A day in the life of Birhanesh, one sponsored child in Ethiopia. 

Two years ago, Birhanesh had to strain to read the words on the chalkboard at school.

A student at Wallana Kindergarten — a school Holt sponsors support in southern Ethiopia — Birhanesh loved to sing songs and play games outside with the other kids. But she had an undiagnosed eye condition, and some days, her eyes burned so bad that she stayed home. Her parents struggled to manage her condition with frequent rinses and trips to a nearby clinic. But to see a specialist, they would have to travel to Addis — a 200-mile journey from the rural farming village where they live, and an expense they could never afford on their limited income.

Hearing about Birhanesh, an anonymous Holt donor stepped up to cover her travel and treatment costs – including two pairs of glasses, one for daily use and one as a back-up just in case. Birhanesh is now 7, and is excelling in the KG3 class at Wallana! She studies both English and Amharic, and can now do simple math equations. Like most families in Wallana, Birhanesh’s parents are subsistence farmers — living on what they cultivate from their small plot of land. They grow corn, taro root and teff — a grain used to make injera, the spongy bread that is a staple of the Ethiopian diet. They earn very little from what they produce, but with the support of Holt sponsors, they can send Birhanesh and her sister to school — where Birhanesh no longer strains to see lessons on the chalkboard.

For all that Holt sponsors and donors have done for Birhanesh, her family is truly grateful. Read the photo captions to learn more about what life is like for one sponsored child and her family in rural Ethiopia.

Math and English are Birhanesh’s favorite subjects. Above, Birhanesh stands proud after writing the word “OK” on the chalkboard. For the 260 students at Wallana Kindergarten, Holt sponsors help to provide everything from uniforms and supplies to teacher salaries and special events like the annual International Day of the Child celebration, which this year included T-shirts that the children still wear.

Birhanesh and her mom (center) stand in front of their home in the rural farming community of Wallana in southern Ethiopia. The morning session at Wallana Kindergarten has just let out, and children have come to see the excitement at Birhanesh’s house.

In Ethiopia, only 77 girls for every 100 boys attend primary school, and when Wallana Kindergarten opened in 2010, many parents hesitated to send their daughters to school. But soon, parents saw the value of an education — including Birhanesh’s parents, who encourage their daughters to study after school. Birhanesh does have one daily chore, however. Every day, she fetches water from a nearby river.

Two cows, a goat and several chickens share living space with Birhanesh and her family.

Birhanesh stands beside her mom and dad inside their home — a traditional round hut made of mud and eucalyptus.

Written by Robin Munro | Photos by Brian Campbell

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