Aster Asfaw Demissie

SOS Children's Villages Representative International Office Region Eastern and Southern Africa

Living the vision

Watch the story trailer

Children and adolescents are fantastic and fascinating to work with. Watching them interact with their environment and each other is one of the great benefits of working for an organisation like SOS Children’s Villages. Unfortunately, there are a few young adults who misbehave and disrupt others. Sometimes, these are major disruptions and sometimes minor but, in either case, they can be extremely frustrating. Finding yourself in a situation with a young person who is misbehaving can be extremely unpleasant and sometimes a little intimidating, but with love and respect you can navigate these disruptions, or in some cases, avoid them altogether.

There is this young man, who was rebellious, dissatisfied, angry and rude. Whenever he would come to the national office to request financial support, he argued with people, screamed and sometimes insulted co-workers who deal with young people. I always asked myself why he was acting this way. What was wrong with him?  How can I support? Although I was not dealing with young people at that time, I asked my supervisor to give me an opportunity to support the young adults. 

One beautiful morning, this young man came to my office. He opened the door abruptly and stood in front of my desk. He said “I don’t know why but I was referred to you” his voice was so loud and thunderous that I didn’t pay attention to what he said but just the way he said it shocked me. I replied to him with a clam and soft voice “Good morning, please sit down”. He looked at me with tension and shouted I need money, I didn’t eat for the last two days, I slept on the street. I understand I said, Please sit down and we can talk about it, I offered him tea and bread before we started our conversation. I saw his face becoming bright after he finished eating the bread and driking the tea.  Then I sat next to him and asked him a little bit of details about himself. He shared some of his childhood memories which were not so pleasant. Although he was relaxed to talk to me, he didn’t trust me fully so he asked me to give him money and wanted to leave. I politely explained to him that I want to help him to change his current situation. However, I didn’t force him to talk about it but gave him some money that would help him with food and accommodation for two days and asked him to come back after two days. I also told him that these two days is for him to think about his future. He left my office with hope and shining smile in his face. After continuous support and guidance, he completed vocational training, and has been recruited in a private company. He is now leading his own family and has become a contributing citizen.

My colleagues told me that day was the first time he left the office without insulting or shouting at people. They asked me what I did. I told them that I only gave him love and respect. I listened to him and showed interest to his story. I didn’t judge him but rather tried to understand him. I attended to his immediate need. It is difficult to talk to people while they are hungry. I tried to spread out hope to a boy who thinks that he has lost it. I believed in him so that he starts to believe in himself. I earn his respect because I respected him. I was just living our vision:  “Every child belongs to a family and grows with love, respect and security”. Let me ask one question. Is our organisation’s vision alive and active, or is it something that is only talked about? I believe that the power of vision is at its best when it is practiced and lived day in day out by all people in the organisation.  The story I just shared with you shows how I live the vision in a small way. 

Aster Asfaw Demissie

is SOS Children's Villages Representative  at the International Office in the Region Eastern and Southern Africa. 

I am from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I am the CVI Rep (Children’s Village Representative) for Ghana, Nigeria, Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia.
I have a background in organisational leadership, sociology and accounting. For a good six years, I was the national director for SOS Children’s Villages Ethiopia as well as a continental strategic planning facilitator and member of the management council. Prior to SOS Children’s Villages, I worked for various NGOs like: ACORD, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). 

Aster, in ancient Greek, stands for “STAR”! It is also a privilege I enjoyed as the fifth child in a family with five sisters and four brothers. I am married for fifteen years now. Though having no children of mine, I find blessings in the many children I am blessed to work with. Moreover, I enjoy the great blessings my parents are alive and doing pretty well. Just last year, they celebrated their 50th year of married life. What a great day indeed.
Bringing in the best I can for individual, community and general development in society is a passion I wholeheartedly subscribe to. I am a Rotarian and I participate in various projects like providing clean water to the community, in polio eradication campaign, mentoring and coaching. I am a member of a forum where women come together to learn from each other, networking and empowering women to higher leadership role.

In my leisure time I like to watch movies with my husband, read books and sometimes hang out with friends and family. I also like to play online games like cards and Sudoku. Besides, I love to explore new places; attend religious ceremonies in churches, etc. Though not often, I cook delicious food during weekends. My husband loves the lasagna I make. Once every two weeks I treat myself as a Queen by treating myself to spa, steam bath, body massage, manicure, etc.