Compassion's the Road from the Trap of Generalisation

Oct 30 , 2021
By Eden Sahle

Three of my cousins, born and raised in Canada, visited Ethiopia a while ago. Their parents are originally from Eritrea, but it is not as easy to relocate there. It was their first-ever trip outside of Canada and the first time visiting Ethiopia. But they were not excited about it. At a tender age of under 10, they all grew up hearing about how awful life is on the African continent, and Ethiopia is no exception. They had to come here kicking and screaming.

Their parents decided they would be homeschooled for the length of their stay in the country. Their ambition was to expose their children to a culture and language shared by Ethiopia and Eritrea. They also wanted their children to understand how challenging life is on the other, far less prosperous side of the world.

At first, the children were uninterested in their parent’s roots. They cried during the entire trip and the whole of the first night in Addis Abeba. They said their parents are abusing them by bringing them to Africa without their approval. They felt that they came to a new miserable part of the world where nothing looked or seemed nice.

But then they started exploring Addis Abeba. They instantly loved the country, the food, the people and even the women. They thought it was better than Alberta, Canada.

After four weeks with us in the capital city, they left for the regional state where they quickly started to pick up the local language and made friends living in extreme poverty. They were incredibly sad about the level of poverty they witnessed there. It did not take them long to grasp that life in Addis and in rural areas does not compare on many levels.

Unlike most children they met in the capital city, the ones they met in the regional state did not go to school. Neither were they fed with balanced meals necessary for healthy physical and mental development. Instead, they work on family farms and rarely get to wear shoes. These children taught many life skills to my cousins.

There was a dramatic shift from the attitude my cousins came with and the love, the compassion, and the strong bond they left with to Canada. They started raising funds in the North American country to buy shoes, exercise books and pencils for their friends back in Ethiopia. After a few months, they had started communicating in the local language, teaching the children what they learnt in school back in Canada.

My cousins came to Ethiopia crying and left sobbing. They felt welcome, learned responsibility and gained exposure to just how hard life is for children their age in Ethiopia. It was heartwarming to see that they treated one another so well despite their disparate socio-economic circumstances, better than most adults would these days.

They have realised what makes people treasured is not their economic situation, country, or ethnic background. A big lesson the majority of adult locals should be taught. My cousins knew people both in the capital city and the regional state as individuals and their particular stories touched them deeply. It was impactful for them to find a reality different from the generalisations perpetrated about African countries.

These children teach a lesson to most adult Ethiopians who categorise people like this and that and hate them because of the general information they hear about them. Even at such a young age, they found that generalisations misguide us. It is damaging to us and society at large.

Aside from a unique set of compassion children have, their positive mindset about everyone and everything compels us to imitate them. Like the way children grow, we all should mentally mature, finding our lost humanity, innocence, care, and compassion for others.

PUBLISHED ON Oct 30,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1122]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at

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