What Do You Do When You Have Nowhere To Go?
Abandoned by her husband, Almaz and her three small children found themselves homeless. With no prospects, they sought refuge in the only place available to them—a pig sty. Almaz’s hope for a better future for her children began dwindling.
07 May, 2018
Life has always been unimaginably rough for Almaz.
Growing up on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, left Almaz without options. She spent her youth dreaming of being educated and wishing for a better future. Promises made by relatives to give her access to education were repeatedly broken; she was betrayed by the people she trusted most.
With no other prospects, Almaz’s decision to get married at a young age was her way of quieting the roaring waves of life. She craved the support and care of a husband, the promise that someday she would have a family who wouldn’t lie to her or betray her.
Marriage wasn’t the answer.
Life continued to be a struggle. Her husband’s unstable income wasn’t enough to meet their needs; they were constantly lacking, which only intensified when they had children. Almaz gave birth to three children in three years: Ermias, Dibora and Bereket.
Every day was a fight.
Their relationship began to crumble as they were constantly facing responsibilities they couldn’t fulfil. It was difficult to feed themselves as well as their children.
Poverty steals many things, among them Almaz’s marriage when one day her husband didn’t return home after work.
“I knew he was not happy and was constantly complaining about the hardship, but I never suspected that he would leave,” says Almaz. “I felt as if I was sinking. To make matters worse, my landlord evicted me saying the children make too much noise. They were crying every day because I had nothing to give them.”
Almaz was unable to find work and with three small children in tow, she became homeless. There was nowhere to go. No one to depend on. The grim reality of poverty’s grip on her life left her numb.
In desperation, Almaz began to ask strangers if they had a place she and her children could stay. She didn’t hesitate to take the first offer she received—a pig's sty.
The floor was covered in dirt and pests. There was no door and without a mattress, Almaz and her children slept on a plastic rug on the hard earth.
One day a passer-by, so horrified by their living conditions, told Almaz about an available home nearby but it was only slightly better. The walls were full of holes, and at night hyenas prowled outside, keeping the terrified family awake. The wind shook the thin walls so much Almaz feared they would collapse.
“I had no sleep at night because of the sound of wild animals around the house,” Almaz recalls. “I lay my children on the mattress closer to the wall and I would try to be like a buffer for them in case a hyena pushed its way in. I was always ready to protect my children.”
Poverty left Almaz unable to provide for her children—their safety and health was compromised and the environment they lived in was not appropriate for anyone, let alone children. Her children lacked basic necessities including food, medical care and clothing.
When the local church saw the family’s desperate situation, they were shocked. Unable to fill their bellies, the children were underweight and suffering vision problems due to malnutrition. Seeing the need, Ermias and Dibora were registered into the Compassion Child Sponsorship Program run by the local church. The family were immediately provided with clothing, food supplements and household items like bedding and cooking utensils.
“Most of the time I was numb to all that was happening in my life,” says Almaz. “The one thing that sustained me was the fact that I believe God sees me. I hopes for better times because I believed He would never fail me. When my children joined the project, I felt that I was right to believe in Him.”
While sponsorship sets the foundation for a child’s long-term development, often the fights children are facing require both proactive measures and immediate action. This was the reality facing Ermias and Dibora.
“I still remember the day we visited Almaz,” recalls Betel Hayimanot, the centre health worker. “I was heartbroken to see the condition the children were in. The house was no place for them. She had nothing to give to them.
“They were also in poor health and malnourished. I always wondered how they were able to survive. When we talked with her, we realised she needed more than material support—she needed something to revive her spirit.”
Due to the urgency of their need, the local church worked closely with Compassion Ethiopia who were able to provide them with immediate support through the Highly Vulnerable Children fund. This support provided the family with food supplies while the church came up with a greater solution.
The family benefitted from Compassion’s Child Protection Fund. The money received was used to provide Almaz and her family with mattresses and bed sheets, cooking utensils—including plates, glasses, cutlery and a water jar—clothing, and food support. They were given extra support to renovate their house. Almaz was trained in an income generating project. She now has a small-scale business selling vegetable and injera, a flat sourdough bread, to provide for her family.
Today, Ermias and Dibora receive educational support including school supplies, uniforms and access to transport to and from school. For the first time in their young lives, they have access to medical care. They receive skills training and attend Sunday school every week.
“What excites me is that my children have started talking about their dreams,” says Almaz. Freed from the fight to survive, Almaz can start dreaming too. Today, she is employed in a small-scale barley processing business.
Ermias and Dibora’s situation couldn’t wait. Our local church partner needed to act straight away, and thanks to our supporters, they were able to.
Give today to help meet the most urgent needs of children like Ermias and Dibora in their fights against poverty.
Story by Tigist Gizachew and Monique Wallace
Photos by Tigist Gizachew