Updated: Jun 26, 2021
Desta Higu walks four miles round-trip each day to go to school. Her parents grew up in rural areas where they were never given the opportunity to attend school, so Desta understands the privilege of her education.
Her father, Higu, lost his mother in childhood, so he started working as a shoe-shine boy (called a listro) at an early age. Desta’s mother, Meselu, was 13 when she moved to Addis Ababa to find work. She met Higu shortly thereafter and they married. Meselu had Desta when she was only 14 years old. Their second baby came shortly after, and the young couple struggled greatly to make ends meet.
Two years ago, the Ethiopian government prioritized Desta’s family for Lelt’s assistance because they were among the neediest families in the region. They received monthly food rations and household necessities, and Desta joined our education program to receive tutoring from Lelt’s faculty. Next year she will be moved to a private school to receive an advanced education.
Before the pandemic, Higu worked as a laborer in the Merkato, the largest open-air marketplace in sub-Saharan Africa, which attracts shoppers from all over the continent. Higu quit his job to avoid bringing Covid-19 into his home. The Ethiopian government offered no support to the majority of civilians during the outbreak, so Desta’s family’s only source of assistance was Lelt Foundation. Meselu said, “without Lelt’s support, we would have starved to death this past year.”
Now that businesses are beginning to open up again in Higu and Melelu’s region, they will be given the opportunity to join Lelt’s employment creation program, which teaches money and business management skills to under-employed parents in our community. Once they complete that training, they will be eligible to take a micro-loan to start their own small business.
Meanwhile, Desta is happy to be back in school full time after months of pandemic lockdowns. She still walks two miles down that hill and two miles back, never missing a day.