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.
When her husband died of AIDS at a young age, Sebele felt hopeless and unsure about how she would support her five children. But with a small business grant and training from our partner in Ethiopia, she has kept her family together — and has become “a person again.”
Sometimes, people say bad things to Sebele’s children. They taunt them because their father died of AIDS. They avoid them because their mother still carries the virus. They push them to the point of tears.
“They come home and they cry sometimes,” says Sebele*, her eyes cast downward, hands neatly folded in her lap, as she sits on her porch beside four of her five children. “They find their father’s picture and they cry.”
Sebele and her family live in Shinshicho, Ethiopia — one of the southern region’s impoverished woredas, or districts, where Holt has for nearly a decade worked alongside local partners to strengthen struggling families, in particular families headed by women. Here, the stigma against HIV remains so strong that the local hospital — a hospital Holt worked alongside the community to help build — has a separate wing to help HIV patients keep their health status private. When Sebele’s husband died, her neighbors shunned her. Friends and relatives became distant. And even though her children are not carriers of the disease themselves, they too experienced discrimination at school and in their community.
“The only thing I wanted was not to live,” she says.
But life was not always so bleak for Sebele and her family. Before her husband died, he earned a good income working in the local government. Her children attended private school. They ate well. They lived well. And they were respected and embraced in their community.
“Their life was normal,” Sebele says of her children, speaking in Amharic to our translator. “They used to get good support. They learned very well. But the only source of income was from their father. So after he died, that made it even harder.” Continue reading “Becoming a Person Again”