My recent travels brought me to Jinka, Ethiopia, home of OMO CHILD. Omo Child rescues and cares for Mingi Children from the Omo Valley tribal region of Southwest Ethiopia. Since 2008, they have been rescuing children deemed Mingi (or "cursed") from certain death, providing them with a safe, loving home and a quality education. OMO CHILD also works to end the devastating practice of Mingi.
It is known that children do best when raised in a family environment. In the Omo Child community, children are raised in a loving, nurturing environment. All of their emotional, physical and educational needs are met. The nannies, nurses and Omo staff have been carefully selected to insure that the family-like setting is full of love and kindness. This provides children with emotional safety necessary to meet their developmental milestones.
The children who are considered mingi cannot reside with their birth parents in the villages where they were born. Although the mingi stigma continues, the slow process of introducing them to their parents is taking place. The Omo Child Foundation provides transportation for the Omo childrens´ families in order for them to visit their children
When asked how Omo Child impacts families effected by Mingi, Zeritu Tsedale, the head nanny, replied, “We are slowly introducing children back to their families. They love reconnecting with their parents.” Zeritu always makes the visit a positive experience; for she realizes how difficult it must be for the parents and the child.
The children who reside at the Omo Child home in Jinka, Ethiopia are rescued by Lale Labuko or by other Omo Child Staff. Lale and his staff that are vital when negotiating with the tribes to ensure that Mingi children can live at Omo Child. In my travels, I had the pleasure of meeting Tsegay Alfa. He has rescued 2 babies in the last year, Kayia and Musse.
Tsegay is the main mediator between the tribes and Omo Child. He lives in Turmi, near the Hamer villages, total community estimated 40-50,000 people. He is usually first to hear the news of the Mingi practice in the community. When this happens he calls Omo Child.
“In the Hamer tribe, the Mingi practices still lives. We are working to educate the community to stop these practices”, said Tsegay.
The most recent rescue is a story about a young Hamer tribe mom, Balo. She left her tribe when she found out she was pregnant, with her son Musse, to live with her brother in Turmi, Ethiopia. She does not believe in Mingi.
Balo went against her tribe and the elders to save the life of her baby. She is a leader among other young women and mothers in the Hamer tribe. When she told me her experience she said,” I did this following my own heart. I don’t know about the others, but I will keep telling my story. I gave birth in the hospital, and then I stayed with my brother for four months in Turmi until Omo Child could rescue Musse. I continue to encourage the other women to do the same. Thank you to Omo Child for supporting me and my baby even though my community ridiculed me for being pregnant.”
Balo is now living with her tribe in her village just outside of Turmi. They have accepted her and are happy she is back.
The Kara and Hamer children residing in Omo Child´s Jinka residence are very fortunate to be receiving an education. Hopefully, they will return home and become the future leaders of their tribes. These children attend school and receive much encouragement to engage in enriching educational experiences.
As Omo Child founder Lale Labuko stated, “education and English language instruction for the children of Omo Child will help move the tribes forward. These children will become the adults who advocate for the rights of their tribes in the future. They will grow up understanding and respecting tribal life and it’s traditional practices.”
The children´s respect for the culture from where they came is crucial if they are going to retain their unique Kara and Hamer cultural identities