May 2021 brought a big surprise to siblings Nitsuha, 13, and her 11-year-old brother Amanuel. When the academic year ended, both were awarded a reading tablet for scoring the highest grades in their respective school classes.

The siblings’ accomplishments were even recognised by their local sub-city government in Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa. They were celebrated in front of other students, parents and community members. Tigist is the mother of five children. She has always been very proud of her children—and when you hear this family’s story, you’ll understand why.

Tigist is in her late 30s but struggles with a medical condition. Her parents were poor farmers and struggled to raise their large family. In her teenage years, Tigist met a man in the military and married him. They ended up having five children in quick succession.

 

Nitusha-and-Amanuel-consistently-score-highest-grades-in-their-class.jpgNitsuha and Amanuel were awarded a reading tablet for scoring the highest grades in their respective school classes.

Her husband brought up the idea of moving to Addis, which he explained as a city full of opportunities and a better life. One early morning, they packed their bags and moved to the capital with their children. As they stepped off the bus, they were immediately overwhelmed by the rush, noise, and bustle of constant activities. They did not know anyone in the city. They found a nearby church and spent the night in its compound.

In the morning, they picked a direction at random and began walking. They found a place people used as a street shelter. For over a year, this place became their home. During the day, the parents wandered the neighbourhood looking for daily work, leaving their oldest teenagers to care for the younger children. If they were lucky, they brought home whatever small sum they could earn that day. Thankfully, the community they found at the street shelter was a loving one. People shared what little they had and looked out for one another.

“Everyone there had very little, but they loved and cared for each other so much,” says Tigist. “It was so difficult for me to sleep with two eyes closed all night, but a lot of people protected us.”

After some time, her husband found a steady job as a security guard for a church nearby and life started to get better. They rented a very small place. It had no electricity or running water, but the family was no longer living on the street. Seeing the number of children the couple has, the landlords demanded extra rent. To save money, the family sent their eldest daughter Kalkidan, who was 18, back to their old community where her grandparents still lived.

During this time, both Tigist and her husband suffered from health issues and weakness. Her husband suffered from ongoing, debilitating pain. Going to work on an empty stomach became increasingly difficult, and it showed on their faces. In 2018, Tigist was looked for work in the neighbourhood with two of her girls when a lady stopped her. “Why do you look so sad?” the woman asked. “Would you like to come with me to the church for support?” Moved by the woman’s kindness, Tigist responded with a grateful yes.

The church is one of Compassion’s church partners. Staff welcomed the family with open arms and care. Seeing their high level of need, both Nitsuha and Amanuel were registered into the Child Sponsorship Programme and also receive extra support because of their vulnerability.

Nitsuha-and-Amanuel-are-a-part-of-the-Compassion-International-programme-in-Ethiopia.jpg
Both Nitsuha and Amanuel were registered into the Child Sponsorship Programme after Tigist and her husband encountered health problems. 

As Tigist’s husband’s health deteriorated, he received a devastating diagnosis: bone cancer. Compassion’s support meant the family didn’t need to worry about house rent, food, or school materials for the children. A year after his children joined the programme, he passed away.

“My husband was a kind man and a good father,” says Tigist. “During those difficult times, the staff at Compassion comforted my children and me daily.”


After his passing, Tigist was determined that his legacy of hard work, kindness, and a passion for education would be passed on to their children. Tigist never had the opportunity to attend school and does not know how to read or write. Both believe education could be the key to a brighter future.

“My husband and I always told our children the importance of education, it was our priority for our children no matter what,” she says.


Even before Compassion’s support, they made sure their children attended a community school in the neighbourhood. Their parents’ influence and the children’s dedication saw each of them consistently score the highest grades in their classes.

“I love my children and they understand our situation and never complain about something they lack. Instead, they do their part to make sure each of them has a better future. When their teachers call me to come to school and tell me about the children’s discipline and hard work, I always say, ‘Thank you, God’. Even though there are a lot of things that make me sad in life, I am very proud of my children.”

Tigist’s health remains unstable. “I do not want to leave my children behind with no parents to help them succeed. I want to be here for them for some time,” she says with determination. Thankfully, Compassion’s support means she is not alone in facing life’s challenges.

“There would be no way we would survive if we didn’t have Compassion in our lives,” she says.

Tigist has big hopes and dreams for her children. She believes that with the support from Compassion her family will make it through. Nitsuha wants to become a doctor who treats cancer patients like her father. Amanuel loves maths and wants to be an engineer and help people who are on the street like his family once was.

 

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