Happiness Beyond Measure

By Donna Atola, Ethiopia Field Communications Specialist   |  Photos by Hope Center Staff

A sponsored youth in Ethiopia shares what it feels like to receive a gift for the first time from his sponsor and Child Champion.

What was it like when you received your first-ever gift in life? How old were you when you received that gift? Was the gift from your family member, a friend, or someone well known to you?

For most people, it is normal to give and receive gifts. It’s not unusual for most children to be showered with gifts from time to time, and to some, gifts aren’t even a surprise.

But most kids living in poverty can spend their entire childhood having never received a gift. This is the situation for most of the kids OneChild serves.

Like most kids in Kebena, an impoverished neighborhood in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Habtamu had never received a gift growing up. As a sponsored child, Habtamu was grateful to receive support, including meals, health checkups, and support for school, but he had never received a special gift. When he received his first-ever gift at 19, however, it made a huge impact in his life and provided hope and comfort to his struggling family.

Habtamu lives with his mother and his two brothers in a mud-walled, two-room house a mile from Kebena Hope Center. Kebena is densely populated because it has fairly affordable houses for families living in poverty there. Most families here depend on casual jobs like masonry, small-scale grocery businesses, tailoring, and gardening as sources of income. The income generated from such menial jobs is rarely enough to meet their families’ basic needs.

Habtamu’s family, like most of the families in Kebena, shares a compound with three other families. They have a common water source and also share a common toilet and bathroom. Habtamu’s mother, Zewdnesh (pictured above with Habtamu), is the sole provider for her family and has been for a long time since she lost her husband when Habtamu was little.

The burden of raising the family alone was eased a bit when Zewdnesh registered her son in OneChild’s sponsorship program when he was 4. Her main wish then was for Habtamu to complete school.

Ethiopia is among the few countries that offer free education in government-sponsored institutions. However, for Habtamu to continue his education, he needed essentials like writing materials, a school uniform – and he needed to be healthy, too. These needs were fully covered by his Hope Center.

Habtamu is now in his third year of law school and hopes to become a lawyer and scholar when he graduates.

Another Battle to Fight

Zewdnesh works as a casual laborer, making the equivalent of about $4 per day. She struggles to pay their monthly rent. In addition, Zewdnesh has been battling breast cancer, and the cancer has taken a toll on her health. She lost one of her breasts after a mastectomy was conducted to help reduce the spread of the cancer, but she is still in need of treatment.

On the days that she has to undergo chemotherapy, she fails to go to work, meaning on those days she fails to earn an income for her family. She ends up missing even more work because the chemo sessions zap her energy.

With their tough financial struggles, Zewdnesh plans to relocate her family to a much cheaper house in Semen Mazagaja, a neighborhood not far from their current location, to try and save money for her treatment and to also try and provide for her family.

Each chemotherapy session at the hospital costs $300. Her neighbors and staff at the Hope Center help her raise the money whenever she needs to attend the sessions because her income is never enough to pay for her family’s needs and the hospital bill.

‘I Thought It Was a Dream’

In April when Habtamu’s Child Champion asked him to visit the Hope Center on short notice, he wondered what would have prompted the call because he had just visited the center to write a letter to his sponsor and Child Champion, Christa, a few days earlier.

Habtamu with some of the items he received as a Family Gift.

Later that day, his Child Champion made a follow-up call to his mother to inform her that Habtamu had received a monetary gift from his sponsor, and they needed to discuss what they would do with the funds.

“I was so surprised and for a moment I thought it was a dream. It was a surprise because I had never received a gift before, and news of the gift got me to tears. That night was very long because I was excited and couldn’t wait to visit the Hope Center the following day,” says Habtamu.

The following day, Habtamu and his mother visited the Hope Center and talked with the Child Champions about how they intended to spend the monetary gift Habtamu had received.

“The first thing that struck my mind when we were asked what needs we had at home was the burden of my mother’s health,” Habtamu says. “I can’t concentrate in school when my mother is unwell, and despite staying in college, I often worry about her health, and I get butterflies whenever her chemotherapy days approach. My major worry is how she strains to get the funds at times.”

They opted to have the funds go toward Zewdnesh’s treatment, food for their family, and clothes and shoes for Habtamu.

“I am excited that Christa has given me a chance to look smart because I will get good clothes and shoes and be able to smile as I go back to college,” he says.

“This will help me score good grades in my exams in college because it gives me peace to know that we have money for her next treatment. Thank you so much, Christa! You have no idea how overjoyed I am. Thank you for your kindness and for sponsoring yet we are miles away from each other,” says Habtamu.

High Hopes for the Future

The soft-spoken Habtamu says he hopes to graduate at the top of his class and serve in the judicial system in Ethiopia. He also looks forward to giving back to his community by mentoring other kids there and sponsoring one just like his sponsor Christa.

The Hope Center played a major role in holding Habtamu’s hand and offering some relief during the tough times. The Child Champions have been counseling him and giving him hope to ensure that he concentrates on his studies at school.

“I am short of words,” says Zewdnesh. “I don’t know if this is what everyone else feels when they receive a gift because Christa has basically gifted my whole family. Indeed, God remembers and touches us through people. Thank you, Christa!”

Help a sponsored child’s family buy things they need but can’t afford. Give a Family Gift today!



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