Updated: Aug 17, 2018
ELISABETH ASSEFA was born in Addis Abba, the capital city of Ethiopia. Her mother, Abaynesh, took care of their large family, while her father was a soldier in the Army. After Elisabeth’s little brother died from illness and her father was fatally wounded in the military, Abaynesh moved the family to Karakore, a lower-income, outlying neighborhood of Addis Ababa.
While Abaynesh struggled, taking low-paying jobs to feed her family, Elisabeth and her siblings attended public school. In the middle of her 8th-grade year, however, Elisabeth discovered she was pregnant. Her long-time boyfriend abandoned her and the child, and public opinion of unwed mothers forced Elisabeth to drop out of school. A year later she left her son with her mother and moved to a southern region to find work – work she hated but needed in order to send money home to her family.
A few years later, she fell in love with and married a man named Yirgalem. They had a daughter, Kalkidan, but when the child was nine months old, Yirgalem passed away from a debilitating illness. Elisabeth realized she too was infected and became very weak. She was in despair – sick, widowed, with a baby to support. Finally, she returned home to her mother’s house in Karakore, in desperate circumstances. She was very ill for more than a year, virtually without hope.
With the help of her friends, Elisabeth found a clinic and received life-saving medication. After she regained her strength, she trained as a tailor through a nonprofit work-assistance program. Her situation improved significantly financially and emotionally, but fate took another bad turn when the nonprofit organization lost its funding and shuttered its doors. Elisabeth had been using their sewing machines for her trade but now had no way to continue her work. She fell back into a depression and kept her daughter, Kalkidan, home from school to help earn money cleaning for neighbors.
Kalkidan, far left, with her aunt and grandmother, Abaynesh (2012)
In Spring of 2012, Elisabeth heard about Lelt Foundation's programs, which offer nutritional and educational help for students, and business training and food supplements for adults. Through Lelt’s Child Sponsorship program, Kalkidan resumed her schooling, receiving hot lunches and after-school tutoring every weekday. Elisabeth got food rations and household necessities to take home to her family. This past fall, she received a full scholarship to attend cosmetology school and is five months into her training. She wants to become a stylist in an established salon upon graduation, and has many plans for the future. Elisabeth said, “Without Lelt’s assistance, Kalkidan would have probably never returned to school. Lelt has enabled us both to get the help we need to live our lives well.”
"This past fall, she received a full scholarship to attend cosmetology school and is five months into her training. She wants to become a stylist in an established salon upon graduation, and has many plans for the future."