Author: Salesian Missions

Publication Date: June 09, 2011

ETHIOPIA: A Life Saving Meal

Seeing Deguna's smile today doesn't show the hardship he has lived through in his short 6 years of life. But it does reflect the love, medicine and education provided by the Salesian Missions.  He also serves as a witness of the hope that comes from being cared for.

Deguna arrived at our Feeding Center in Dilla, Ethiopia on a hot summer day with his mother and younger brother in search of food. He wore a blanket over his face and entire body – only his big brown eyes could be seen peering out. Other children threw things at him, leaving only the imagination of what existed under that blanket.  He never spoke a word, only sounds of grunts and groans were faintly heard.

His family was welcomed in for a “meal” and Deguna had to be fed because the blanket hindered his movement. Soon this little family became regulars at our Feeding Center and one of our Salesian Lay Missionaries, Jayne Feeney, took special notice of Deguna, wondering what lie beneath the blanket. As time went on, Deguna became more and more comfortable with Jayne’s feeding and the general surroundings. Jayne was soon dubbed “Mother of the mango boy”, as she would carry him, pray with him and even brought him to the informal school program where she taught.  For Jayne and Deguna, being introduced into the community happened simultaneously as they both struggled with the official language of Ethiopia.  Other than sleeping, anyone would know that the boy with the blanket would not be far from his foreign mother.  As people witnessed the relationship grow, an attitude of acceptance gradually came from the other people in the village.  As for Deguna’s health, Jayne knew that his skeletal frame mimicked rickets, caused by a deficiency of vitamin D due to lack of sunlight. Her plan was that the two of them would sit in the field during the 2 hour meal time and in exchange for the rosary beads that fascinated him, Deguna made the trade of the blanket for the beads.  The ritual time with Deguna continued and after 4 months of food, medicine, vitamins and lots of love, it was time for him to start bonding with other children.  He was physically and emotionally ready.   

Today, Deguna is six years old and weighs 45 lbs, his weight almost doubling in one year. He no longer lives in isolation and has become quite the character, mimicking most adults he meets. He attends school everyday and although he is learning to speak Amheric, the national language, his English has gained him respect from all walks of life because it rivals that of a grade 9 student.  Although a rough road still lies ahead for Deguna, he approaches every day with a genuine happiness that only a child can possess and relishes in a new sort of freedom from shedding a layer of shame.


Dilla is a small impoverished market town in southern Ethiopia, with an estimated population of 125,000. Many children in this area were orphaned due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Salesian Missions programs in Ethiopia are committed to improving the lives of youth.

How your donations may help our missions in Ethiopia:
send a child to school for a year $20
– a doctor's visit $10
– de-worming medicine for a  year $12
– malaria treatment $7
– school uniform $20
– a notebook, pen and pencil for the school year $5
– pair of plastic shoes to protect feet $3
– mosquito net $10
– crackers/biscuit for breakfast and dinner per child $7
– water jug for well water use $4
– one year of school for college prepatory classes $40
– soap for 1 week of hand washing and showers $15
– puts a post high school person to school for lab technicians or nurses or other much needed health care extenders $150