give hope

My trip to Ethiopia was my first opportunity to experience a Christian relief and development organization working in a Muslim region. I wondered how those dynamics would play out, and my questions got answered when I visited three kids who live by themselves in the village of Abossa.

Sixteen-year-old Mehiret cares for her sister Lidia (age 14) and brother Bedilu (11). Their dad died ten years ago; their mom, 4 years ago. Both passed away from AIDS, and all three kids are HIV+. At age 12, Mehiret was left alone to raise her siblings.

In the Muslim community in which they live, the children were treated as outcasts. The stigma of HIV is still strong: the kids weren't permitted to share community bathroom facilities. People refused to share meals or even household utensils and supplies with them.

These beautiful children battled not only the loss of both parents and the need to fend for themselves, but also the rejection of the very community in which they lived.

At one point, Lidia couldn't take it any more. She stopped going to school and refused to take her ARVs (HIV medication). She just wanted to die.

Then Food for the Hungry entered the scene.

Two years ago, FH launched their child-headed household program, stepping in to meet the unique needs of orphans left to live on their own. In addition to providing their food, medical care, and education, FH also takes care of their clothing needs and living expenses. They stand in as family, taking the kids on vacations over holidays and school breaks. They provide legal support to ensure the children receive the inheritance and government funding available to them. They even built them a more adequate house—with its very own bathroom facility.

The community couldn't help but notice all that FH was doing. They saw physical needs being met, but also that FH staff weren't afraid to hug and love these children.

The evangelical response of Food for the Hungry stood in stark contrast to the community's, and it entirely transformed the Muslim village's approach toward the children.

These days, the kids are doing amazingly well. They are excelling at school, and dreaming for the future. The two girls want to become teachers, and Bedilu hopes to get his pilot's license.

Lidia shared that because of the love and support of FH, she is a completely different person today than the hopeless girl who wanted to die two years ago.

Because sometimes hope comes in the form of "forbidden" hugs, adopted-family vacations, and the construction of a bathroom.

Give hope >

{Thank you, David Molnar, for the amazing photographs and a lifetime worth of puns crammed into one week.}