A drop of hope in your eyes

How Art Therapy in Addis Ababa helps children to believe in their tomorrow

JRS East Africa
3 min readMay 28, 2021


Zemen, Art Class teacher, doing some sketches.

Lora was only 10 years old when she arrived to the Child Protection Centre in Addis Ababa.

Original from Eritrea, with no father, her mother left her and her older brother scaping from insecurities in 2015, when she was only 7 years old. The mother scaped to Nairobi.
Lora and her brother were living with their grandparents in Asmara, but they were obsessed with the idea of encountering their mother.

One day, their grandparents gave them some money to buy some things in town, when they saw a bus going to Addis. They thought that from Addis it would be very easy to find a bus to Nairobi and encounter their mother.

So they used the money of the grandparents to hop into the bus and ran to the Kenyan capital in search of their mama. But the journey was not as easy as expected…

One of the children at JRS Addis playing in the patio.

They reached Addis in the middle of the night, no sign of any bus to Nairobi, no idea where to go, what to do…

They were completely lost. They were 10 and 12 years old by the time.

As these kind of signs of God’s will, a good-souled, old Eritrean woman found them in the station. They were able to understand each other because they all spoke the same language.

“Who are you, children? What are you doing here alone?” wondered the old lady. After listening their story, she just took them to her place. Secretly, since her landlord specifically prohibited her to host anyone.

Next day, the old lady brought Lora and her brother to UNHCR, where they were referred to JRS’ Child Protection Centre, as the main partner working in child protection.
The children were traumatized: alone, afraid, abandoned… having seen atrocities back home and frustrated for their failed plan.

The first days in CPC they were terrified, they were not able to smile.

One of the children at CPC painting during their Art Class.

The CPC made a great job by finding a foster family for them, from Eritrean Origin as well. And engaged them in the Day Care Centre activities at CPC: English classes, music and art therapy, karate… and soon were able to be enrolled into formal school thanks to the support of JRS Case Management team.

This paiting was done by Lora one year after their arrival to JRS. When Zelalem, the Art Teacher, asked her about it, she explained:

Painting done by Lora.

“The back is black because of the pain and suffering we left behind… the past is dark, and the girl cries… But now, she is looking in front, and she has hope: the small white light in her eyes, because there is hope in her gaze. I have hope in front of me.”

The children spent 2 yeard in Addis, while the team at CPC were trying to locate their mother and solving the legal issues for them to be accepted to enter in Nairobi.

In 2020 JRS team was able to send the children to Nairobi to encounter their mother. They have been happily together since then.

- for protection issues, the names of the people represented had been modified.



JRS East Africa

Jesuit Refugee Service, with the goal of accompanying, serving and advocating for forcefully displaced people in Ethiopia, South Suda, Uganda and Kenya.