A Story about Mamo and Lire


Mamo is a thin, strong 5 year old with a big smile when he’s happy. He doesn’t remember his parents. He doesn’t talk very much, and then only utters a few words. He isn’t sure if he ever knew his father, and his mother died when he was an infant. All he knows is that adults at the orphanage give him his meals and tell him when it’s time to go to bed, and that all the other children must follow their directions too.   His best friend is named Lire. They play together every day even though Lire is older- he’s seven. They like to pretend that they are brothers just like two of their other playmates. Mamo and Lire have fun games and vast imagination that they cling to every day, as well as relying on each other. Some nights they go to sleep hungry, but there is only a certain amount of food available at specific times and they know that it is not for them.

The boys live in a crowded yet clean orphanage in Addis Ababa. They have never experienced living in a real family that truly loves and cares for them. They haven’t learned to read yet, although Lire is always curious about everything. He wants to learn math and be a smart boy. Mamo just wants to play and have fun. Neither of them is completely safe, because just a few weeks ago a child went missing at the orphanage. He is 10 years old and no one has been able find him. There have been rumors going around about the child’s disappearance. The police came and took notes, got photos, and interviewed the staff. So far there has been no sighting of him. The children hid when they saw their uniforms just to make sure they hadn’t come to get them. That scares Lire, but Mamo doesn’t realize the danger. He’s only 5 and thinks that the missing boy is just on an adventure.

Some orphanages have more support staff than others. Some orphanages have high standards of care and others lack the infrastructure. Mamo and Lire live in one of the better ones, and yet they still have unmet needs.  Although these two children are fictional, the story about orphans is unfortunately real.

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