A particular four-story, concrete building is set apart in one of the most dangerous and poor neighborhoods in Addis Ababa – Ethiopia’s capital city with nearly 3.5 million people. The tallest structure in the neighborhood is a school, built and run by Hope for Children Ethiopia. Every day it serves 1,400 students between the ages of 5 and 16. Without it, most of these children would never receive a formal education; and for half of them, it’s their first step out of slavery.

More so than any other place in Ethiopia, our time spent at the HCE Freedom School reminds us that hope, restoration and change is real and tangible. Roughly 700 of the students at the this school are current or recently-rescued victims of forced servitude, living in 12×12 foot sweatshops. The small mud huts are their prison, where they eat, sleep and work for abusive shop owners.

Our brief visits to a few of these shops were enough to make us queasy, and many of the thousands of slave children in Ethiopia know no other life. But the Freedom School is changing that with radical action.