“I was shocked when the doctor informed me I was HIV-positive. Everything seemed so gloomy. I thought that I was going to die instantly. I felt so sorry for my kids. I cried and cried. I was in bed for many weeks.”
Alemnesh had good reason to be frightened by her diagnosis. Only months earlier her husband had passed away due to a HIV-related illness. After his death, she’d struggled to pay school fees, feed her family and cover the rent for their tiny room.
At a point when Alemnesh was ready to give up hope, she received a visit from her local church in Akaki, Ethiopia. “[They] came to my home to pray and to release me from the strains of depression that I was immersed in. That moment was crucial in my life, as the burden inside of me was all gone for good,” she remembers.
It was that visit which led to the registration of Alemnesh’s two youngest sons into the Compassion project. An act that restored the family’s hope.
Through sponsorship, the boys received new uniforms, school supplies, books and help towards school fees. They were given nutritious food, health screenings and dental check-ups. Knowing her boys were being cared for lifted an emotional and financial burden, which had been weighing Alemnesh down.
The boys weren’t the only ones to receive support.
Thanks to a RESPOND initiative, the Compassion project identified 22 caregivers, including Alemnesh, who were in extreme poverty and also living with HIV. The project found that one of the biggest challenges for the group was income generation. In response, a basic business skills workshop was set up in. After training, each caregiver was given initial capital to start a business of their own.
With hers, Alemnesh set up a clothing company, buying clothes from the biggest open market in Addis Ababa, and selling them in her community for a small profit margin. With her earnings, she obtained a small loan from the group, allowing her to grow the business. Within a year, she had paid back the loan and had opened her own shop. Alemnesh was able to buy a sewing machine allowing her to make and repair clothing as part of her business.
“I thank God for Compassion. I am who I am because of Compassion. I am truly proud of the works that Compassion is doing in the lives of those who are affected by extreme poverty. It is a noble deed that delights God,” says Alemnesh.
Alemnesh aspires to open other shops in the town and has started to save money for a down payment on a house for her family.
“My eldest son is on the verge of joining university after scoring a satisfactory result in the national exams, and my younger son is studying accounting. I have opened bank accounts for my sons and save money for them on regular basis,” says Alemnesh. “If it weren’t for the life-saving intervention of Compassion, my family would have faced the danger of disintegration. I might have even been forced to give away my two beloved sons, and I would have definitely died. But God has changed my life for good.”
Discover more about RESPOND
Words by Nathnael Assefa and Emily Laramy
Photos by Nathnael Assefa