When she was one-year-old, Redhet had no idea that her mom, Fikirte, had placed her on a government list as a “half orphan.” In Ethiopia, a half orphan is a child who has no support or contact with one parent and no chance of reconciliation. By placing a child on the “half orphan” list, the mother recognizes she may not be able to continue feeding or providing care for her child. Half orphans are not uncommon in Kore, with many children being taken to government orphanages on a weekly basis. Redhet’s name was on the list as a last resort for Fikirte.
When we at I Pour Life began the Orphaned and Vulnerable Children Care program in Ethiopia, we were working in Redhet’s community, seeking out orphans who needed care and guardianship. You see, we soon realized that half orphans existed in the community and that by targeting half orphans like Redhet, we could prevent children who had families from being sent to orphanages and growing up without a family. We could help keep families together. Within a few weeks time, we found twenty-five other half-orphan children like Redhet and mothers like Fikirte who wanted desperately to keep their children, but had limited opportunity and resources available to them.
As we got to know Redhet and Fikirte, they shared their story with us. In rural, northern Ethiopia and at just seven years old, Fikirte was forced into her first arranged marriage. However, because she was so young, she stayed with her arranged husband’s father until she was 14 years old. It was at that point that she officially considered herself married, and three years later, she would become a mom for the first time to a baby girl. While Fikirte was in love with her husband and in love with motherhood, unexpected tragedy hit when she came home to find her husband had been shot and killed by his uncle because of a disagreement regarding land. Distraught and scared for her herself and her newborn, Fikirte ran away to the Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. In an effort to protect her daughter from her husband’s uncle, she settled in Kore, a community on the outskirts of the city that many marginalized women call home. Through two more unexpected pregnancies, Fikirte became the sole provider to three children, with the last child being Redhet. But, Fikirte realized she was unable to provide for her family. She began doubting everything, wondering what she had done to deserve this life, growing more desperate each day and placing Redhet on the half orphan list. But, then she met I Pour Life.
Fikirte began I Pour Life’s Global Women’s Empowerment Program in early 2018. She was mentored in finance and business and soon began seeing dramatic changes in her family’s life as well as her own. She was able to send her youngest children to daycare through I Pour Life, allowing her to work during the day knowing her children were safe. Fikirte’s dream is to now see all three of her children stay in school and continue their education so they don’t have to have the same life she did growing up. “I am so happy with the support, care, and comfort I get from I Pour Life. I’ve seen a lot of changes in my daughter’s life since being at I Pour Life. After enrolling in daycare, she began walking, is always clean, and has become strong and very happy. I have never seen my child smiling the way she does now. It is so amazing. I am no longer worrying about a job or my daughter because I know she is in safe hands. I will always thank God for this opportunity. As for myself, I Pour Life helped me with job opportunities and eased my frustration with life. I am thankful for the training and counseling they gave me. It changed the attitude I had towards work and life. It helped me remove the label I had before and replaced it with the new self-image. The counseling, the care, and support I get from I Pour Life’s staff is something I could never replace, but is a gift from above. I’m very thankful.”
The discovery of children like Redhet changed our approach to both Orphan Care and Women’s Economic Empowerment in Ethiopia. By providing economic empowerment to mothers who have listed their children as half orphans, I Pour Life is able to help families stay together and prevent children from going to orphanages. This year alone, Redhet’s discovery will help prevent fifty children from going to an orphanage. Their names will be erased from the half orphan list, and they will now simply be called family.
Website: I Pour Life