YETEBON, Ethiopia - (WXOW) To understand why Project Mercy is a special place, you must look into the eyes of the children who live there.
More than 40 "house kids" live on campus; most are orphans. Thanks to Project Mercy each child has a home, a sense of security, and more importantly, family.
His shy smile and soft spoken nature may lead you to believe that Berchernett is a carefree kid, but there have been days this 15-year-old struggled to survive. Berchernet was living on the street, trying to care for his four younger brothers and sister, when Project Mercy's founders invited Berchernet and his siblings to live at the compound.
"God gives them to me.", explains Berchernet. Berchernet is one of 42 "house kids" who call Project Mercy home. Each child's story is sadly similar.
"The kids just take your heart away". Lali Demeke knows each of the house kids well. His parents founded Project Mercy. Lali considers each one of the kids family. "The idea is for them to grow up in a family environment. It's a big family here."
The children live in dormitories with a house mom; one for boys, another for girls. They eat together, play together, pray together, and do chores together.
"I like it.", said Tigist. Tigist's parents died was she was young. She lived with her aunt until her aunt married and her new uncle sent her away. When she arrived here ten years ago Tigist was an only child. Not anymore. "I see that in them like the girls are my sisters and the boys are my brothers. Mom and dad are my mom and dad."
Children come to Project Mercy for shelter and food. The things they need to simply survive. They stay for the things worth living for.
Tigist and Berchernet are the top students in their classes. Both dream of going to college. Tigist wants to be pharmacistst. Berchernet wants to go to Harvard to become a doctor or surgeon. The teens say they want to someday pay it forward and help people, like their Project Mercy family has helped them.