Updated: Aug 3, 2019
When Gebre was born 38 years ago in northern Ethiopia, his parents expected great things from their firstborn son. In this part of the world, where families start with so little and are vulnerable to so much, hope must be durable and patient. Gebre's first setback came at age 9 when he lost his eyesight after a serious illness. The exact cause of Gebre's blindness is not known, but it was likely preventable if his family had access to reliable healthcare.
Reliant on his parents, he lived with them until he was 28 before summoning the courage to go out on his own. Gebre moved to the capitol city, Addis Ababa, and started a business selling lottery tickets. Soon, he met Etete, a young woman who made her living washing clothes for her neighbors. They fell in love, married, and over the next few years had three children. Gebre and Etete did not earn nearly enough income to meet the needs of their growing family, and they struggled to provide for them. When things were most desperate, they lived in a tent made of scraps of plastic for over a year.
Hoping to find affordable shelter on the outskirts of the city, they moved to a poor suburb called Karakore. They could not afford to rent even a small room, so they begged their new neighbors for any type of shelter they could spare – often a garage, a storage shed, or covered patio. They were stressed and stretched to their limit and the toll on their three children was dire. They were malnourished and constantly hungry. Their oldest daughter Meaza, was 10 years old, but in only second grade because she had stayed home from school so often, unable to concentrate for lack of food.
At their breaking point, Gebre and Etete turned to the government for help, applying for assistance from the Lelt Foundation. After their family enrolled in Lelt’s programs, they received monthly food rations and household supplies. Meaza caught up with schoolwork by attending after-school tutoring. She received school supplies and a crisp, new uniform. As a result of all this focus, her marks at school soared. Lelt moved her to a private school in her neighborhood, and she is now at the top of her class and looking forward to 9th grade. Her favorite school subject is physics and she wants to be a lawyer when she grows up. The hope of her grandparents, passed down to their eldest son, now lives strong and resilient in his eldest daughter.
Gebre continued to struggle with his business, so he now helps Etete with her second business of selling grains. The government provided subsidized housing for them, so they have a small place to call home. "My family was really struggling and I didn’t know how to fix it," Gebre said. "Work is incredibly challenging as a blind man. Getting this assistance through Lelt has helped us to find stability and we are so grateful."
To help another family in crisis, please Sponsor A Child through Lelt's program.