Tag Archives: Ethiopia

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.

my friend marta

One of the great things about returning to Dera, Ethiopia for the 3rd time in one year is the friendships. We’re all beginning to be familiar with one another.

I love it, love it, love it.

Last March I met a woman that has forever changed my life.

This picture was taken at our first meeting… the day after her toddler son had died.

Her blind husband was off to bury the child. She couldn’t go, she is too sick… she is HIV positive. You can see my grief in this picture (I try so hard to conceal my emotions but I had lost control)… but not nearly as great as hers.

This is her 7 year old son, Abi. He has tuberculosis.

But a smile to capture any heart.

We were able to provide her and her family with food and some money each month. (about $20)

Needless to say, she was one of the first people I wanted to see when we arrived a few weeks ago. I was so anxious to see her, not knowing what to expect or how I would find her.

Imagine my JOY when my dear friend wrapped her tiny arms around me- healthy, happy, and FULL of LIFE. What’s more, imagine hearing her words (though foreign and through a translator) telling me that we had saved her life.

She said that the day we met her she had laid down to die, having told God that if she was to live she needed an angel.

We arrived about an hour later.

She knows that her life was spared.

She and her husband passionately presented a business plan to me, soliciting a small loan in the amount of $350 to start a hay business. They believe this is the beginning of better days for them.

Would you like to help support Marta?

You can make a donation of any amount to Hope Arising. When I exceed this goal, we’ll apply your donation to another friend of mine.

I have many.

Here’s a picture of Abi now: (Please note the shape of his head and the light in his eyes. It’s amazing what food and medicine can do! And note that I am clearly the happiest in Ethiopia.)

Jennifer Brinkerhoff
July 2010 

woudneh

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)

meselesh

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.

tears with textbooks

Chet Jenkins family donates books Children reading new books

Does y=mx + b (or another algebraic equation) bring you to tears? How about H2OCL2 (a chemical compound name) or “Never end a sentence with a preposition?” Perhpas you recall when these teachings brought you tears of frustration, but do you recall them bringing tears of joy and humble gratitude?

Hope Arising and Dr. Chet Jenkins’ family purchased $450 worth of textbooks, all written in native Oromifa,  and presented them to the Dera Middle School (Grades 5-8).  The entire school greeted our team by clapping and singing. Speeches were made by the school director and the PTA president. But above the noise of clapping, singining and talking, tears of gratitude that silently streamed down students’ cheeks rang out to the Hope Arising team. 

These children know that education is key to rising above their challenges and securing a better life. Parents encourage their children to study hard. Students take advantage of the meager opportunities presented to them. All sacrifice whatever is necessary to go to school and learn.

One dollar goes so far towards educating children in Dera, Ethiopia. We were honored to present textbooks to such an eager, humble, appreciative group of children as algebraic equations, chemical compounds and grammar rulesbrought tears of joy to eager students’ eyes.

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