By Mintesnot Aschalew, former sponsored child and now Senior Editor, Radio Fana, Ethiopian Government Media
I was born in 1979, the second child of six, in Bale, Oromia Region, Ethiopia. I lost my father during the war between Somalia and Ethiopia when I was a very young boy. When my father died, my mother started making a very small income in Bale, which was not enough to meet the family’s needs. So she decided to move the family to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, to live with her aunt.
I was in second grade. Although my mother strongly believed in education and repeatedly told us that education is very important in getting out of poverty, it was not easy for her to support both the family and the children’s educations. As we sank deeper into poverty and began losing hope, ChildFund arrived and began signing up children in our area. I was one of them. Things changed again, and our hope was renewed. My mom’s dream to educate us became a reality.
The most important contribution of ChildFund, in my opinion, was their dedication to educating children and youth to bring lasting change in their lives and society. ChildFund also understood that merely sending children to school would not be sufficient; ChildFund made sure that children were provided with school materials, food and health services. Also, the constant and committed contribution of my sponsor by sending money for my special days enabled my mom to purchase school uniforms and other materials. All of these things made my school life enjoyable and successful.
ChildFund also supported the organization of several clubs in the school. My membership in these clubs inspired me to change my lifestyle, made me confident, protected me from unnecessary dangers and gave me positive life exposure. These activities with the supplementary classes played a major role in who I am today.
My success story will be incomplete if I don’t mention about my sponsor, who was my mentor and role model through those challenging days. I shared the ethos and pathos of my life with him, and he was always all ears. He was such a great person, constantly advising and guiding me whenever I needed him to. He encouraged me to study and work hard to fulfill my dream. He filled the gap, the absence of my father, in my life. He was a professor, and I always dreamt of being like him.
With this foundation, I was able to continue my education and complete high school. Afterward, I didn’t go directly to university, because I wanted to earn and save money to pursue my tertiary education. So I took a job as kindergarten teacher.
Once I started working as a teacher, I was able to take care of myself, so I urged my sponsor to stop sponsoring me and assist one of my siblings. Very willingly, he started supporting my sister.
From the income I got as a teacher at the kindergarten, I was able to both support my family and join a university extension class. I earned a two-year diploma in print journalism, which enabled me to obtain a better job in a government radio station (Radio Fana) as a reporter. Meanwhile, I continued my education and received my first degree in print journalism. I am now the senior editor in the same organization.
If ChildFund hadn’t come to our family, my life probably would have been very different and without hope. I might have been forced to work as a child to support my family and myself, which could have led me into exploitive child labor. But thanks to my mom, ChildFund and the sponsor, today, I am one of those who have won the war against poverty.
I continue to have regular contact with ChildFund, because I am still part of the family in the project area where I grew up. I will enthusiastically give back whatever I can to this organization, which for now means that I help prepare and edit the quarterly newsletters. Recently, I provided training to other projects in urban and rural areas. As time allows, I want to give more support, advice and guidance, to advance the area of communications, publications and documentation to educate the rest of the world about ChildFund.
Furthermore, I would like to share what I have observed, the changes made in the organization. While I was growing up the focus was on one child at a time, but now the organization has changed the strategic direction and covers more areas and communities. Because of that, ChildFund is immensely impacting the lives of many children, youth and their communities.
For example, when I was a child, the school was far from home, and also very crowded, with 90 students in one class. But now ChildFund, together with the government, has built many schools in different areas, which has helped bring the number of children in each class down to a maximum of 45 students.
The health services were very limited in those days and too far away to access easily. Today, the health facilities are many, and easy to access.
There was no library, but now many libraries have been organized by ChildFund around its operations areas.
Community participation is not for the sake of participating but based on a deep belief that community participation brings sustainability.
It is very encouraging and uplifting to me, as an alumnus, to see all these changes.
I will always be sharing about ChildFund and be ready to give support at any time needed. I also have a plan to bring other alumni together and contribute to the work of ChildFund.
Now I am a proud man, married with one child, educated, and a senior editor! Thank you ChildFund!