When Selam Dinku was 10 years old, her mother passed away after a long illness. She and her eight siblings remained with their father, but when he remarried their new stepmom made them feel neglected and unwelcome. Selam moved in with a cousin when she was 14 years old to escape that, but she needed to support herself in her new home. She had never been to school and had no job skills, so she could only find low-paying work as a housemaid.
When she turned 20, Selam fell in love with and married Tesfaye. They had three daughters – Kidist, now 12; Bethlehem, 11; and Bizuayehu, 8. Faced with the challenges of feeding his family on meager wages as a laborer, Tesfaye was sullen and started drinking, eventually becoming an alcoholic. Selam could add little to the family’s finances, and their situation felt hopeless. This family was living in crisis.
Three years ago, however, Bethlehem (left, with her mother) was accepted in Lelt’s Child Sponsorship Program. She now goes to school full-time, getting daily nutritious lunches and after-school tutoring at Lelt’s Community Center. Her school fees, uniform, shoes and supplies are all provided, and her family receives food rations and household necessities to take home each month, so no one goes hungry.
Last fall, Selam herself started beauty school, which she qualified for through Lelt’s scholarship program. She will graduate with a certificate in July and has plans to open a salon with 2 other classmates in the scholarship program. Lelt will provide them with a micro-loan to help get their new business started. Selam has endured so many obstacles and challenges through her life, and now is feeling encouraged and excited for her future. Through hard work and determination, she is pulling herself and her family out of the cycle of poverty.
"Selam could add little to the family’s finances, and their situation felt hopeless. This family was living in crisis."