Before a sponsor starting supporting her, Mekdes wasn’t sure if she could even stay in school in her rural community of Ethiopia — much less follow her dream of becoming a doctor.
Eighteen-year-old Mekdes dreams of becoming a doctor one day. Today, she is close to realizing her dream. Ten years ago, however, Mekdes’ future seemed uncertain.
Though bright and driven, Mekdes faced overwhelming challenges, and her family’s economic status seemed to dictate another path entirely — a path not nearly as bright, and certainty not one that would lead to a medical profession, or even an education.
But in the small, impoverished district of southern Ethiopia where she lives, Mekdes pressed on anyway —the resolve to better the lives of her family, and realize her dream, motivating her as she went.
When Mekdes was 2, her father passed away “just as Mekdes was starting to recognize him and call him ‘Baba-Baba,’” writes a Holt Ethiopia staff member. All of a sudden, her mother, Mezench, became the sole provider for her family, and she struggled to make ends meet.
At the age of 6, Mekdes began attending school, and eventually reached the second grade. Intelligent and thoughtful, she stood out in class. But her mom struggled to cover the cost of her fees, books, uniforms and supplies. Mekdes had to switch to a different, more affordable school and start back at first grade, erasing all of her progress and putting her even further from reaching her goals.
Though she often struggled due to her family’s financial circumstances, Mekdes stayed in school and reached the seventh grade when she was 14 years old. That same year, Mekdes’ life changed forever when a Holt sponsor began supporting her education and generous donors made it possible for her family to enroll in Holt’s family strengthening program in the region.
Slowly, life began to change for this struggling family.
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As part of Holt’s family strengthening program, Mekdes’ family received two generous Gifts of Hope — a cow and chickens. The chicken eggs and cow’s milk provided an extra source of income for the family, as well as vital nutrients.
With additional support from Holt’s Ethiopia staff and local partners, Mezench also gained the skills to begin a small business selling a traditional Ethiopian flatbread called injera. She joined a credit and savings association in her community, from which she can borrow small, low-interest loans to help sustain and grow her business. With the support of donors, Mekdes and her family also have health insurance and can attend the local hospital that Holt donors helped build in their community four years ago.
Both Mezench and Mekdes feel tremendous gratitude to the sponsors and donors who helped them overcome the struggles they faced. Most of all, Mekdes can continue her education — empowering her to transform not just her own life, but the life of her family and community.
“Thank you God, we are finally living a better life,” Mezench says. “Now I can support my daughter’s dreams.”
Thanks to her sponsor, Mekdes received the basic supplies she needed to be successful in the classroom. She also began to attend classes over the summer, including sessions on reproductive health, empowerment and resilience to fight gender-based violence, and basic computer skills training. The support encouraged Mekdes to move forward in her education with great confidence.
“I might not have continued learning [without sponsorship support],” Mekdes says. “I wish I could know them and thank them.”
Today, Mekdes is determined to finish high school and attend one of the top universities. She recently completed 11th grade with great distinction and a GPA of 3.57. The encouragement and support she has received from Holt staff and her sponsor buoyed her spirits and kept her going.
“She is strong and courageous,” a Holt Ethiopia staff member says.
Two years ago, Mekdes lost her big sister to a chronic illness. This tragic event, among others she has witnessed in her community, inspired her to continue her dream of entering the medical field.
“I will be a doctor to support my region and my town,” Mekdes says. “I sometimes see pregnant women [struggling to] get to hospital. I also hear that there are women who die while trying to give birth at home. So I should serve those women in my community,”
Because of her sponsors, Mekdes can dream. And her dream is to save lives.
“No more struggling,” she says.
Ashli Keyser | Contributing Writer
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