Confidence, and a Cow

When her husband became ill, Dinknesh suddenly had to provide for her family on her own. She didn’t know where to begin, and her family quickly fell into poverty. Then sponsors and donors came together to empower Dinknesh, giving her two of the most powerful Gifts of Hope — confidence, and a cow.

Like many women in rural Ethiopia, Dinknesh had a more traditional role in her family before her husband fell sick. She worked incredibly hard to maintain her home and care for her two sons while her husband, a farmer, worked the fields to bring in an income and meet the basic needs of their family.

But when he became ill, he could not work and was bedridden for months.

Suddenly, Dinknesh had to provide for her children on her own.

She didn’t have any savings, nor did she know how to generate income. Poverty struck her family, and she was ostracized as she begged others for help.

But she’s not alone. Across Ethiopia, even two-parent families struggle to survive. It’s even harder for single moms like Dinknesh.

“A recent statistic reveals that 44 percent of Ethiopia’s population live in poverty,” says Tendai Masiriri, Holt’s senior executive of Africa, Latin America and Caribbean programs. “And while Ethiopia is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, there is no social safety net system, as the government concentrates on the physical infrastructure development. Without the social safety net, the effects of poverty are greatly pronounced among families.”

For Dinknesh and her family, these effects included skipped meals, poor nutrition and no way to pay for basic medical care. Their health declined significantly – causing them to suffer from malnutrition and malaria.

And without enough money even for food, Dinknesh couldn’t afford to send her boys to school. Even if their health improved, they still couldn’t afford uniforms, books and supplies

As Tendai explains, this is a common outcome when families fall into crisis in Ethiopia.

“Children end up skipping school for a myriad of reasons,” he says. “Some children are compelled to work to help families find food. Those who can afford to go to school are learning on an empty stomach, which drastically affects their studies and grades.”

While her kids didn’t work, they didn’t go to school either. And as Dinknesh and her family struggled to survive, their health and living conditions grew worse.

But then Holt sponsors saw her family’s needs.

They stepped in, providing food, school supplies and other basic needs. Because of sponsors’ monthly gifts, Dinknesh and her family began receiving one-on-one social work support through Holt’s local partner organization. She also joined a sponsor-funded program that provides trainings designed to empower families — giving them the skills they need to overcome their hardships, and become stable and self-reliant.

“Children and families are vulnerable due to factors related to poverty, such as gender inequality, lack of education and vocational skills,” says Tendai. “This program was designed to directly address those risk factors among women like Dinknesh.”

After sponsors started helping Dinknesh, she could see a brighter future for her family.

Dinknesh’s boys now have everything they need to attend a nearby school, and her sons can reach their fullest potential at school and in their home.

Through the program, Dinknesh also began to learn the necessary skills to generate income — such as how to raise livestock, grow a garden and save money.

Sponsorship has truly changed her family’s lives. But Dinknesh and her children would not be where they are today without one special gift above and beyond the monthly gift of sponsorship. A couple years ago, Dinknesh received a generous Gift of Hope — the gift of a cow.  

When her cow gave birth, Dinknesh and her boys started to consume milk products – improving their nutrition to help them grow healthy and strong. And when her cow gives birth, she can sell the calf for additional income. 

“When a family receives the gift of a cow, they receive a boost of security,” Tendai explains. “One cow can be very meaningful … Cows give families hope for a better future.”

In addition to the gift of a cow, a generous donor gave her tools and seeds to grow a garden. Her garden soon flourished with fresh fruits and vegetables — all from the seeds she received through a Gift of Hope.

With her crops and milk products, Dinknesh sets aside enough for family. But then she goes to a local market to sell the products — bringing in even more income.

Today, Dinknesh can fulfill her family’s basic needs. They each eat three meals a day — full of nutritious meat, milk products and home-grown crops.

Once ostracized by her community, Dinknesh is now a member of a women’s saving and credit group that Holt’s local partner started to empower women to lift up their families. Through this group, Dinknesh learned to start saving the money she earns. She eventually saved enough to purchase her own ox, which she now rents to other farmers. She also manages the water station in her village during her free time, allowing her to build strong relationships with others.

But Holt sponsors and donors also brought out something in Dinknesh that she didn’t know she already had inside of her.

They brought out her confidence. A confidence that empowers her to break the cycle of poverty and provide for her family — allowing them to move toward a brighter future.

“The most valuable thing that I gained from the program was the attitude change,” Dinknesh says. “Now, we can work our way through any situation, thanks to the trainings and counseling services we received.”

Mai Anh Boaz | Digital & Content Marketing Specialist

Honor a mom you love this Mother’s Day by helping another mom provide for her children! Give the gift of a cow, garden tools and training, and more! Shop Gifts of Hope online now at

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