Many girls from Ethiopia’s rural areas move to the cities, lured by the idea of securing well-paying jobs. Their biggest desire is to live better lives and bring themselves, as well as their families, out of poverty. While only a few of them find something close to what they desired, many end up endangering their well-being.
Etagegn was 14 when she came to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital and its largest city, with a population of about 3 million. Like many girls from her village, she wished to find a job that would make it possible for her to realize her dream of attending school and making a living.
Girls like Etagegn often start as housemaids, work Etagegn had no trouble finding.
“My family was poor. There was hardly any food in the house. Sending me or my siblings to school was a luxury. When I saw the girls from my village who went to work in the city, I wished I could be like them. They send money home and wear nice clothes.”
After working for a year and a half, Etagegn married a man she met in her village. But the man she thought was going to love her forever and support her soon opposed everything she did, including Christianity.
“I thought I was lucky to find love and a husband to support me. But I was wrong. Once he married me, he became a different person. He forced me to choose between him and Christianity. I was pregnant at that time and was afraid to lose him. So I chose him over my religion.”
Life became harsh for the then 15-year-old, who had no one to depend on when her husband abandoned her.
Seven months pregnant at the time, she had no money for rent and nowhere to go. The girl who came out of her family home with high expectations was forced to live on the streets, begging for her daily meal.
“I hated life. I was confused, because I didn’t know how I was going to deliver my baby on the streets and how I was going to raise him if we both survived.
“I prayed daily, asking God to forgive me for betraying Him, and begged Him to rescue me and my baby. By far, those days were the lowest points of my life.”
The Lord answered Etagegn’s prayer when an old woman approached her on the streets, asking her what she was doing there so close to her due date. When the woman heard her story, she took Etagegn home, and told her she could live there until she delivered the baby.
Soon after, Etagegn delivered a healthy baby boy.
“When the old lady approached me, I felt like I was forgiven. I thanked God for not forgetting about me.
“She took me home and gave me a corner to sleep in. I delivered my baby in the hospital and came back to her home.
“Since I was the one who cooked for us, when I came back from the hospital there was no one to give us food.
“Though I was happy not to give birth on the streets, I was sad to not be able to take care of all of us.”
It was during that time that a woman who came to visit the old lady also brought good news to Etagen.
She told her of an organization helping mothers and children in poverty and Etagegn was registered with our Child Survival Program three days after she gave birth to her baby boy, Yohannes.
Etagegn was in a desperate need when she came to the church. She didn’t have anything to eat and couldn’t nurse her baby because of the lack of food. In addition, she was unable to give her baby a bath and he was in a state of poor hygiene.
“God made it possible for me to live again. He rescued me and my son from the grips of death. My health is back, my beauty is back, I have a son who is healthy, I have been favored by God. For me, the Child Survival Program is where my life began to change.”
It has been a year since Etagegn and Yohannes joined the Child Survival Program. They receive various forms of support, including food supplies, clothing, medical care, hygiene materials and various trainings.
“It’s amazing what has changed in our life within the past year. My son is growing up with all his needs being met.
“My neighbors say that he seems to be from a rich family with all the care he gets. The trainings I get on parenting, hygiene and work ethics are invaluable. The Child Survival Program staff have shown me love and they accept me just as I am.”
The change in Etagegn’s life that is most important to her, though, is the fact that she has made things right with God.
Etagegn used to be a singer and sometimes taught the word of God in her hometown church. Today she is on the right track in her spiritual life with the Child Survival Program staff teaching her the Bible and praying with her.
She hopes to be an evangelist in the future, and she wants to be a role model to her son concerning his spiritual life.
In addition, Etagegn recently started to learn how to read and write for the first time.
“The Child Survival Program has made it possible for me to realize my dreams of attending school. They are teaching me how to read and write and I’m eager to join a formal school and continue my education.”
Currently, Etagegn is staying with her friend since the money she earns washing clothes is not enough for her to rent her own place.
“Thanks to the Child Survival Program, my son and I sleep with a full stomach. I feel loved and protected because I know the Child Survival Program staff will be there for me. I only see bright future concerning my son and our life.
“The fact that I have accepted my Lord again means so much for me because that is my foundation. God chose Yohannes, my son, from the womb and gave me the means to properly raise him. He rescued me from the streets so that I can serve Him again.
“God used the Child Survival Program and transformed our lives.”