where there are no orphanages

Most orphans do not live in orphanages.

With nearly 6 million children orphaned in Ethiopia, the solution lies in strengthening families and communities to care for these children within the local households. Often a grandmother, aunt, neighbor or older sibling struggle to care for young children. Food is often scarce and school fees difficult to come by.

Family capacity is increased through participation in our Thrive Together program. Struggling households work in peer groups to set goals that will increase healthy habits, literacy and school enrollment and ultimately have an income generating activity. Over time, with knowledge and support, these households progress from a state of crisis to stability and hope in the care of their families.

i came home with more than i gave

My first trip to Ethiopia was March 2010. I met up with an amazing group of individuals at the Germany airport and began a journey that changed my life.

Gracious. That is the word that best describes the people of Ethiopia. From Woudneh and Betty (the couple who organized our stay in country), to the young children in the town of Dera, the kindness and graciousness of this people was evident everywhere you were.

Some highlights of my trip included: teaching children patience with the help of Kierstin, Katie, and a box of crayons; watching an elderly man draw a picture of his house; seeing many people line up at the clinic to see a dentist – some for the first time; and running through the nature reserve park in the pouring rain with a man in a purple suit.

You travel to a different part of the world with a hope of being able to help people in need but instead are taught more about who you are and how you should live. I have often wondered why people have such difficult circumstances in life; but have come to the conclusion that maybe the test is for us as much as it for them. The Hope Arising team is a great example of how this test is passed in life by stepping outside their world to supply something as simple as water to change the life of so many people. Thanks for allowing me to be part of your journey!

Marianne Hirsche


I arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia early evening July 18, 2009 after 28 hours of travel. Upon arrival, my greatest challenge was to hold back salty tears. Either from complete exhaustion, gratitude for three flawless connections and luggage that had made it, or from being filled with emotion that I had finally arrived in the country I had dreamed of visiting since my childhood! I failed. As I was greeted by a friend who had arrived earlier and an Ethiopian woman, Betty, the tears flowed. We drove to meet other members of the travel team and Betty’s husband.

“My name is Woudneh!” he says to me. I couldn’t understand what he said but I had caught the twinkle in his eye and his smile. One of those smiles that shined through his entire expression. “Woudneh. Woudneh. Woudneh” I rehearsed in my head. This is Woudneh!

He stopped the car at an open side road “shop” that looked more like a shabby lemonade stand to me. This shop was something I quickly discovered was very common throughout the city. Ethiopian Walgreens. He was buying candy: To welcome me to the country, but more importantly for his children. He hadn’t seen them all week…his three beautiful children. And oh how their lives differ from the life he knew as a child.

Woudneh grew up in a tiny village called Dera (southeast of Addis Ababa about 140 kilometers) the middle of 13 children. Born in the spring of 1970, he’s not really sure of the exact date. His parent’s met and fell in love, married and had a child. Her parents did not approve of the marriage and so they took her away and married her to another man, whom she had a child with. Her first husband (Woudneh’s father) searched for her and brought her back. They had eleven more children. Perhaps it was his employment that disappointed his in-laws; he was a school teacher, making the equivalent of about fifteen US dollars a month. Not enough to feed hungry mouths…at least not more than bad tasting lentils.

Perhaps it was these circumstances that led six year old Woudneh to live with his grandfather in Addis Ababa. It was just the two of them, as his grandmother had left to join a monastery to become a monk. Or maybe it was because his father had been illegally imprisoned for his activism and opposition against political leadership. Regardless, this was a time of hard work: wearing no shoes, he’d walk to school an hour each way, only after he’d prepared his grandfather’s meals. He’d return to plow the field and sell the crops of the small farm.

Two years later he returned to join his family. But he wouldn’t stay for long. At the age of ten, he was attacked by appendicitis. A Cuban doctor in a larger, neighboring village treated him and insisted he live nearby a hospital …just in case. This time he would live with a disturbed older sister and her gentle and patient husband. Again he would learn to work hard as he would now apply what he’d learned working for his grandfather.

This time he was a salesman of prepared food…working in a cafeteria. Early mornings were spent preparing food; afternoons were spent purchasing supplies and approaching people to sell it. “Today’s food is very good!” I’d tell them. “We purchase very good butter, onion!” I feel that all people are my friends. I ask questions, I have a sense of what to say, I was not afraid to talk to people. And thus he developed a keen sense of business and marketing.

The appendicitis never returned. His education continued. Important lessons of patience were learned as he watched his brother-in-law patiently live with an abusive, troubled wife. My brother-in-law is a patient person. I learned from him. I cannot judge other people. I know him well. Some of his friends would start businesses and lose lots of money. They would get so upset they would go “mad”. He was not like this. He knew he had to be patient. I learned that from him.

His positive attitude of learning from experience and from the circumstances of life was fostered and developed at a young age, with hard work and discipline being central themes to his story. Graduation came but didn’t open any doors for improved employment.

With a desire for independence, Woudneh joined the military. With it came training by North Koreans, malaria and a civil war. The war had actually begun in 1974 when Ethiopians begun fighting with Eriterea (a province of Ethiopia, located south of the Red Sea, east of Sudan and north of Addis Ababa.) Issues of severe drought, particularly in the northern regions of the country, government corruption, and better living conditions for the poor were all important factors in the fighting. (Granville, 2004)


This beautiful young mother’s name is Meselesh. She has a daughter who is eight years old and a brother, Ephraim, who is sixteen. They live in a humble two-room mud house with a “kitchen” in the back that is covered only by a tarp. Meselesh lost the use of her right leg six years ago to unexpected paralysis. Her right arm is difficult to use, as well. Doctors cannot find a reason for the paralysis. Upon visiting their home, we learned Ephraim was recovering from typhoid fever. He was still very weak and had not been able to go to high school for a couple months, but was helpfully chopping vegetables for their family meal. He was planning to return to school this week to see how long he could stay before getting too fatigued. This brother/sister team makes injera to sell. Injera is a staple in every Ethiopian’s diet. It is equivalent to our bread. It is made from the tiny teff seed. Meselesh’s paralysis makes it difficult for her to get to the market to sell her injera. She has hired a couple of young girls to sell the injera for her. This blessing relieves her of the physical strain of dealing with the market; however, it also decreases her income. She must purchase wood for the outdoor stove to cook the injera. Meselesh has an idea to buy two electric injera ovens to increase her production and lower her overhead costs of buying firewood. Electricity is less expensive than kindling.  This production increase will allow her to sell injera to local hotels and restaurants. She lacks only the micro-loan in order to purchase two injera ovens to take her income-generating activity from dream to reality. Despite being handicapped, a single mom and taking care of her orphaned brother, Meselesh has the fierce desire to remain in her home and to be self-reliant. She lacks only the resources of a small loan to make this happen.

water is life

The water project has officially been started! High in the Chilalo Mountains, Action Engineering has started the excavation of gravel in preparation for capping the springs that will soon bring water to the town of Dera and the surrounding areas! This dream is actually taking form into a reality and the lifesaving liquid will soon be pouring through the pipes provided by Hope Arising! The agreement we have is to provide pipes in three installments. The first of which will be provided in one month. In addition to the springs, our team visited three reservoirs, two existing and one new. The quality of work is impressive, along with the professionalism in attitude and competency shown by Action Engineering. We are fortunate to have them as the grit behind the proposal. The necessity of this new water capacity cannot be overstated. The beneficiaries of this water have been waiting, working and praying for this miracle for 35 years! To help fund, some locals have sold their much needed camels and given the money to the cause. Others go without food or other necessities in order to donate cash. A portion that is equal to that of the widow’s mite. This enormous show of faith drives home the importance of sharing our abundance with those who do not have enough.

With water, 200 children can stay in school rather than drop out in search of water. With water, women can spend on average and additional 4 hours a day at their work to bring income money for their families. With water, the number of water related illnesses treated at the health clinic will be reduced. With water, people can drink, eat, and bathe. Water is life.

dera women battle hiv

Each one of these women of Dera, Ethiopia has a poignant situation. Each has tragedy and daily struggles to survive. But their will to not only survive, but to thrive is an example of how far the human spirit will soar to overcome even the most desperate of situations.

Tigist was married and has two sons; 8 and 7 years old. Her husband passed away three years ago from AIDS. She and her youngest son have been diagnosed as HIV positive. Mother and sons are currently healthy, but due to the negative stigma of employing someone with AIDS, Tigist’s workload as a housecleaner has been completely diminished. She has applied for a micro-loan to sell coffee and beans at the marketplace but is waiting to hear if her application is acceptable. She and her 7 year old currently take medication and all three remain healthy. Tigist needs the resources to start and run her own business. This opportunity will allow her to be self-reliant and provide for her sons.

Photo # 4436

Ayu was diagnosed as HIV positive, along with her husband. After receiving this news, their marriage ended in divorce. Ayu has three children aged 14, 12, and 8, all of whom remain free of the AIDS virus. She faithfully takes her anti-retro viral medication every morning at 8 AM, even if there is no food available. Good nutrition is essential to those who suffer from AIDS, but is a luxury not available to most in Dera. Ayu sells sugar cane in the marketplace as a means to survive. She currently has the equivalent of $3 in capital. If she could secure a micro-loan of $40, she has a plan to add onions, garlic and potatoes to her list of available goods to sell. Ayu has a viable plan and the work ethic necessary to make her business successful. She lacks only the resources to make it happen.

Photo # 4438

Imabet has two children; a son 17 and a daughter 14. She was divorced seven years ago from her husband after being infected with HIV. Imabet is remarried to another man who also has AIDS. They decided not to have any children together since they’re both carriers of the AIDS virus. Imabet and her husband take daily medication for their condition. Her family receives a small pension equal to $8 a month, from her former husband’s employer. This pension is not enough to sustain Imabet’s family. Until six months ago, she was supplementing the pension by selling vegetables at the marketplace but the heat greatly exacerbates her health problems. Her body cannot tolerate sitting in the heat of the sun all day at the market. Imabet is part of a group called “Almaz”, who have applied for a micro-loan to purchase supplies to weave traditional Ethiopian clothing to sell. If granted this loan, Imabet can work in her home and her business partners will sell at the marketplace.

Photo # 4439

Ayesha is a 27 year old single mom with AIDS. She is the sole guardian of her seven year old son and her three year old niece. Both children are HIV free. Ayesha brought her niece to live with her after the toddler’s mother died of AIDS and her father is in prison. It is not uncommon for relatives and even neighbors to take in orphaned children. Ayesha works three jobs to support her little family. She works at the Dera Bus Station organizing passengers, a housekeeper and is the leader of a group of women who do sheep fattening. These women have pooled their resources to secure a micro-loan for sheep and the necessities for fattening. She is a hard worker determined to stay healthy and strong enough to take care of her family.

Photo #4437

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