More Than the Required Number

Galaanee’s Wishes Really Did Come True

Galaanea lives in Holleta, a small town southwest of the capital city of Ethiopia. She is from the Oromo people group. In her first language, Oromifa, Galaanee means, “more than the required number.” Her mother died in childbirth but she had already born five other girls and six boys. Gelaanee is the only member of her family struggling to complete her education. The rest of her family survive as illiterate sustenance farmers — hours away from any village.

Things were processing as they do in extreme poverty until Galaanee’s father died last year, leaving Galaanee without any support. She did her best going from house to house trying to find work for food and a place to sleep for the night while still allowing time and energy to study. She is in the tenth grade, the year of her national exam that will determine if she is allowed to continue to preparatory school or if she will proceed to vocational training.

The day I first met Galaanee, she was part of a group of 50 who had just been accepted into the Trampled Rose project. This provides needy school girls with shelter, food, a required school uniform, required school supplies, menstrual care allowing her to attend school every week in the month and the self confidence that comes from knowing someone cares. Although I have talked to several thousand girls similar to Galaanee, she was the worst case I had seen.

I was conducting the entrance interview in the dark grey school director’s office when I leaned over to touch Galaanee’s arm and give her a little squeeze. It felt as if her body were a hard shell. I now understand that she may have already begun the process of emaciation. My breath left my body. There were still an estimate of two weeks before the Trampled Rose project could be up and running.

My instincts told me Galaanee couldn’t make it that long. We continued our small talk when I noticed that Galaanee and I were the only two people remaining in the office. This is actually not allowed because the responsible parties need to ensure that I am doing nothing religious nor political. I put my finger over my lips to indicate she needed to remain silent and I reached into my purse to give her enough money to survive until further help came (less than four dollars). I then saw something I have never seen before, Gelaanee bent over and almost vomited with gratitude all the while keeping our secret. I’ll never forget that moment.

My husband and I just returned from a field trip Friday to check on the progress of the girls and deliver “wish bundles.” I saw the group of girls waiting for me with Galaanee at the front and center. She is still thin but there is flesh on her bones and she told us that she is now able to focus on school instead of hunger.

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