Fetene Yezengaw’s heartwarming story is well-known to Leader readers. The Ethiopian native has been in the United States for more than a decade after fleeing from his home country, where he was recruited as a child soldier. Last year, Yezengaw (a crossing guard at Harvard Elementary) was reunited with his parents through the help of the Heights community—and the community has once again come to the aid of their friend and neighbor.
During the course of the Ethiopian civil war, Yezengaw lost one of his legs and now requires a prosthetic in order to move around—which he does in a manner so joyful many do not even notice. What is noticeable, however, are the medical costs associated with repairs to the prosthetic necessary to help him walk without pain. And though he is accustomed to being the one helping people cross safely, Harvard’s Girls On The Run is turning the tables to help their beloved friend get around safely and pain-free himself, offering to organize a bake sale to raise funds and help Fetene pay for the costs, which would be upwards of $5,200.
A GoFundMe page has also been created on Yezengaw’s behalf to account for costs incurred as the result of treatment and more.
“It takes my heart away. It is so nice,” Fetene said. “I am amazed what can happen when these kids get together. I love how the children want to help me.”
As of press time, Girls On The Run’s bake sale raised about $800, while the GoFundMe page had raised more than $10,000 by press time, and the group hopes to use the extra funds to help Fetene pay for any additional medical costs. Yezengaw just recently lost his health insurance and second job, leaving him unable to cover the costs himself.
“He’s just this amazing guard that is so engaging and funny to all the kids, and it’s so nice to see that 12 girls could make such a huge impact in one person’s life because of this. He’s got all kinds of people who want to help him,” group leader Cheryl Hensley said.
Girls on the Run requires community service as part of the curriculum, but Hensley said inspiration for assistance grew from the girls’ desire to go above and beyond a city or area-wide project and give back to someone who has selflessly given so much of himself to the Harvard community.
“I think it was just a perfect storm. Here’s a person who needs help, and by circumstance one mom had been talking to him trying work with him a little bit,” she said. “She suggested doing something to help Fetene, and all the girls went absolutely crazy over it. He’s always happy and engaging and makes you want to roll roll your window down to talk. He brings so much joy to children because it was so absent in his own life growing up.”
“They’re just so caring, loving and supportive, and with what the program’s trying to promote, it was just a perfect fit to reach out to someone who we see and interact with on a daily basis,” she added.