Saturday, September 28, 2013

Native Ethiopian and Covenant Soccer Star Earns Success; Pays it Forward

Girma Baker
Imagine you are five years old, living by yourself on the streets in Ethiopia. You are so poor you have no family, nothing to eat, nor a place to sleep at night. Imagine not knowing your own name because there was no one who knew who you were.

This was the unbelievable reality of Covenant soccer star, Girma, until a Charlottesville family changed his life.

Girma explained, "You would wake up in the morning and people would be rushing to work and you'd be rushing to find food to eat."

Girma had no family, no income and he didn't even have a name.

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"I got sick in the street and went to Mother Theresa's hospital," said Girma. He explained, "I don't remember my name. They gave me a name there."

His sponsor helped him pay for a bit of schooling, but he worked different street jobs to fend for himself. He said, "Sometimes I don't even attend school because I had to work."

Girma kept his homelessness a secret until he was in 7th grade. His math teacher found him sleeping in the street. Girma elaborated, "She woke me up and she took me to her house."

She ended up telling the faculty and the school gave him more support

"I don't want everybody looking at me down," said Girma. "I wanna be on the same page as them...I didn't know when I would leave, but I was waiting for something to take me away from there."

Thankfully the Baker's and their children traveled to Ethiopia from Charlottesville to teach English at an all girls school.

Needless to say, their only son, Benjamin, needed to be rescued from this female entourage.

"They are great, but they are sisters," said Benjamin.

Girma's sponsor told Benjamin's mom, Julie, to meet Girma at the market. Hours later, Girma's love for soccer rubbed off Benjamin.

Benjamin said, "he took me the zoo to the soccer fields all around the city."

After their day together, Julie Baker made it her mission to bring Girma back to the states and adopt him.

"This is really somebody I wanna come alongside," said Baker. She added, "He's hardworking and honest. He just sort of attracts your attention because he's kind."

"That was a miracle," said Girma.

Girma started school and soccer at Covenant his sophomore year. Now he's a senior and has offers to play division one soccer in the fall. But that isn't his goal. Girma wants to pay it forward and start an orphanage for street children in Ethiopia.

Baker said, "He understands the hardship that they're facing. So that's what we want to help him do."

"That would make me forever happy," said Girma. He added, "That would be huge for me."