In rural Ethiopia, however, life is more fragile. People can easily fall sick to things like malaria or HIV/AIDS. When they do, proper treatment isn’t guaranteed, or might only be available in a town centre too far away to access.In North America, it is rare for parents to be stricken down by an illness like HIV/AIDS and to die while their children are young.
Sometimes, both parents die.
When that happens, extended family members usually step in to care for the orphaned children. Unfortunately, in some cases, even that level of support isn’t possible. This is the situation that Mastole, now 12, and Mesrete, 16, from Tache Gayint region of Ethiopia experienced.
When Mastole and Mesrete’s parents both died their paternal aunt, who lived next door, cared for the girls for several years. She taught them to cook and provided guidance as they went about their daily lives. A time came, however, when this aunt was forced to move and she could not take the girls with her.
The girls found themselves on their own with no living relatives nearby.
The rest of their father’s extended family lived too far away and had never met the girls. Their mother’s relatives lived closer by, but were extremely poor. They tended other people’s cattle on the outskirts of town. They could not afford to feed more children or keep them in school.
Fortunately for Mastole and Mesrete, there was another option.
Through a World Renew project funded by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and carried out in partnership with Food for the Hungry Ethopia, the girls joined 1,500 other children who receive monthly rations of food, assistance with their education, and support from a social worker. The project is a lifeline for children who would otherwise have very little hope. With the relatively small investment of food, schooling and support, however, Mastole and Mesrete have an outlook on life that is similar to any other 12 or 16-year-old in the world.
“My best friend is also named Mastole,” Mastole laughts. “We walk to school together, and work on assignments together. My favourite sport is volleyball and my favourite subject is math.”
The girls are now able to continue living in the house that belonged to their parents. They support each other and encourage each other to stay in school. Meserete, for example, wasn’t home at the time Foodgrains Bank staff visited with Mastole—she was still at school, studying late into the evening. According to the girls’ social worker, Meserete has a strong chance of being accepted for a government scholarship for university studies if she can keep her school performance up. It’s an example Mastole is keen to follow.
“They are building a big dam in Ethiopia called the Grand Dam,” she says. “I want to be one of the engineers who will one day build it.”
- Amanda Thorsteinsson, CFGB Communications