home is a threat of some kind that is so prominent that they do not see any other possibility than to flee. One refugee without hope is too many. Please help us to help our fellow people and to give hope.

Apart from the currently running relief measures at the Horn of Africa, we would also like to ask you to give hope to the refugees in Italy together with us.

      humedica e.V.
      Donation reference “Refugee Relief Italy”
      Account 47 47
      Bank Code 734 500 00
      Sparkasse Kaufbeuren

Thank you very much!

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