Nigist was born and raised in the ancient, royal city of Gondar, in Ethiopia’s northern Amhara region. She was the youngest of five girls, and they worked together with their parents in agriculture, farming their family land. At 9-years old, her world changed when her parents both died in an accident. The sisters decided they should marry early to support themselves. Nigist was able to delay that fate for a few years, but by the time she was 17, she had married Amare and already had a newborn baby.
The couple had five children by 1991, when Amare was drafted into the armed forces to fight in a guerrilla war in effort to overthrow the tyrannical Derg regime. He was killed in battle, and Derg forces imprisoned and tortured Nigist for Amare's political affiliation. She was released, and without the support of her husband to help raise the children, life became very difficult for them. Two of Nigist’s sons were killed in a car accident in the aftermath of the war, and she raised the other three children as she grieved her losses. Her only daughter married and had two children, but her daughter's husband left soon after the children were born. Tragically, Nigist’s daughter died in an electrical fire, orphaning her young son Workneh, and daughter Mekdes.
Nigist was determined to raise her grandchildren to escape the cyclical poverty that had plagued her family for generations. She took them to the capital city Addis Ababa and promised to find work to support them. But it was impossible to find steady employment, and they had no income and scarcely any food. They were sleeping outside, in a church yard. At this time, Nigist petitioned the government for assistance from Lelt Foundation. Her 8-year-old grandson Workneh came to live at Lelt’s Family Home, which provides a family setting with food, shelter, advanced schooling, and nurturing. An alternative to the institutional orphanage, our Family Home has housed dozens of children who were living on the streets through the past decade. Workneh was an exceptional student, and placed at the top of his class in his private school. Nigist received food rations and household supplies, and the church employed her to be the groundskeeper, giving her a small one-room home in the church yard. Workneh was reunited with his sister and grandmother, and they all come to Lelt’s community center daily for support.
Workneh is now 17 years old and in 11th grade at a private school in the region. He has ambitions to become a pilot, and his favorite subjects are Physics and Chemistry. When it is time for Workneh to graduate from high school, he will be invited to apply for Lelt's Scholarship Program, which will support him through his college education. Thanks to Lelt's donors for providing a successful path for this driven young student and his family.