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On November 8th Lucia Giubbi and Martino Montanarini left from Florence to visit Marcella Montresor, director – on behalf of the Exodus Foundation- of the Smiling Children Town (SCT) reception center for street children in Soddo, Ethiopia. At that time, while the SCT building was still under construction, Marcella was hosted inside the compound of the Vicariate – owner of the SCT Center – and happened to meet Busajo, a former street child who lived downtown. The two of them, with very little money but strong determination and commitment, started a recovery path aimed to help the street children of the city. A first group of 12 kids started gathering by Marcella’s room on afternoons, which so became an infirmary, a food and clothes distribution point and mostly a meeting place.


Lucia and Martino decide to support the SCT Center, in which Marcella has moved, activating a fundraiser mainly in Florence and throughout the national territory, thanks also to the collaboration of the Giunti al Punto bookstores; this fundraising allows for the structuring of social interventions and on 3 April the Busajo Onlus association is officially established.

Between 2009 and 2012 the Montanarini family made many trips to Soddo.


In this period, Busajo Onlus fully covered the expenses of the SCT Center, hiring and training educators, providing for the financing of the school enrollments, for board and lodging costs, as well as for the training and the recovery of about 80 children in residential program. In the following two years, it also supported the implementation of other projects, always in favor of the street children.


In fact, the Association started a collaboration with the Abba Pascal Girls School in Konto. Over 900 among little girls and teenagers – coming from very poor families – attend this school, starting from kindergarten to graduation exam. Busajo Onlus contributed to this entirely feminine project by supporting the expenses related to the staff and teachers, participating in the completion of the sports facilities and by printing and donating various school books.


Busajo Onlus also supported the project for the construction of the Zaimene kindergarten in Shanto, an extremely poor village, where a nursery school for the many local children was missing and urgently necessary.

In June Lucia and Martino, once the construction, furnishings and start-up of the Smiling Children Town educational project have been completed, decide to undertake a new autonomous path, always for street children, also aimed at girls. In December, the association buys a new car and rents a house for Marcella and Busajo.


2013 was a very intense year, dedicated to filling papers and asking for permits for the construction of the new Campus. The association promoted many fundraising initiatives in Italy, worked intensively both on the drafting of the new educational program of Busajo Campus and on the architectural project of the compound, donated by the Arch. André Benaim. In January, the association was officially recognized by the Ethiopian Government and in February obtained the approval to start running the children educational program. In March the children began to attend Marcella’s residence in town. On April 19th the new website went online. The procedure for the first land identified by the authorities is not successful, so in March Marcella and Busajo send a request to the Municipality of Soddo, which assigns a land of about 35,000 square meters to Busajo Onlus.

The works to prepare the land started in October with the deforestation followed by the measurement of the borders and the fencing.


Once the ground was ready, the construction of the house for the Country Manager started, together with the one of the Main Building that would host the children. In January, the Association rented a big apartment in town to accommodate the first group of 30 children, in order to start their recovery process, while the Campus was under construction; a second group of kids arrived in September.

2015 – 2016

In March 2015 Marcella moved into the Campus, actually a construction site at that time, and set up a temporary office in the guardian’s house. In November, the association rented a second apartment in town to welcome the first group of girls, starting so the new and unique feminine recovery program.

At the end of 2015 Sports Facilities were completed as well as the excavation of the artesian water well. Children in program, still living in the rented apartments, began to attend Busajo Campus solely for outdoor activities. The construction of the Girls House and the Professional Workshops building began in October 2016 and in November the children finally could move into the newly finished Main Building.

Meanwhile in Italy, in addition to the traditional Christmas Markets, yearly organized since 2009, Philippe Daverio offered his participation at the “Contemporary Art Auction for Busajo Campus” on the 11th of May 2016, beating the works donated by about 50 artists. This profitable event remains unforgettable for the generosity of the participants and the spirit of joy and vitality that animated the auction room.

In December 2016 Busajo Onlus obtained the registration with the International Cooperation and become an NGO.

2017 – 2018

During these years, the Association increased the number of members, enhancing fundraising to meet the costs of the construction of the Campus. In September 2017, the Second Auction was held again with Philippe Daverio and in April a delicious “Charity Egg Hunt” event took place at the Serre Torrigiani in Florence.

In compliance with the regulations for NGOs, the Association opened an operational office in Florence with a Secretary Service open in the mornings.

The construction site proceeded with the replacement of the old wooden perimeter fence with a solid and safe one, made of concrete, bricks and stones. While the new stables and the Guest House were being built, the furnishings and finishing of the other buildings have been completed.

2019 – 2020

A beautiful concrete and wood Tukul with a traditional thatched roof has been built for outdoor activities during the rainy and the very hot seasons. The last but not least building of the Compound was built in 2020: a Gym with showers, hygienic services and changing rooms supporting the Sports Facilities. Now also boys and girls from the residential area in non-residential program can access and use the sports fields independently. The works at the Campus are finally over.

To celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of the foundation, Busajo Onlus organized on April 3rd 2019 a “Fundraising Charity Lottery”, thanks to the donation of a precious gold and diamond Africa-shaped pendent, offered by the Fratelli Piccini jewelry, together with other four prizes by other donors.

2021 – 2022

Despite the pandemic, the association continues to raise funds and pursue its objectives.

In 2021, from June to November, the association is dedicated to building a school in the Bakulo Segno area to allow more than 1000 children to start or resume an education path.

At the end of October 2021 the book “Busajo – Girls and children looking into the distance” goes to press. 12 years after its foundation, Busajo Onlus wanted to tell the story that led them to the construction of Busajo Campus. A safe and welcoming place to carry out the educational project for the recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration into the family and society of the many street children of Soddo in Ethiopia.

In 2022, the association built around 40 houses in the villages of origin of the boys and girls included in the recovery program, in order to support the poorest families and encourage the future reintegration of minors. The intervention was carried out with the precious contribution of the Fondazione 153.

Thanks to the renewed support of the Uefa Foundation for Children as well as Mastercard and the contributions of the state Otto per Mille and the Waldensian Church’s Otto per Mille, it was possible to implement the project for the expansion of the carpentry professional training workshops and the construction of a new building for the weaving workshop, necessary to meet the growing number of requests for participation from Busajo Campus users.

Carpentry workshop:

Weaving workshop:

Following the Reform of the Third Sector and the registration in the Runts (Single National Register of the Third Sector), which took place in November 2022, the association changed its name to Busajo NGO ETS.

Busajo Campus, the educational project from its origins to today:

The first approach with the children, to whom the recovery program is addressed, takes place on the streets of the city. During the five years of experience with SCT, this has been proved to the best way start a relationship based on mutual confidence and trust. The educators explain the possibility of a change of life, through a demanding but successful path of commitment, based on the compliance of the Campus rules, in an atmosphere of strict education but also warm affection and indulgent tolerance when necessary. At the end of the program, the reintegration into the family, school and society will be solid and lasting. After the insertion in residential program, the children move into the structure, go back to local schools, participate in remedial courses, recreational and sporting activities and acquire socialization and coexistence abilities. The Library, Classrooms and Sports Facilities offer them learning spaces,, for an average period of stay ranging from 1 to 3 years.

In order to run this program it was necessary to hire educators – not only for the first contact on the street but also for the monitoring and protection of the minors during their experience in the Campus, as well as for the daily execution of the project. Almost 40 operators, all Ethiopians, are currently employed, including tutors, accountants, teachers, cleaners, cooks and guardians. On average, between 70 and 80 children participate in the residential program, attending the city schools in alternate shifts – morning and afternoon.

However, a significant part of the work of the staff takes place outside the wall perimeter. In fact, the operators carry out to the families of the children in recovery program all the necessary tools, in order to restore the family socio-sanitary and economic conditions, in view of the reintegration. Counseling, legal assistance, micro-credit for the mothers and prevention, engage daily the educators of Busajo Campus in the rural areas where the phenomenon of the street children comes from.

The Professional Training Workshops are active for the more grown up children (aged 15 to 18). The teachers of weaving, carpentry, bamboo processing, soap and bread making, as well as the guardians of the stables and the vegetable gardens, teach the children useful trades for the acquisition of practical skills that will lead them to a working activity and will enable self-sufficiency and independency, once they return to the external society.

The girls’ program is in fact more challenging, as it is a “pilot project” in Southern Ethiopia, one of the very few in the whole country. The reason for this lack of attention by the Social Services lies in the difficulty – common to many poor countries in the world – to access the child prostitution racket. In addition, some kind of tribal culture is still deeply rooted in the most isolated and remote areas of the countryside, a culture that tends to minimize and even hide phenomena of slavery and exploitation.

The girls hosted at the Campus reside separately from the boys and require an intense care as far as their psychological recovery is concerned. They attend schools, share moments of sport and play with the male children, but most important, they learn to regain self-confidence and hope in their future.  During their stay they also learn hygiene rules as well as instructions for the house care, they learn how to cook and look after their babies, since some of them, although very young, arrive already pregnant. Beyond school education and housekeeping, they attend the Campus Workshops Labs to acquire a professional knowledge, that leads them to autonomy when back into our Fosters Homes first and society secondly.

This short story mentions the person of Busajo right at the beginning. Being himself a former street child, with his commitment and the example of his life he inspired in us the desire to offer to street children – who have fallen out of school and are begging to survive – a chance for a better life. Busajo was only 17 years old at the time this story started. Ever since then, he is looking after all the children involved, from the very first group and throughout all these years. Having lived on his own skin the hardness of being a street child, now as a young man he comprehends all the difficulties and obstacles that kids encounter during the recovery program, and is the best educator ever. He finished his high school studies and earned two degrees: one in Psychology and one in Pharmacy at the University of Awassa.

Today he is the Staff Director and in 2022 he obtained his Master’s degree in Economics. That is why the Association Busajo Onlus is named after the person of Busajo: EDUCATION = FUTURE