Preparing For Their Futures – PART 1

(Note: Since many of the children in the Hope 4others program have common first names, the sponsored children featured in this article will also be mentioned with their sponsor’s last name.)

If you ask any child in our Hope 4others program about the plans they have for their future, nearly every student would share a goal that requires a university education. This is a big deal!

Children who grow up in extreme poverty rarely have the luxury for dreams. When your whole focus is simply daily survival, it seems like a waste of time to imagine a future different than what you already know… especially when no one else in your family has ever gone to college.

But the children at Spring of Hope and New Hope have totally new mindsets! Being able to attend school and also receive godly counseling at the CarePoints has transformed their expectations and hopes. Now they can envision themselves building better futures.

Meti (Peinado) from Spring of Hope shared: “The staff has helped me create a personal plan to succeed toward my goal of attending a university. I am very grateful for their support.”

Child Social Worker Moke explained that the staff and tutors have created an individual learning plan for every child by identifying the student’s weakest subjects (based on the previous year’s results) and assigning focused tutoring in those areas. The tutors visit the schools every month to follow up on each student’s progress in the classroom, and they present this progress report to the students and their guardians.

Lensa (Aitken) starts her final year of ITC (technical college) this fall.

“When I finish my ITC,” she shared in English, “I plan to open internet shop with computer service and live from that income.”

As the first student from Spring of Hope to attend any type of college or university, Lensa is a great role model for the other students at the CarePoint!

Nearly all students at Spring of Hope and New Hope have their sights set on going to a university. The CarePoint staff urge the students to pursue this goal because they know every additional year of schooling produces more opportunities for these kids!

However, it’s unlikely that every student will to attend a university. Statistically, only about 40% of Ethiopia’s students move on to a university level of education (and this percentage declines even further in rural towns like Ambo). While we hope this rate improves for the students in our program, we also want to prepare alternative paths to self-reliance for those who don’t take the university path.

On our last visit to Ambo, we talked with the older students at Spring of Hope about their interests and future plans, brainstorming trades and occupations they could pursue if college is not an option. As they shared their ideas, it was clear that most of them held college as their primary goal, which is exactly what we’ll continue to encourage! Such a goal will push them to work diligently in school. And with every student in both CarePoints advancing to the next grade level this school year, they will need to keep drawing from that motivation!

Below are some examples of the types of trades and businesses our kids could one day pursue in their hometown of Ambo or beyond:

TECHNICAL FIELD: The students above [left to right: Kuma (Stamp), Bedadi (Wong), and Abriham (McNeil)] envision themselves pursuing occupations in the technical field. “I love technology,” shared Abriham, “so maybe I’ll have a computer shop and make an income there.” Kuma and Bedadi explained they could receive appropriate vocational training at the Ambo Technical College if they are not accepted into a university.

FASHION FIELD: Driving through Ambo, you’re sure to spot several hair salons with faded pictures of popular styles displayed in the windows. Several young ladies at Spring of Hope are interested in opening their own hairdressing shop, especially if they could collaborate with other girls in the program! Birtukan (Hoover), Ayane (PromiseLand), Derartu (Prince), and Chaltu (Hickinbotham), all spoke of a training center in Ambo that offers 6-12 months of vocational training in this trade.

Two other girls, Zenu (Craig) and Dinknesh (Kionka), said they were more interested in the textile industry. Zenu thinks she could collaborate with other girls to open a fashion store and create her own clothing designs. Dinknesh could contribute to such a shop by designing and producing national clothes.

THE ARTS: We have many creative minds in our program! In addition to the impressive artwork we saw from Nugusu, Atinaf (Brown), and Bedada (Bailo), we also heard the stand-out musical talents of Kena (Thomas) and Argitu (DeAnda). It was no surprise to us when Kena shared his idea of opening a music studio where people can record their music and make music videos, since, as he explained, “there are very limited studios in Ambo.”

Tariku (Howarth) has a passion for music and for creating things with his hands, so he said he could see himself making musical instruments if he cannot attend a university. Aster (Verbanac) and Kidist (Moran Brown) also love to create things that are both beautiful and practical. Aster enjoys weaving and could imagine herself even expanding into carpentry. Kidist enjoys hand crafts and says the Ambo Technical College also provides vocational training in machine crafting… something she would be interested in if she doesn’t advance to a university.

TRANSPORTATION: Watching their parents and guardians start their own small businesses and be successful has inspired many of our kids to do the same! For instance, Chala (Sachs) already helps his father with his horse cart business, so he would like to continue in the same vein of transportation and become a bajaj (taxi) driver. Tariku (Hunt) and Wondimagn (VanDalen) would also like to get commercial driving licenses to become bajaj drivers.

SHOPKEEPERS: The busy streets of Ambo are crowded with little shops that sell goods and services of all kinds. Ebsa (Hickinbotham) envisions himself successfully managing a small general store in his neighborhood, selling everything from food staples to batteries to candy. Aberash (Mortensen) would set up a shop that focused on bedding materials. In fact, the Ambo Technical College provides training in sewing machinery, which is what she would pursue if a university education is unattainable. Hirut (Nelson) said her shop would specifically focus on selling imported goods from outside of Ambo.

LIVESTOCK: When asked what trade or business he would enjoy if he did not attend a university, Kenenisa (Ross) replied, “I would become a pilot!” Realizing such a profession would undoubtedly require a university education, he quickly followed up with: “I can do like my mother.”

Kenenisa’s mother has one of the most successful small businesses in the program: animal husbandry. She started out with just a few goats and selling the milk. As she successfully bred the goats, she began selling the animals, too. Over time, she saved enough money to renovate her house and buy a larger piece of land for her business. Having such a hard working and successful mother is a blessed example for Kenenisa, especially if he starts his own animal husbandry business!

PART 2: SETTING UP FOR SUCCESS

Supplied with these enlightening responses from our kids, 4others representatives Ron and Courtney Hunt met with Misganaw Eticha and his SVO leadership team to create a plan that sets up every student for success! Stay tuned for Part 2 of this story in which we’ll outline our program’s three paths toward self-reliance: university, vocational training, and entrepreneurship!

Praise Amidst a Pandemic: Hear Their Stories

“My family was in a big disaster because I was unable to feed them even once a day…. But God used His peoples to save my family’s life. The Almighty God who prepared water for the people of Israel in the desert also prepared food for my family.”

Gelane, Mother to Chaltu Lemessa

For Christmas this past year, my sister got a board game called Pandemic. Little did we know how appropriate this game would be in the months ahead! We’ve played the game several times during our shelter-in-place and with varying degrees of success. (It’s a collaborative game where all players work together to prevent a worldwide pandemic. If players can’t contain the outbreaks and find a cure in time, they all lose!)

While the game does mimic how rapidly a virus can spread, it cannot depict the real-life repercussions of a pandemic. If it introduced factors like rising unemployment, hyper inflation, closed borders, interrupted education, or perhaps unrelated but coinciding factors like extreme poverty, famine, and locust plagues… the game would be way too challenging.

I think we’d all agree that these are challenging times. Life is not a game, and the complexities of COVID-19 and its effects on the world around us are overwhelming. There are so many people in need during this time of crisis, and it’s difficult to know where to start. But we must take that first step to simply do something.

One thing we can do is SEND AID to our vulnerable families in Ambo, Ethiopia. With a majority of Ethiopia already struggling with extreme poverty, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and an invasion of desert locusts have led to another severe food crisis in Ethiopia.

We stepped in for our Hope 4others families in the fall of 2019 when we heard about the hunger they were experiencing. Unfortunately, their situation is much worse today due to the amplifying factors of COVID-19 and the destructive locust swarms. But we know from past experience that any help we send makes an incredible difference. The food we provide is literally life-saving!

Below: Photos of last month’s first Crisis Response food distribution. Each of the 231 families in our Hope 4others program received sacks of grain (for making corn flour) and soap.

The CarePoint staff of Spring of Hope and New Hope gathered testimonials from the families receiving this emergency food relief from 4others. A few guardians also wanted to share how last year’s food distributions impacted their families, because it’s by remembering how God provided for them in the past that they now have hope in the present! Hear their stories:

“I am living with two of my children in a rented house by the income I get from daily labor. Due to the invasion of COVID-19, I lost all my means of earning income. As a result, I couldn’t pay the house rent and was unable to feed my family. The owners of the house forced us to leave. Now we live with a family who shared a salon with me. Though we have shelter, all family has been suffering from hunger since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Ethiopia.

SVO and 4others supported my family while we are on the verge of death. This support will enable me to feed my family freely at least for a month! I would like to thank you all for this incredible provision.”

– Dinkitu, mother of Hawi (3070) at New Hope; referring to May’s food distribution

“I have been feeding my six children by the income obtained from washing clothes for other peoples. Due to the virus, all the sources of my income were dried. My husband is also a daily laborer whose sources of income were dried. As a result, we faced a great challenge to feed our children. My children slept [with] empty stomachs at least three to four days in a week.

For me and my children, this food is the divine intervention of God. This support shows the love of Jesus Christ! 4others provided us this support even while [the USA] is in severe problem, too. I would like to thank them from my heart. My family has food to eat for the coming month. I believe God [will] provide [for] my family for the remaining months, too.”

– Alemitu, mother of Berhane (4017) at Spring of Hope; referring to May’s food distribution

Last August, one of our students passed out from hunger while attending Sunday School at New Hope and later had to be revived at the local hospital. Yerosan’s story initiated our response to provide emergency food relief for all our families. Thanks to the support of our sponsors and donors, Yerosan’s family received this life-saving support just in time!

Yerosan’s grandmother, Dinkinesh, is described by the CarePoint staff as “a heartbroken woman who has lost seven of her children to death.” Dinkinesh shared this testimony with us:

“We live in a rented house. I have no consistent income because I am too old to engage in daily labor. My family depends on my son [who lives outside of Ambo] to support us for any needs. Since he was unable to support us due to high inflation, my family was suffering from famine. While Yerosen was attending the CarePoint class, she collapsed or fainted. This happened to her because she did not eat any valuable food for the three days before she collapsed. I thought she would die.

When the CarePoint informed me to collect corn flour and food oil from the project office, it made me so happy and restored my motivation for living and [overcoming] the situation.

We ate the corn flour and passed the difficult situation by the support of Lord. God sent me lifesaving food to save the life of my family and rescued us from shame. I thank God and next all the staff of the project and 4others for their valuable support and contribution to save the life of my family!”

Dinkinesh, Mother of Yerosan (3095) of New Hope; referring to the 2019 food distribution

Senayit’s father, Getahun, is a day laborer. Every day he stands on the main street to search for daily work, but in August 2019 he “couldn’t get even one job within a week.” Getahun shared:

“Because of lack of daily works and increase in price of food items, I was unable to feed my family. Then I was very nervous and I had no peace with the family and my neighbors…. But God restored the peace of my family and my neighbor through provision of the corn flour and food oil. We used it to make bread, Injera, Anbasha and dabo kolo. I glorify God for all His provisions that enabled us to escape from the darkest season!

– Getahun, father of Senayit (4049) of Spring of Hope; referring to the 2019 food distribution

Dinknesh’s mother described their family’s situation when both she and her husband couldn’t find work last summer:

“Those months were very tough time for my family in all direction. There was no peace and agreement between me and my husband due to insufficiency of food and pressure from children due to the hunger. My children were always crying at me to give them something edible and when I [could not] provide them with what they need, I felt angry and emotionally disturbed.

God used SVO and 4others to save the life of my family and my marriage. The food support restored my confidence as a mother. Therefore, on behalf of my family I would like to highly appreciate SVO and 4others who were the messengers of God to save our life.

-Tadelech, mother of Dinknesh (4044) at Spring of Hope; referring to the 2019 food distribution

Send Food Relief to Ambo today!

Reading these testimonies from our Hope 4others families makes me realize how critical our support is in times like this! As they once again face extreme hunger, I know our children and their families are clinging to the hope that help will come, that God will once again provide for their needs. And I know God will do this by working through people like you and me.

4others immediately sent funds to purchase the sacks of grain for our families in May. (The maize was processed into corn flour at the Spring of Hope Grinding Mill.) In the coming months, we would love to provide both grain and food oil for our families. This is a combined cost of $12,000.00 per month, which our partner SVO estimates may continue for another six months at least. This is a daunting goal, but we know from past experience that these resources can save lives during the difficult months ahead!

So if you’re in a position to donate to this incredible need and bless the families of Ambo with emergency food relief, I hope you will! There’s a lot of darkness and despair in our world today, but here we have an opportunity to shine a ray of hope. And unlike the Pandemic board game, we can make a real difference and save real lives by acting today!

Click the button below to send Food Relief to Ambo. THANK YOU for your love, support, and prayers for the children and families in our Hope 4others program! God bless you!

“In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:16 (NLT)

Renewed Hope at New Hope

With the sun high in the sky, I was grateful for my wide brimmed hat. Most of the New Hope children crowded under the narrow shadow of the building while their guardians wore hats and head coverings in the sun. It was a hot day, but also an exciting one! When we arrived that morning, the New Hope students had welcomed us with music and dance performances, including this joyful song by the youngest children at the CarePoint:

A song thanking God for all of His blessings

Then student leader Firehiwot stepped up and delivered a passionate gospel message to all present, giving God all the glory for the blessings their families have experienced at New Hope. The interpreter echoed her words to us:

This is the love of God! We are grateful for the sacrifice of the sponsors who support us in our education, but they are merely a reflection of the great love of God! Who else would give His only Son to die for us and save us from our sins? Only God! Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice for us.”

Then several of the children’s parents stood in turn to address our team, their children, and each other. Every family expressed their love and gratitude to all the sponsors, and they praised God for working through 4others and SVO to bless their families.

One mother rose to speak directly to the students: “You are not children anymore. You are all becoming young men and women. You must equip yourselves!” Then, using a metaphor that would be repeated throughout the week, she added, “Education and resources are a valuable key to possess, but you must use that key properly to unlock the door to your future!”

Another mother shared, “Like the name of this project, you have given us a renewed hope! I encourage all guardians to send their children to school and to the project every day to take advantage of these resources we now have.”

To the delight of the students and staff, our team then presented the CarePoint with a new educational resource: a RACHEL digital library system and four new laptops. These are the first seeds of a Learning Lab at New Hope!

Sponsors may recall that the children at Spring of Hope already have their own Learning Lab with five desktop computers, a mini library (with printed books and textbooks), three large classrooms and five part-time tutors. However, New Hope lacked any sort of Learning Lab resources. This is primarily because it has only reached a sponsorship level of 18% which is not enough to sustain a full tutorial program.

Even while operating with a reduced staff*, New Hope staff and students are making the most of the resources available to them. They created a child-to-child tutoring program where strong students tutor the younger ones. Children like Asmera (Hoffman) have seen significant improvement during the first semester, thanks to her older peers’ assistance!

The children’s guardians also formed their own Education Committee, taking it upon themselves to visit all the children’s schools and gather academic results for each child. They hold monthly meetings to update every family about their student’s academic performance. We love how involved and passionate these parents are for their children’s education!

Needless to say, both the students and their guardians were so happy to receive the RACHEL digital library and four laptops! We hope these new tools will assist the children in their studies, and as these resources prove to be effective, we plan to add more laptops to their growing Learning Lab next year.

We ended the first day at New Hope with a clothing distribution and lunch! The boys received new shirts and jeans while the girls received bright sweaters and skirts. As our team distributed the clothes to each child, almost every one of them briefly disappeared inside the CarePoint office to reappear only moments later in their bright new outfits. There were so many giggles by the little ones, and the confident smiles on every face perfectly complemented their new outfits. It was a fun day indeed!

On behalf of all the students and families at New Hope, thank you for your faithful support and prayers for this community! Just like Firehiwot said, you reflect God’s love to these families through your sponsorship and advocacy. Please join us in sharing the opportunity to sponsor a child at New Hope so that hope may continue to grow and flourish in Ambo! Thank you!

Spread the word: Sponsor a child at hope4others.org

Bottom row, L to R: Ayantu (Stamp), Abdi (Selness), Asmera (Hoffman), Bontu (Harvest Rain), Hulumyifer (Escoe), Bontu (Hunt Hoover), Birtukan (Peinado), Asmera (Terrell). Middle row, L to R: Ayenachew (Harvest Rain), Misgane (Donlon). Top row, L to R: Lidet (Selness), Berhane (Hoffman), Lelise (Bamber), Lelo (Bamber), Hawi (Brown), Emnet (Fennell), Ayantu (Garman), Hundaol (Escoe).

*Spring of Hope operates with a full staff of one CarePoint Director & Accountant (Abebech), one Child Social Worker (Daniel), one Family Social Worker (Mekonnen), and two security guards (Mirkena and Fekadu), along with five part-time tutors and a cleaner. New Hope currently operates with a reduced staff of one CarePoint Director (Tejenesh), two security guards (Fikru and Kumela), and one volunteer Supporting Social Worker (Tiruneh).

Story #1: Passions on Parade

Every team that visits the Spring of Hope CarePoint remembers the joyful welcome we receive on that first day! The children, along with the staff and many of their guardians, greet us at the gates with flowers and songs. After applauding their beautiful voices, we pass out hugs, kisses, handshakes, and shoulder bumps with the small crowd as we head inside for a special coffee ceremony with the staff. But this year was different. This year, the children took things to a whole new level! As we entered through the gates, we immediately noticed this crowd was much larger than any previous year! Children, guardians, siblings, staff, volunteers, and church leaders packed the small compound. So many beaming faces! So many voices raised in song!

The four of us quickly found our sponsored children at the front of the crowd, bearing synthetic flowers for each of us. Handing us our flowers and giving us tight hugs, they led us around the building to special seats of honor. That’s when we realized we were in for a big treat!

CarePoint social worker Daniel commenced their parade of creativity and talent. Derartu (Prince) opened with a passionate prayer. Then, one by one, several children got to showcase their gifts in front of all their peers, families, and special guests!

First up was Kena (Thomas) and Kuma (Stamp) as they battled it out at a game of table tennis! Their peers watched and cheered from the edges of the table. It was a close game, but I believe Kuma was victorious!

Kena, Gutu (PromiseLand), and Argitu (DeAnda) took turns sharing the Word of God to everyone present. Kena spoke in English, Gutu in Amharic (national language), and Argitu in Afaan Oromo (regional language). Then Argitu led us all in worship (singing in all three languages!) while Kena accompanied her on the keyboard.

Little Yerosan (Fahlgren) was next. Several children had submitted works of poetry through their tutorial program, and Yerosan’s poem won first place! She was so proud to recite it for everyone!

Yerosan recites her poem

Several students in our program have notable artistic skills. During the week, our team would see works of art from Atinaf (Brown), Bontu (Hunt), and Nugusu (unsponsored) that truly impressed us! On this special day, Bedada (Bailo) was chosen to display his artistic giftedness. He showed us pictures he had drawn of his home and of different people in his life. 

Next up were the “engineers of innovation!” Three students were chosen to present their battery-operated inventions which they created as a Science Club activity. Using only recycled materials and two D batteries, these boys created working machines! Soresa (Howarth) constructed a moving toy car and an electric coffee grinder with rotating blades. Abraham (McNeil) also created a moving toy car, but he upscaled his invention into a mobile greenhouse. And Gutu, using recycled wood, wire, and paper, fashioned himself a working fan.

Gutu demonstrates his battery-operated “ventilator”

Finally, the CarePoint staff took the opportunity to recognize four outstanding students who have developed into student leaders in the program. Chosen for their godly character, strong work ethic in school, and exemplary participation in the CarePoint activities, these students received a small gift from Pastor Ron in front of their peers and families. 

Overall, it was a beautiful parade of talent and passion! These kids are growing up so fast, becoming their own persons as they develop new interests and skills. We’re so thankful for the CarePoint staff, tutors, and volunteers who invest so much in the children every week. These wonderful leaders make the most of their limited resources to encourage and equip the students in every area.

As we watched all the smiling faces that happy day, we knew we were looking at Ethiopia’s future musicians, poets, artists, mechanical engineers, inventors, teachers, doctors, and church and political leaders. Each child has a dream for their future, and we are all eager to see them succeed!