Fresh lease on life for Ethiopian teenager now living in Cornwall

Fresh lease on life for Ethiopian teenager now living in Cornwall
Beti Girma prepares some traditional Ethiopian tea.

CORNWALL, Ontario – Seventeen-year-old Beti Girma continues to look out the front window of her Cornwall home with wonder.

Not because the grass is green and there is a crispness to the air.

It’s because it’s so quiet. Girma is from Ethiopia, and until late March when she looked out the window of her home in the capital city of Addis Ababa – which measures it’s population at 4.1 million – there were simply reams and reams of people.

It was on March 23 that she made the move to Cornwall and took up residence with Sandra Knight and her husband Scott. The Cornwall couple have already adopted four children from Ethiopia, and took Girma under their wing a few years ago.

They helped her with schooling and other facets of life in Ethiopia, but were only recently granted permission by Immigration Canada to bring Girma to this country to stay with them on a two-year student visa.

Girma said making the move to Cornwall has been eye-opening, and could eventually become life-changing.

When asked about some of the biggest changes she’s experienced since making the move to Canada, Girta answered without hesitation.

“I can eat three meals a day…maybe more,” she said matter-of-factly. “And it’s so safe here. I feel safe.”

Ethiopia remains a work in progress, both economically and politically. If residents wish to talk about the economy, or the government, it’s done in hushed tones, and only with trusted friends or family.

“To her, this is a dream,” said Sandra Knight. “We were helping her as best we could. But we wanted to get her to Canada.”

Knight, who has made as many as five trips to the African country since she and her husband adopted their last two children in 2007, said the country continues to struggle despite a young population that is educated and motivated to work.

But it appears a lack of jobs and a withering economy is holding young people back.

It’s why she wants to see Girma not only succeed at high school in Canada, but perhaps move on to post-secondary studies as well.

The problem is, it won’t come cheap. Because Girma is a non-resident, her education at Holy Trinity Secondary School must come out of pocket – to the tune of nearly $12,000.

A traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony will take place May 26 at Ecole Rose des Vents from 3 to 5 p.m. The event will act as a fundraiser to offset some of the costs of putting Girma through school.

For more information on the ceremony, contact Knight at 613-360-2966.

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