Ten years ago, Holt sponsors began supporting children and families in the impoverished community of Shinshicho — a district capital in southern Ethiopia where goats and cattle still roam the unpaved roads that lead through town, few homes or businesses have electricity or running water, and donkeys are the primary mode of transportation.
Here, as throughout Ethiopia, years of civil war and drought have robbed many families of their livelihoods, while famine and illness have robbed many children of their parents. Most families in rural Ethiopia subsist on what they can grow on small plots of land, which is often just barely enough to feed their families. But in 2008, when Holt began working alongside local leaders and community elders, life began to change for many children and families in Shinshicho.
To help the most vulnerable families grow their income, sponsors and donors provided the funds for families to purchase livestock or start a small business. Recognizing a gaping need for improved healthcare in the region — a region where every year hundreds of women would die due to pregnancy complications — donors in both the U.S. and the local community came together to build a full-service hospital with a focus on maternal and child health.
And in 2013, sponsors made it possible for hundreds more children to attend Yesus Mena School for the Deaf — the first school to offer a sign language-based education in Shinshicho, which has the highest rate of deafness in all of Ethiopia. Keep reading to learn more about Shinshicho and how you are changing lives in this community!
“I used to do daily labor and I couldn’t support my children and send them to school. After a year of sponsorship, I have been able to buy them educational materials, school uniforms and everything.” — Meselech, 22, received a cow and seedlings to grow her family’s income. Because of their sponsors, Meselech’s children also receive free medical services at Shinshicho Mother & Child Health Center.
“Before, I could only take orders from my parents when they would point at things. Now I am able to communicate with my parents using sign language and, you know, share my feelings.” — Tigabu, 11, learned sign language at the Yesus Mena Deaf School through the support of his sponsors.
“It’s much better now because back then there was no doctor available. I would go anywhere to have a healthy child.” — Mesert, who is preparing to give birth at the Shinshicho Mother & Child Health Center. Before the hospital was built, Mesert delivered three children at home. All three of them died shortly after birth.
“I want to be a doctor. In my town, there are very few doctors. I will be a doctor to support my region and my town. I would like to say thank you to my sponsor for supporting me and my family.” — Mekdes, 16, lost her sister to a chronic health condition. Mekdes attends school with the support of sponsors, and her mom received a cow and seedlings to help her provide for her children.
“I used to be so angry I would cry, even in the classroom. I used to be angry because people didn’t understand me. I’m not angry anymore. I’m so happy now that I am able to communicate. Now, I have so many friends.” — Meaza, 14, never attended school before a sponsor made it possible for her to attend Yesus Mena Deaf School.
“Now, because of Holt sponsors, my children are getting all the support that is needed for their education… Now I am reviving and rising again. Previously, I was so hopeless. But because of their support, because of their training, because of their counseling, I became a person again.” —
Selamnesh, 35, received a microgrant and training to start a small business after her husband died.