Please meet Asegedech Awoke who has suffered from prolapse for three years. She is married and has delivered seven children. Thank you to all of our donors who made her surgery possible!
Amarach Gamboza is a married mom of five who has been dealing with a variety of OB issues for over a year. Thank you for helping her! Her surgery will make her life so much easier and restore her dignity.
When Biruk Abraham goes back to school this year, she won’t be swinging her running shoes. After three years on an athletic scholarship, she's graduated from Girls Gotta Run.
So what comes next?
And can our investment make a lasting difference?
When we chatted with Biruk and Yordanos Esayas, another student who is graduating from the program, they talked not only about how much the program enriched their lives, but also about the fear of losing that support.
Both girls want to continue with their education, and study social sciences in preparatory school (something similar to grade 11 and 12), but worry the costs will be prohibitive. They're sad to leave the safety net of Girls Gotta Run behind. And understandably, they're nervous about lining up the practical resources to follow their dreams.
"We are concerned it is the end of the program," Yordanos, who is 16, told us. She wants to be a politician and an artist and an actress when she is finished school (talk about a triple threat!), but remembers what a struggle it was for her family to afford school tuition before she was accepted into the Girls Gotta Run scholarship program.
"They used to call out your name, because of not being able to pay (tuition). It was so shameful."
The Girls Gotta Run program uses running as a platform to teach self-confidence, life skills, and to help bridge young women through a vulnerable period in their lives, when many of their peers - just young teens - are dropping out of school to work or be married off.
The athletic scholars receive school tuition and uniforms, running shoes and clothes, healthy meals and snacks, and the incredible camaraderie and bonding that comes with being part of a team.
There are so many wonderful ripple effects in this program. The girls teach their friends and younger siblings the lessons they learn, and their mothers are invited to participate in an entrepreneurial group where they begin a group savings plan and learn about financial literacy.
Yordanos told us that her favourite "life skills" lesson - those classes tackle everything from healthy relationships to hygiene - was the one that "penetrated her soul."
"I learned that women can do it, they can do anything - sometimes even go higher than the boys!"
What a testament to the power of the program.
Biruk was one of the first five girls that we sponsored in this program (now we fund 26 athletic scholarships through Girls Gotta Run!), and it's been incredible to see her progress. She wants to be a journalist when she's older.
And after hearing from Biruk, Yordanos, and their parents about the struggle to put all their great skills and dreams into action once the athletic scholarship ends, our board has made a decision to extend our support.
We will now be financially supporting a handful of girls as they move on from Girls Gotta Run, by helping with some of the costs to attend prep school. Mothers with a Heart for Ethiopia recognizes the value of education, and we want the incredible lessons and opportunities awakened by Girls Gotta Run to be the start of something great. We're hoping this additional support will allow girls with great potential and the desire to learn to continue on to higher levels of education.
These young women are the future of Ethiopia. We want to do all that we can to invest our donors' dollars in a way that tranforms lives. The goal is to create change agents who are motivated and inspired to make a difference for future generations just like them.
Thank you so much to all of our donors who make this sort of investment possible.
We can't wait to see where Biruk and Yordanos end up in another three years!
We do the easy part.
That’s a lesson driven home every time we go to Ethiopia and see the hard work of our partners on the ground. We provide the funds. And that is an incredible opportunity – usually the key to making the work possible. But after the cheques are cashed and the transfers are done, there’s a whole team of people working to put those dollars into action.
We were awed by the dedication, compassion and humility of the four incredible soccer coaches that are leading our sponsored teams in Harar. We learned so much from Jemal, Gelaye, Kaza and Sarah.
And each coach had their own compelling story about the power of soccer.
When Kaza was a kid, his father drove a taxi to support the family. But Kaza remembers his dad pulling to the side of the road when he caught sight of little ones playing soccer. He'd encourage those aspiring players, do a little impromptu coaching, and then get back on the road.
"I grew up in that family so I try to continue that support," Kaza told us. He does small jobs to support his family, but mostly he depends on the modest stipend Mothers with a Heart for Ethiopia pays the four coaches.
And that's why it was all the more meaningful when we heard what Kaza and others planned to do with that small salary.
"This will support us to stay in the field. We will spend that money to help kids attend training," Jemal said. He works as a teacher and sees the difference soccer has had on these young ladies.
"Kids are like a blank sheet of paper. You put something on it and it absorbs. I saw them put into practice what I had told them," he said after the big tournament (our two sponsored teams faced off) when we visited Ethiopia in June.
The coaches don't hesitate to invest hours of their time into practices, games and drills, or even to sink their salaries into food and equipment for the players. They want to see these young women succeed – no matter what sacrifice it takes from their mentors.
We visited several families in very precarious situations. Two sisters that play on one of our teams live with their parents in a makeshift shelter under a truck. The coaches told us that they try to feed the kids in need, sometimes even inviting players' families over to their own homes for a meal.
"Most of the kids on my team are from the poorest communities. Six players live on the street," Gelaye said. For many of the players, the chance to play soccer – and dream of making a club team or even playing on the national level – is also about the opportunity to make it out of poverty.
Remember, these are girls who couldn't even dribble a ball when they started on our teams!
"They are focused at training, because they have goals. They have a dream, that they'll be able to survive this challenge and become good soccer players. These girls have a dream and a target," Sarah said.
We love having Sarah and Gelaye – one female coach per team – helping to guide and inspire these girls, proving to them that women can be soccer experts, too. Sarah didn't have any brothers growing up, so her mom pushed her to play the sport. She became an impromptu coach in neighbourhood games, when younger kids would call her over saying 'help us.'
She connected with coaching more than playing, and turned to that full-time after a few years.
The love between these coaches and their players was palpable, even when terse words were exchanged on the field.
Sarah and Gelaye helped us purchase groceries to share with the families we visited for interviews. They were sensitive and compassionate and treated the families with such kindness. The trust in those relationships was so clear.
And it was glaringly obvious to us that the coaches had been doing the same kind of work we hoped to do long before we showed up.
We asked what they're hoping to teach their players.
"We are the mothers of these kids, we are fathers of these kids," Sarah said. "When you come together all the time, you feel that unity and togetherness. Soccer in itself is love."
Do you remember Yabsera, the youngest member of our group home in Addis Ababa? You can learn a little bit more about the story behind our group home here, and see pictures of a young Yabsera.
But now Yabsera – the boys in the group home call him Yabi – is quite grown up! He's 12 and going into Grade 5. On our recent trip to Ethiopia, we sat down for a one-on-one interview to learn about his daily life and his favourite things to do.
And get this – the entire interview was in English! Yabi’s grasp on the language has improved so much since the last time we were in Ethiopia. In school, all subjects except Amharic (the national language) are taught in English.
Read on to find out a little more about Yabsera and what life is like for this 12-year-old boy in the capital city of Ethiopia.
Q: What do you study at school? What’s your favourite subject?
A: My favourite subject is math. I like adding. We also learn Amharic, science, English and math.
Q: Walk us through a day in your life.
A: First, I get up and I wash my face and I eat my food. I go to school by bus. I go to school and I play first. Next, we learn many subjects. In one day, we learn seven subjects.
Q: What do you like to do after school?
A: I study and play football.
Q: What are your favourite foods? What do you eat in an ordinary day?
A: I eat many foods. My favourite food is shiro (a traditional Ethiopian stew made with chickpea flour). [Editor’s note: We also heard from Yabi’s mom that he loves to eat homemade French fries, which in Ethiopia are called chips!] In the morning, I eat bread and honey, and I drink tea.
Q: What about buna (Ethiopian coffee)?
A: I don’t like buna.
Q: What do you like about life in the group home?
A: I am able to learn, and eat my food.
Q: What would you want to say to your Canadian sponsor or the donors back in Canada?
A: To my sponsor, I say thank you, because you are doing for me many things. Canada people, I love you very much.
This is Hegane Gute. She has suffered from prolapse for four years. She is a widow with six children and is so glad to have received sponsorship for her surgery.
Bafite Ashanso has had a prolapse for four years. She has been pregnant nine times and sadly, only two of her children are living. Thank you for helping her!
This is Abaynesh Anjulo who has had a prolapsed uterus for 15 years. It has been especially serious for the past four years and has caused many issues. She has four children and is grateful for this life-changing surgery.
This is Gistane Alaro. She had prolapse surgery at another hospital 5 years ago and the condition returned one year later. She has been pregnant 11 times and has delivered 12 children. All are ALIVE! She had prolapse several years before her last surgery and Dr. Mark and his team are going to restore this mom's dignity again. Thank you donors!
This is Amsale Demise, a fourty-five year old who has five children. She is married and has suffered from prolapse for two years. Before she was able to have surgery she needed to be treated for pneumonia. Her treatment was successful and she had surgery a few days after coming to Soddo Christian Hospital!
Hirut Badacho is a mother of 10 children and has been suffering with prolapse for five years. Thank you to our donors who have sponsored her life-changing surgery!
Worke Wotango has also recently had her prolapse uterus surgery sponsored after suffering with this condition for three years. This widow and mother of three is so thankful!
This is Merkebe Mena, a mother of five who has been having obstetiric issues for a year. Her medical condition was very serious when she came to Dr. Mark and his team. Thank you to all who have supported this project and helped women like Merkebe have a better life.
This is Beckelech Berata. She is 40 years old and has had a severe prolapse for five months. She has four children and was brought to Soddo Christian Hospital by her husband. Thank you for helping her!
Dalibe Sigamo is 60 years old and has suffered from a prolapse uterus for three years. She has delivered nine children and five are still living. You have made a big difference in her life!
Say hello to Miserach Bate from Bucama. She had suffered from prolapse for three years and was anxious to have it surgically corrected. Thank you for helping her!
Zewuditu Zafe is a mom who has delivered six children and, unfortunately, only four are living. She has had a prolapse for a year and is so glad to have her surgery.
This is Wudinesh Maja, also from Bucama. She is a mom of eight who has had a prolapsed uterus for four years. We are so grateful to our donors for helping us to make such a great difference in her life.
This is Endashe Wajage, a widow who has delivered nine children, five of whom are living. She has had prolapse for 6 years and now she is on the road to wellness. We are so grateful to our sponsors.
This is Tayome Godilo. She has had prolapse for 13 years and is a widow who has been pregnant eight times and delivered 7 children. Thank you for helping her!
This is Maskale Chonda. She is married and has delivered seven children, five of whom are living. She has suffered from prolapse for three years. Because of our wonderful MWAHFE donors, Maskale is on her way to health again!