Missing teen back with family [winnipegfreepress]

Girl new to Canada finds shelter after losing her way home

By: Carol Sanders

Police took 17-year-old Bethelihem Zeleke Eliso home to her distraught parents early Tuesday evening to whoops of joy from her family and church members, who’d been holding a vigil at the family’s apartment on Talbot Avenue since she was reported missing Monday.

“She’s lucky to be alive,” said her exhausted, emotional and relieved father, Zeleke Tuloro.

It was the second tearful reunion for the family in less than a month. In December, he was reunited with his wife and three children for the first time in 12 years after having fled Ethiopia in 2002.

Monday morning, Tuloro drove Bethelihem and her 15-year-old brother, Nathanael, to school from their home in the 200 block of Talbot Avenue. Bethelihem was last seen Monday around 11:45 a.m. leaving Elmwood High School alone, her dad said. Later, she was spotted on a surveillance camera walking along Union Avenue several blocks away, he said. The petite 5-5 teen was wearing a red coat.

“I think she went to go home, and she missed the way,” said Tuloro, who’d been up all night and was driving around the area looking for his daughter Tuesday.

At the time she went missing, Environment Canada reported it was -33 with the wind chill.

Police on Tuesday asked Elmwood-area residents and businesses to check outdoor storage sheds, garages, vehicles, behind buildings and along any fence lines and treed areas where she might have sought shelter. Her mother, Zenebach, and older sister, Kalkidan, 22, were distraught and in tears. Her father calmly said he had faith Bethelihem was OK — that she’d found shelter or someone had taken her in out of the bitter cold.

He was right.

She found a vacant home without any furniture and spent the night inside, her dad said. The homeowner showed up Tuesday and found the Ethiopian girl, who spoke little English.

“The owner of the house said ‘What are you doing here?’ ” said Tuloro, recalling what the police told him.

The girl told the homeowner she’s a student at Elmwood High School. He called the school and the school contacted the police, said House of Covenant International Church pastor Yohannes Engida, who was there when police brought Bethelihem home. Police weren’t prepared to comment Tuesday on the girl being found or to say where Bethelihem took shelter, other than to say she was found alive and OK.

Tuesday night, her overwhelmed father said he didn’t want to comment further, other than to say he was grateful to Winnipeg police, friends and the media for helping with the search for his daughter.

“I appreciate that,” he said.

Tuloro was joined in Winnipeg by his wife, Zenebach, and three children on Dec. 11.

In an interview just before the arrival of his family, Tuloro talked about being reunited with them.

“I’m very lucky,” said the man, who works as a security guard. In 2002, he was a teacher living with his wife and kids in Nazareth, Ethiopia — a city 90 kilometres outside the capital Addis Ababa. He was active in an opposition party that won the government election but was overthrown by the military. Authorities arrested and interrogated journalists, party members, doctors and teachers. Some were killed, he said.

Tuloro fled to Nairobi, Kenya, where he worked as a private driver. Extended family in Ethiopia helped take care of his family, he said.

After 10 years, Tuloro made it to Canada as a refugee. Within a year of arriving, he applied to bring his wife and kids through Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s “one-year window of opportunity.”

They qualified because Tuloro immigrated as a class of refugee who had to leave his immediate family behind due to circumstances beyond his control and identified the family members left behind in his original application to come to Canada.

He said at the time he’s grateful to Canada’s immigration system and its people. His family’s reunification was a dream come true.


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