It’s not often you come across a person who embodies the very essence of strength, resilience, generosity and hope. When you hear their story, you can’t help but marvel at the sheer determination to keep pushing through. To keep persevering. To keep giving. To keep loving.

Theirs is a story of taking the devastating and moulding something beautiful. Taking what is destructive and choosing to live courageously in the middle of the chaos.

Theirs is a story of restoration. A story of hope.

This is the story of one such woman.

Eskedar is a community leader and activist who has been challenging societal norms in her city in Ethiopia. Eskedar was a soldier in Wollo before she moved to Addis Ababa. It was there that Eskedar met and married her husband and had their children. Sadly, her husband contracted tuberculosis and while at the hospital for a check-up, he received a life changing diagnosis.

He had tested positive for HIV.

With her husband in hospital for an extended period of time and with the medical bills piling up, Eskedar made the difficult decision to sell their property to ease the building financial pressure. Eskedar’s husband did recover from the illness, but the recovery was short lived. In 2013, her husband tragically passed away.

Her son Eyasu was registered with the Compassion Child Sponsorship Program and Eskedar was so thankful for the immediate support they received with funeral arrangements, food and rebuilding their deteriorating house.

However, Eskedar’s life was about to take another turn. After getting tested, Eskedar found out that she too was HIV positive.

“When I found out, I was shocked. There are stereotypes in the media—people think that people who are living with HIV cannot work, that they are very weak. Those stereotypes still exist in the community and sometimes I can feel that, but I told myself that I can do this—I can get through all this.”

Unable to continue baking and selling injera (a local bread) due to the stigma that surrounded her diagnosis, Eskedar turned to Compassion’s small scale business training program. With the help of the program and everything she learned through it, Eskedar started her own business and began to provide for her family. She says the training taught her how to manage her finances in order to save and plan for the future.

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“I bought one sheep with Compassion’s support, and I saved and managed my money until I had 24 sheep. I sold 10 of them because I didn't have a place to keep them, and I bought a TV for my children, because we didn’t have a TV before. I also fixed our fence. I don't want my children to go and beg, so I work hard to support my children.”

While growing her business, Eskedar joined a group of 23 people who also have HIV that meet weekly at the Compassion centre over coffee. They not only discuss different issues but also operate as a savings group. They save for their businesses and put money into a support fund that they use to provide for each other if anyone in the group gets sick.

“I have this desire to do something for the people. I don't want my life to be shameful. I want it to be something I can be proud of,” says Eskedar.

This desire led her to gather women and teach them about HIV/Aids: the symptoms, the causes and how to prevent getting the virus. She also teaches them the importance of recycling waste as part of a community cleaning project that ensures their neighbourhood is clean and sanitary. Eskedar’s significant work within her community was recognised by the Ethiopian Minister for Women and Children who honoured Eskedar with a national award.

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“I would like to thank the people who are supporting us, who are supporting my child and who are supporting people living in poverty all over the country. I would like to thank them and bless them.”

Eskedar dreams of a day when HIV is eradicated and people can live together in peace. In the meantime, she continues to play her part in serving her community and helping to better the lives of the people around her.

She is an agent of change, a beacon that shines bright even in the midst of the darkest circumstance.

Hers is a story of hope.

Be a part of the Story

On International Women’s Day, you can help amplify the voices and stories of women just like Eskedar. Poverty strips away a woman’s hope and dignity. But Jesus restores.

The city of La Paz in Bolivia has one of the highest rates of poverty and population growth in the country. In this community, where most families do not have adequate access to a sewerage system, urinary tract infections and gastrointestinal diseases are widespread. Even the simplest hygiene practices like washing hands in a timely manner are made difficult because of inadequate facilities. A clean, functioning block of toilets would go a long way in maintaining good hygiene and preventing the spread of disease in this community.

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This year we want to raise $31,000 to build a block of toilets in La Paz, Bolivia so that women can have access to basic sanitation in a clean and safe environment.

Together we can make a difference in the lives of these women.

Create change.

Restore hope and dignity.

Let’s be part of a solution more powerful than poverty!