Life Trek: The Journey Off the Streets

Life Trek: 4-Phase Journey Off the Streets

Lighting the Ethiopian Path (LEP) has developed a holistic model of transitioning youth off the streets that is unique to the Ethiopian context, informed by personal experience of life on the streets, and based on Biblical principals. The narrative of our model follows the four phases of a cross-country trek. We believe that knowing His Word illuminates each step of this trek. This strategy doesn’t stop with shelter or even education, but continues on into a transformed life of servant leadership that is enthused by the intimate understanding of the potential for leadership found in those that walk through the valley of the shadow of death and return to share the lamp that guides each step in faith.

Phase 1: Know the Terrain

Trek the Streets: (Currently In Progress & Fully Funded)

Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint from hunger at every street corner. Lamentations 9:11

Forming a basic level of trust with children whom have been failed by all they have ever trusted takes time. For this reason, our journey must always begin with a better understanding of the terrain these children traverse each moment on the streets. Understanding the darkness of the world in which these children have traveled is integral to helping them leave that world behind. It also prompts us to arise and cry out on their behalf.

Our trained Ethiopian street outreach team spends time under the bridges and in the medians with homeless youth to better understand each child as a person and not a statistic. The goal of this phase is to be a consistent presence and to build trust with the youth and the community. The staff shows that they care by bringing the kids nutritious snacks, listening to their stories, and helping with small first-aid issues. Then the journey begins with a personal invitation from one member of the street outreach staff to join the trek. This staff member now takes on the role of a guide forming a team of 12 kids that will go through a 3 to 4 month-long program together, along with 2 other teams. With the choice made to join the trekking team, the kids are invited to the Trek Preparation Center.

Phase 2: Trek Routes and Destinations

LEP’s Trek Prep Center: (Starting ASAP per funding.)

“A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so they may have life. I want them to have it in the fullest possible way.” John 10:10

The mission of Phase 2 is to help each child consider which path leads to the fullest possible life, provide opportunities for character development through sports, and to assess the child’s readiness for the next phase of the journey.

The Trek Prep Center is a place where a group of 36 children can be coached in the transforming power of a new life for a 3 or 4-month period. Since space is limited, the kids are divided into cohorts of 12 with one mentor per group. The same 12 children complete the entire program with the same team unless they choose to leave the program. As a member of the cohort, the 12-team members help each other through the obstacles of life on the streets while participating in the program each day. Our trained mentors then begin the process of coaching their team. This includes the proven approach of the Lion of Judah Football program where character development lessons happen organically, but our coaches also watch for ways to share life lesson moments with their team all day. The mentor is responsible for each member of the team and becomes the trusted person with whom that the kids slowly share their own stories as they become ready to do so. These life stories inform the ways we customize help for each child. And eventually, the telling of the stories helps the children determine what to do next. Will they return to the streets and leave LEP? Will they choose to return to some portion of their family? If returning to their family is impossible or unsafe, will they commit to the discipline required to move away from street life and into the LEP Transition Home?

Just as one would map out a route before beginning a cross-country trek, this is the stage where mentors help each child prepare for the first steps of a transformative journey. This journey will typically take one of three directions: 1) a return to street life, 2) a reintegration into the immediate or extended family, or 3) the LEP Transition Home.

Under our current license, we must first open a day center before adding the license for residential services to provide shelter at night. During the day, the center will provide the following:

  • Safety from adult and older child predators
  • A place to sleep after walking the city all night
  • A place to shower and wash clothes for better hygiene
  • Breakfast and late lunch
  • First aid, health workshops, and clinic visits when needed
  • Mentoring relationships with Christian coaches/ social workers
  • Opportunities for play
  • Determination of the ability to reunite with a family or join the LEP transitional home phase
  • Lion of Judah Sports Program- including Biblical character development
  • Art and Media Activities that encourage healing through safe self-expression

Please consider the following four project-based funding opportunities within LEP’s Trek Prep Center.

A) Trek Nutrition Project– As Ethiopia’s population of street children are typically suffering from mal-nutrition due to a deeper experience of poverty within the country than in many other African nations, LEP finds it important to provide nutritious meals similar to what one would eat in a lower-class Ethiopian home while building trust with the kids. The provision of food does not create dependency because the children come to the center in cohorts and will leave the program in only 4 months. Their survival methods are not lost as they may still choose to use the street methods they are accustomed to using for non-LEP days or for the money to find a safe place to sleep at night. The provision of enough calories and nutrition to survive decreases the need for children to exchange sexual favors for food. The food is also an important factor in decreasing the use of glue and other narcotics. Just as importantly, it provides the children the respect of offering what any Ethiopian family would offer their children: a simple meal…not a tasteless dish of foreign food to which their stomachs are not unaccustomed, but a traditional meal of primarily vegetables with the protein needed for a growing child. LEP believes that teaching respect for authority and for oneself includes treating others with respect. Street children are always treated as less, invisible, expendable, and dirty. LEP wants them to feel there is one place where they are treated as the children of God that they are. If you would like to make it possible for a child on the streets in the LEP Center program to eat 2 meals a day while they participate in a holistic program that provides the opportunity to change their own lives, please contact us.

Please consider sponsoring the Trek Nutrition Project (5 days per week at $2 per day) for 36 kids for around $1440.

B) Trek Health and Safety Project– Children on the streets of Addis Ababa are prone to several very specific injuries. The most common is an extremity being run over by a car while sleeping on the median between two lanes of traffic or while walking between cars as they beg at intersections. Tuberculosis, water-borne diseases, and simple colds can be fatal due to the sleeping environment and decreased nutrition. Poor hygiene is expected for a homeless child, but also increases the spread of disease. Providing places to shower and wash their own clothes provides a safer environment for all. In addition, a guard must be kept on the premises at all times for the safety of the children and to help break up fights common with kids still on the streets. For all of these reasons, we both desire to help improve the well-being of the children in the program and are required under our license by the government of Ethiopia to employ a nurse or public health representative, as well as a guard, to help diagnose and treat the children who attend programs at the LEP Center and provide for the safety of the group. LEP will also need to take children to a local clinic from time to time when injuries or diseases require further treatment. Our public health nurse will also provide basic classes on preventing the spread of disease and the basics of WASH as they enter the program. The LEP Center Health Program also includes clothes washing supplies, the provision of a place to shower, a hair cut, and basic first aid supplies as needed by the nurse.

Please consider sponsoring the health of 36 children in the program for $400 per month.

C) Trekking with the Lion of Judah– God blessed LEP with great success in the previous Lion of Judah Football program with youth from an impoverished community where many were on the verge of homelessness. With over 360 participants per season and thousands of community supporters, this is a proven way to make character development applicable to real life. The Lion of Judah Sports Program is an excellent tool for sharing Christ and is the heart of transformation for the center. Teams will even continues into Phase Three for those in LEP transition homes. Each trained, Christian coach acts as both mentor for their team and the social worker to each team member. The conflict resolution skills gained, the lessons on the importance of honesty and respect, and the organic way that the Gospel comes to life happen both on the field and off due to the relationships built during the Lion of Judah Program. Hope comes alive in these moments!   This is where a child chooses the path of transformation rather than life on the streets.   This is also where a child first realizes that they are no longer alone in the journey.

As a licensed NGO in Ethiopia, we are not allowed to evangelize, but this is the phase where the true Lion of Judah is first introduced through the relationships with their team coaches, stories of God’s love, and activities of the character development program. The testimonies of local staff, most of whom have lived in similar circumstances of debilitating poverty, are what truly touches the hearts of the kids.

The salaries for our carefully chosen Christian staff, sports and art supplies, curriculum development, workshops, use of community sports fields, team-building activities, marketing, office supplies, and especially the ongoing training of Christian staff that make the first three phases of the ministry possible are all included in this program. Without this, we are merely meeting some immediate needs, but with no eternal impact. With the Lion of Judah Program, we are giving youth a glimpse of the path with a purpose that is better walked together. For those that reunite with family, this could also be the beginning of a pathway to transformation for an entire family.

Please consider sponsoring the Trekking with the Lion of Judah Program, integral to LEP’s Model of Change, in total for $1800 per month.

D) The Trek Home Project– Family reunification is often the best possible solution to child homelessness in Ethiopia.  We have found that many children leave rural areas for the perceived opportunities of the city and then become stuck in a vicious cycle of isolation, exploitation, drugs, and prostitution to survive. If there is a relative or close neighbor that is willing to accept the child back into their home and treat the child in a safe manner, then LEP feels this is best for the child. If this is not an option, the child would move into LEP’s 3rd Phase, discussed more later. Unfortunately, family reunification is neither easy nor inexpensive. Not all children are ready to leave life on the streets, be it due to the perceived freedom or the fear of reproof for what they have become since they left home. Readiness for change, be it reintegration with family or transition to life off the streets, must be assessed first. When LEP staff determines a child’s readiness for the next step, we help the child choose the best path off the streets with a focus on returning to family if it is safe to do so. This requires a trained social worker able to assess the family situation to ensure the safety of the child. It also requires counseling with the family and child, as well as follow-up home visits following reunification. Because most children on the streets have come from rural parts of Ethiopia that are often many hours drive from Addis Ababa, a healthy reunification requires a long-term commitment to both child and family. Returning children home is a beautiful thing when done properly. As more children are reunited and more families participate in the reunification process over coming years, we hope that the journey of reunification becomes the most traveled pathway off the streets.

Please consider sponsoring the Trek Home Project for $500 per month during the first year of operation.


Total 2017 Trek Prep Center Operating Expense = $4140 p/mo

Due to the generous donation of an anonymous donor, the rent of the location is covered for approximately the first 9 months (depending the final rental price). In 2018, we will need to increase support to cover the rent of the location.

We are also thankful for the generous support of our partners in ministry – Made in the Streets, who are providing 34% of the operating expenses for LEP’s Trek Prep Center.

See “Future Plans” for Phases 3 and 4

For questions regarding sponsorship of a project, please contact us at Thank you for taking the time to consider joining us on this journey.

Tax-deductible charitable contributions (EIN: 26-2489892) may be made via PayPal on the website or by check made payable to Lighting the Ethiopian Path, 812 S. Orange Drive, Los Angeles, CA, 90036.

In Him,

Dereje & Mindi Aleme

Founders, Lighting the Ethiopian Path




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