I have always  loved the world, to discover other cultures, other horizons. By a report of the BBC and CNN, I learnt that Ethiopia had the only center on the autism of all east Africa, the Joy Center. I thus decided to go there.

After a long flight, I finally arrived to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. It was Sunday. To my first surprise, the internet was not everywhere. I took advantage then thus of the nature in a flowery garden. On Mondays mornings, I saw children dressed in uniform who went away at the school. In the afternoon, in Ethiopia, we can see children playing in the street.

In the center for autism, I noticed several moments when the children were in euphoria during certain activities. Even myself, I was happy to see the children in this state. I saw a staff loving the children.

I was able to meet the owner of the center, Yenus, the Ethiopian mom who created this center to help her son Jojo suffering from autism. She is a very kind woman. But on her shoulders, she is having the responsibility of all the children of her country who have autism. And it is a heavy responsibility because financial means are enormously lacking.

Often, the handicap is not a subject which attracts. Sometimes, the cultural reasons make that the handicap is seen in one way or another. But what is sure is that no mom or family to the world will give up on their child. Then Yenus created a school made by particular ingredients.

What Ethiopia can teach you, it is that the Joy Centre is a center where the children feel good there. I think that the main reason is that there is a lot of love and dignity. I learnt that the Ethiopian people are respectful people.  But if it is working, it is because the owner put it her soul.

What matters is the heart. If the nursing staff of Joy Center gets out of it well, it is because the staff has human values, sense of duty with regard to their country and to the moms who are suffering, … And it makes all the difference.

In Ethiopia, I lived magic moments, the young Nuru who retained my first name, children who loved my company, a staff who welcomed me as one of their people and moments of learning mixed by tenderness and by respect for the child.

Yenus is as many moms of the world in front of the autism of his child. She passed by all the feelings: the denial, the anger, the big despair, the questionings, the distress, the acceptance to finally take action. But the sadness is never far.

I think that my moms (and my families) deserve that we stop to take time to listen to them and to offer them a help. Because after all, if it was us these parents in pain, we would also want to receive help for more dignity and love making sparkle and dazzle a stronger nation.

Nawale Harchaoui,

Psychopedagogist, psychomotor therapist and international social entrepreneur.


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