“I remember the day my mother brought me to my aunt’s house in Addis. She cried so much when she said goodbye and left. For a long time, I always believed she would come back for me. But she never did,” says Sameson. That was the day Sameson lost his mother.
Imagine a life where every breath feels like your last one; where two or three steps lead to you gasping for air; where a simple cough results in you vomiting blood; where even if your heart’s desire is to run around with your friends, it simply refuses to let you.
For Ethiopians, the coffee ceremony is an important social event that brings people of the family or community together. Many people are drawn not only to the coffee itself, but also to the long and beautiful ceremony that gives people a chance to communicate and share ideas.
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.
Shortly after joining the sponsorship program, Rediet and her sister realized that the child development center was their safe haven where they could enjoy their childhood and forget the misery they witnessed at home.
Though the degree of poverty varied and each family’s story was different, these people had one thing in common that day — they had hope. Hope that God heard their plea for help; hope that this would be the beginning of a brighter future for their children; and hope that the children they held in their arms would be sponsored.
“The counsel I got from Zewde, who is like a mother to me, is what helped me be who I am today. She helped me see that if I work hard today I would be a great person tomorrow and achieve my dreams. She used every opportunity to keep me away from my friends who were bad influences on me and give me advice on life. She instilled in me the desire to pursue my education and told me to never lose sight of my purpose,” says Sheleme.
Despite the Ethiopian government’s efforts to eradicate bridal abduction, it’s still frequently practiced in some rural areas. Bridal abduction has been illegal since 2005, but outside of the capital, the law is interpreted very loosely by the police and judges. Hence, girls as young as 11 years old are abducted and are given in marriage to men much older than them.
Preparing students for the Leadership Development Program is a longtime process and one that requires long-term planning. We believe that if we work on the foundation, our children will be competent in any setting. Therefore, we invest in them starting from their childhood.
Destu and her brother lost their parents and were left under the care of their aunt, who was also a prostitute. Destu assumed the responsibility of raising her brother and managing the house since their aunt was never at home to care for them.
Gezahegne is director of Mekanisa Addis Kidan Child Development Center, one of the oldest child development centers in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. When asked to initially volunteer his time as the center accountant in 1991, he said, “For this kingdom work, I will do it.”
The idea for the center began in 1989 through the initiative of Gezahegne and other church leaders who discussed various options to evangelize in the community. After these many discussions, Gezahegne says, “We agreed that Compassion would be the best method.”
At the time, Compassion required only three people to start a child development center – an accountant, a social worker, and a director. Gezahegne’s accounting experience prompted the church elders to invite him to that position.
After Gezahegne’s initial work as the center accountant, he was approached again by the church elders to become the center director.
As Gezahegne reflects on the impact of his program, he says,
“When I was a child, my friends and I had no direction or guidance growing up. Here at Compassion we fight to protect the children from negative influences, and we give them support to continue their education.”
This academic support for the children comes in the form of tutorial classes and money for school fees and materials, including clothing. However, the program also provides for their physical and spiritual needs as well; Compassion gives grains and other food stuffs, hygienic materials, and provides summer and Vacation Bible School and Bible studies for the children.
The child development center is located in one of the poorest communities in Addis Ababa, near the city dump where many beggars reside, pilfering through the garbage to get food.