A Backyard Garden Changed Our Lives

Guest post by Berhane, an Ethiopian mother

photo of family in garden

Berhane, 28, sits in her family's vegetable patch with her five children (left to right) Frehiot, 9; Yohannes, 5; Ermias, 10 months; Tarik, 13; and Matadel, 7. They live near Semen Shewa, Ethiopia.

Before ChildFund gave us training about the importance and the necessity of backyard gardening, I didn’t know how to do or understand the benefit.

Today my family and I are not only enjoying our garden but we are even making a profit from the product we raise.

Photo of Tarik


There is a big demand for the vegetables. The prices increased. Therefore, we all make sure the garden is kept well and taken care to give the products.

We are eating different vegetables according to the seasons and our diet has improved. The income from these products supports us to buy school materials for the children.

All photos by Jake Lyell Photography.

photo of mother and child

Berhane and 10-month-old Ermias

Photo of Matadel


Commemorating the International Day of the African Child

Reporting by Tenagne Mekonnen, Africa Regional Communications Manager

The Day of the African Child, marked each year on June 16, stems from the brutality and cruelty inflicted on children in Soweto, South Africa, in 1976 during apartheid.

Thousands of black schoolchildren went to the street to protest the inferior quality of their education and to demand their right to be taught in their own language. Hundreds of young boys and girls were shot down, and in the two weeks of protest that followed, more than 100 were killed and more than 1,000 injured.

Group photo of Ethiopian childrenEach year, schoolchildren across Africa honor the memory of those killed and the courage of all who marched. This year, children in ChildFund’s Ethiopian programs share a song and their artwork to commemorate the day.

Song for the Day of the African Child

by Meseret, 13, and Jerusalem, 12

Listen now, listen now
We children we know
We deserve the love of mothers and fathers
We need to be free of child abusers
We know, we know
Child abuse is not right
We have education right
Listen, listen
Parents and communities
We children have rights
We are tomorrow’s doctors and leaders
Listen, listen
Be gender sensitive
Abandon rape
Beating and insult is not good for us
Advise us and guide and grow us
To help us be good citizens

Art by Yabsra and Kuribachew

Yabsra's drawingYabsra, 14, Grade 8
On my art, I have tried to show a child who has opportunity to go to school and another street child who is crying there. At the same time, I tried to show the student who went to school greeted the [street child] and another child, being carried by his mom, waved his hand to this boy. There is also a teacher who is calling the street boy to join the school. The message I want to pass on is that everybody, regardless of age, should give love and respect to children and take care of them. I have tried to teach the community to support orphaned and street children as they are their own.

Kuribachew's drawingKuribachew, 12, Grade 6
I have tried to express my feeling on my art. We need to take care of orphan children. I tried to show how children receive educational materials and uniforms for their school needs. This is to teach the community to continue their support.

Q&A with Pierre Jablon of Un Enfant par la Main

by Selamawit Yilma, Communications Officer, ChildFund Ethiopia

Un Enfant par la Main, based in France, is a member of the ChildFund Alliance. The 12-member global organization, which includes ChildFund International, provides assistance to children in 59 countries.  Chairman of the Board Pierre Jablon recently led a sponsor visit to Ethiopia.

Photo of Pierre Jablon

Pierre Jablon, chairman of the board, Un Enfant par la Main, a member of the ChildFund Alliance.

ChildFund Ethiopia: Would you please tell us a little about your organization?
Pierre Jablon: Un Enfant par la Main is a member of ChildFund Alliance and is based in France. The name Un Enfant par la Main refers to the linkage between the mother and child, and it has an English translation of “holding a child’s hand.” Established in 1990, the organization is involved in about 15 countries including Ethiopia. Ethiopia is the third [largest] country with regard to the number of sponsored children we have, next to Mali and Senegal.

ChildFund Ethiopia: What is your impression of Ethiopia in general?
Jablon: I am impressed very much by the people I see on the street and have met on our field visits. The people are so kind, smiling. They also have sense of dedication to welcome others.

ChildFund Ethiopia: What is the purpose of organizing the group of sponsors from France to visit Ethiopia?
Jablon: The first objective was to better understand what ChildFund Ethiopia is doing and how you are organized — to learn more about the system of sponsorship and financing and to know what challenges you are facing. The second objective was to be a witness to the event while sponsors meet their children and share their feeling.

ChildFund Ethiopia: Did anything strike you differently than you expected?
Jablon: I was not completely aware of the development of the association and the system used to organize the communities, which encourages them to take over the responsibility and be engaged more in the community work. Other countries also work closely with the community, but the system I noticed here is very impressive.

ChildFund Ethiopia: What was the feeling of the sponsors while they visited their sponsored children and learned about some of the interventions of our partners? Was it interesting for them?
Jablon: It was an important moment in their lives. For most of them, it was their first time to meet their sponsored children so it was a very significant event for them. They were very happy, emotional and positive. We would like to organize similar visits at least once a year but one of our barriers to sending sponsors to Ethiopia was the language problem. Most of our sponsors speak only French so they need a translator. But this time, they were happy because they were able to converse with their children and their families with the help of the team and the translator.

ChildFund Ethiopia: Is there any other expectation from the sponsors that we need to improve more in the future?
Jablon: Some of the concerns mentioned by the sponsors were to receive pictures of their sponsored children more frequently to see their physical change and growth. It is also important to have up-to-date information of the children as well as news flashes on what activities are successful for the children, families and community. Strengthening communication is important to all sponsors, and most sponsors had positive feedback on ChildFund’s sponsor activities.

ChildFund Ethiopia: Un Enfant par la Main delegated you to lead the team to visit ChildFund Ethiopia. Can you share with us a few thoughts on how your board members, and you as a chairman, are actively involved in supporting the organization and what motivates you to work on behalf of children?
Jablon: Let me start with myself. I joined Un Enfant par la Main in 2006. Before I came to this organization, I used to work with UNICEF France. I was involved in many similar activities there, like talking with children in school and doing promotional and communication work. However, I was looking for an organization that has international collaboration and is smaller in size, enabling me to understand how the donated resources reach the children and to see the impact at the individual level. I found all this in Un Enfant par la Main. The important moment for me is being here, and in other countries, is to meet ChildFund staff, introduce our organization and meet children supported through Un Enfant par la Main. Though we are small organization, we want to be closest with our partners.

Regarding to the board activity, most of them are very active and have different responsibilities such as fundraising, coordination of regional volunteer workers and raising the profile of Un Enfant par la Main through various meetings and other opportunities.

ChildFund Ethiopia: Currently Un Enfant par la Main has about 450 sponsored children in Ethiopia. Is there any plan to increase this number or enhance the partnership between Un Enfant par la Main and ChildFund Ethiopia to help children in Ethiopia?
Jablon: I have discussed this issue with the national director and agreed that if there is room to increase the number of sponsored children, we would like to do that. In addition, we would like to strengthen our partnership by starting micro projects in communities where Un Enfant par la Main sponsored children live. As I observed from my visit, micro–enterprise opportunities exist and have a positive impact of increasing family income.

ChildFund Ethiopia: Do you want to add any more?
Jablon: I would like to thank the team from ChildFund Ethiopia. It was a really fantastic welcome and excellent cooperation. I hope we could also do more to inform and motivate the sponsors from France. In the future, we may also prepare another trip since this trip has been so successful.

From Scavenger to Top Student

by Wondwosen Hailu

Wondwosen, who works for URC, is a quality improvement advisor with ChildFund’s Strengthening Community Safety Nets project in Ethiopia.

Biruk is now a scout leader.

Biruk,16, had lost both of his parents due to prolonged illnesses associated with HIV/AIDS when he was only nine. His aunt gave him refuge since he had nowhere to go. However, her $100 birr pension (less than $10 monthly) was too small to adequately care for Biruk and her own three children.


Biruk had to supplement his needs by scavenging in Addis Ababa’s biggest garbage dumping site, located few hundred meters from his home. He was on the verge of dropping out of school.

New hope came to him through a local NGO called HAPCSO (Hiwot HIV/AIDS Prevention Care & Support Organization), which receives funding and technical support from ChildFund Ethiopia to assist orphans and vulnerable children impacted by HIV/AIDs. HAPCSO awarded Biruk a full scholarship, which enabled him to afford school materials and fees, and made him eligible for a dry food ration and a cash allowance of $100 birr per month.

His social life also took a new path when he joined the Scout Club, which he currently leads. The Scout Club provides children with life skills, counseling support and recreational activities. Club members play games and perform music and drama. They also learn skills needed to become successful team players. The club, which has 110 regular and 300 associate members from Kolfe Keranyo sub city in Addis Ababa, regularly conducts life skills and health training for children.

Through their performances, children and youth educate members of their community on the negative effects of stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS and promotes desirable behaviors. As a result of their activities, 70 iddirs (a form of indigenous social insurance for help members during bereavement) revised their bylaws to include an article on providing care and support to vulnerable children.

The Scout Club has been instrumental in turning Biruk’s life around. He continues to amaze the school community with his extraordinary work. For the last three years, he has been the top scorer in his class.

Biruk, who escaped a life of garbage scavenging, aspires to become a medical doctor. He wishes to save lives of Ethiopians who suffer from diseases.

Early Marriage Kills Children’s Dreams and Hope

Editor’s note: Today we launch an occasional blog series by children and youth enrolled in ChildFund programs around the world. When we listen to children, we find they have so much to tell us. Their voices shape our work.

by Yabetse, age 11, Ethiopia

My drawing explains how a girl is being forced to get married early by her father. Not only is she getting married early, but she is also getting married to someone she doesn’t even know. Most of the time there is a big age gap.

Fighting against early marriage: Yabetse, grade 6, explains his drawing.

The girl is crying because she wants to continue her school and she is too young to be married. But her father is forcing her to be happy because he supports the marriage. The girl’s mother is not happy for her daughter’s early marriage, but she can’t say much as the head of the house is the father and he decides.

In the boy’s family, the father is not happy that his son is getting married, forcing someone into his life without her will. But the son is not paying attention to the father’s advice and guidance. His mom is happy that her son is getting married.

My drawing shows how our parents [don’t see] the danger in early marriage. They are not paying attention to the problem which will come with it — their children will be forced to stop school and be forced to take big responsibility which they can’t handle.

I want to educate the community and society through my drawing that children shouldn’t be forced into early marriage before they are mentally and physically ready, and finishing education. Our dreams and hope will be shattered because of early marriage.

Can a Cow Make a Difference in the Life of a Family?

Reporting by ChildFund Ethiopia

Yewubnesh and sons with the family cow.

As Yewubnesh finished the afternoon milking, she paused for a moment. Was it really more than two years ago that her husband Balcha had died? That had been a difficult time for her and the children. She recalled wondering how they would survive.

In the Ethiopian village of Buee, ChildFund has helped establish and train village committees to identify and help families and individuals in need in their community. At a committee’s recommendation Yewubnesh was put forward for a livelihood sponsorship, and two years ago this sponsorship arrived for the family in the form of a cow.

In Buee a month’s supply of milk — a liter of milk a day — costs approximately US$12. The cow is now producing more than 10 liters of milk each day, so Yewubnesh’s income has substantially increased.

Yewubnesh has five children with dreams of completing higher education. In Ethiopia, advanced education is made possible by the government if families can afford books, fees and the cost of living away from home at college or university.

The family’s milk cow, which last year gave birth to a calf — a heifer — has provided the necessary income for Yewubnesh to support her children in their educational pursuits.

Daughter Emebet, 20, is studying administration at a university in Addis Ababa; Alemu, 18, is now at Dila University studying economics; and son Zeneba, 17, who also has a ChildFund sponsor, is studying horticulture at Walito.

Yewubnesh’s third son Simi, 15, attends Butajira technical college, where he is studying horticulture. Her youngest son Abush, 12, attends Buee primary school.

The cow will have another calf soon, as will the heifer. So the family’s herd is steadily growing. ChildFund has provided veterinary support in the form of artificial insemination and medicines as needed for the cows.

As for her part, Yewubnesh spends considerable time collecting forage for the two animals. Additional feed for her prized cows costs about US$20 each year. Yet, she goes about the morning and evening milking with the comforting knowledge that the family’s income is secure and her children’s futures now look brighter than she thought possible just a few short years ago.

From Sponsored Child to ChildFund Community Leader

by Demissie Belete, ChildFund Ethiopia

I truly don’t know what my life would have been if it was not for ChildFund and my sponsor. I am who I am today because of ChildFund’s care, protection and provision.

Who I was before ChildFund. The life of myself and my family changed drastically when my father passed away, leaving my siblings and me without a father at a very young age. My father was the family’s only breadwinner and it was a hard time for my mother, as she had no income to support six children. Shortly after, ChildFund came to my family’s rescue, as they educated me, provided clean water and other health improvements and, most important, assisted my mother and her ability to feed us. Today, with confidence I will say ChildFund is an organization that works extremely hard to assist the deprived, excluded and vulnerable children of the world, as well as striving to make them leaders of tomorrow.

Who am I today? I am a 27-year-old English degree graduate working with ChildFund in Northshoa, Ethiopia, as a sponsorship community development worker. The organization has taught me the importance of education, and currently, I am a third-year degree program student in business administration, graduating next year with intentions of establishing my own business. Through ChildFund’s emphasis on education, my life is filled with hope and encouragement.

As a community development worker, I earn approximately US$220 monthly. Not only do I financially support myself, but also my family, as my siblings can now go to school as a result of the opportunities ChildFund has offered me. Working within this organization has made me realize how fortunate I am to be involved in improving the lives of children whom I can relate to because I was once just like them.

On top of my work duties, I offer advice and guidance to less fortunate children as I encourage and motivate them so one day they can have a bright future.

My sponsor has not only financially assisted me, but has provided the encouragement that has led to who I am today. I would like my sponsor to know that I am now an employee supporting myself and my family, and her dream for me is fulfilled.

Sustainable and Life-Changing Support through ChildFund

by Tenagne Mekonnen, Regional Communications Manager, ChildFund Africa

“My financial status has increased. I can support my family with the income I get. My children and family have the benefit of drinking milk. Food is on the table all the time,” Genet tells me with a big smile when I stop by her house for a visit.

The mother of three children, Genet lives about 130 km (81 miles) from Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. Genet is the beneficiary of the ChildFund-Semen Shoa Tesfa Berhan Child and Development Family Association (CDFA). One of her children now has a ChildFund sponsor.

Genet joined the credit and savings cooperative organized by CDFA and the Ethiopian government to alleviate her poverty. She was able to take a loan and buy a cow to start a milk-selling business in her village. But prior to the purchase of the cow, Genet explains that she received ChildFund-supported training to help her run her business successfully.

Genet and her 'beautiful' dairy cow.

“I purchased this beautiful cow and I get 15 liters (4 gallons) per day from this cow,” Genet tells me. Her children and family are happy to now have a steady supply of milk at home. Selling the extra milk has also improved the financial status of the family, enabling them to buy other necessities and send their children to school.

I ask Genet how she sells all of the milk and who are her customers. She replies that the family association has organized the Women’s Milk Cooperative with support from ChildFund Australia. Village women bring their milk to the co-op every day. The association then sells milk, butter, cream and cheese to the local community. “Though we give our milk to the cooperative on a daily basis, we collect the money twice a week, which helps us to use the money wisely,” Genet explains.

In addition to her dairy business, Genet points to other assistance gained through ChildFund. “The organization provided us apple seeds. I planted the apple seeds. I had not seen an apple before in my life; it was the first time last year I was able to see and taste apple,” she says.

Fresh apples provide good nutrition and income.

“Now I have the information about apples,” Genet exclaims. “The apple is good for health and can make good money. Therefore, this year I have apple fruits on my trees and I am sure that too is going to increase my finances.”

ChildFund gives sustainable and life-changing support to the community on a long-term basis, Genet reflects. “But if for some reason ChildFund decides to leave this town, we are able to stand by ourselves. Our status is changed because of the training and the support we have received from the organization,” she says.

“What can I say? I have no words to express what ChildFund is doing. We can only say we are different now. Our children go to school, they are healthy, they are fed well and they have uniforms and school materials. We know there will always be challenge but we have learned how to tackle,” she says.

Now, I understand the big smile of Genet.

Future Filmmakers of Ethiopia

By David Hylton
Public Relations Specialist

31 in 31Continued drought, famine and high HIV/AIDS rates are all major issues that impact children and youth in Ethiopia, but with ChildFund International’s help, the next generation of leaders are fighting through those problems and charting their own futures.

At Abogida Digital Studio in Ethiopia, a group of like-minded youth are setting themselves up to become future TV journalists or, perhaps, the next big movie maker. Two years ago, youth in ChildFund International’s programs in Ethiopia attended a video and photography training institution to learn about film production.

Ethiopia studioShortly thereafter, these youth came up with the idea of establishing their own studio.

“A month before our graduation, we started discussing our future employment opportunity and the way we find [jobs],” says 21-year-old Abraham Salasebew. “While analyzing this, we came up with the idea of establishing our own studio.”

The group of 11 fledgling filmmakers approached ChildFund Ethiopia staff and shared their vision for the studio. In response ChildFund offered technical and financial support for the entrepreneurial effort.

In April 2008, the young business partners received a legal license to establish the studio. They opened shop with one digital camera, one video camera and a computer. The group, though, still faced financial hurdles with high rent payments for the studio and a loan that needed to be repaid. Working with ChildFund Alliance partner ChildFund Deutschland in Germany, the group obtained a photocopy machine, a sound mixer and a tripod, and other acillary equipment and supplies to boost the studio’s capabilities.

With these additions, Abraham and his colleagues began getting new clients and are now making a profit. The Abogida Digital Studio offers photo and video recording and editing, film production and other photographic services.

“We would like to thank ChildFund for its commitment to support unemployed youth like us to realize our vision and change our [hopeless] position,” Abraham says.

For more information about ChildFund’s work in Ethiopia, click here.

More on Ethiopia
Population: 85.2 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 1 million children and families
Did You Know?: Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa, means “new flower.” It was established in 1886.

Next in our “31 in 31” series: Youth watching out for children in Vietnam.

Twitter Gifts are on Their Way

By David Hylton,
Public Relations Specialist

It has taken just a little longer than we anticipated, but the gifts for children and families in four African countries made possible by our Twitter campaign in July are in transit.

As part of our Twitter campaign, Flip video cameras have arrived in The Gambia and Zambia.

As part of our Twitter campaign, Flip video cameras have arrived in The Gambia and Zambia.

To give you a brief recap, the Twitter campaign worked like this: every 200 followers @ChildFund received during two weeks in July meant a gift from our Gifts of Love and Hope catalog to one of the countries. The gifts were made possible by an anonymous donor who went above their usual giving amount. You can read more about our campaign here.

When the campaign ended July 27, we had more than 2,200 followers, which meant 11 gifts. Two sets of chickens are now headed to a school in The Gambia; three goats are going to families in Zambia; three sets of 15 grafted mango trees will be planted in Kenya; and three sets of vegetable seeds will soon arrive in Ethiopia.

These donations are about much more than the actual item. Each item represents a livelihood for a family, income, responsibility, and, most importantly, an opportunity for a brighter future thanks to each of you.

Small video cameras have already been shipped to The Gambia and Zambia and we expect footage from those areas in the coming weeks. As the videos arrive back in our U.S. headquarters in Richmond, Va., we will share them with you. Due to delivery issues to remote parts of the world and technology issues with slow Internet connections in many areas where we work, getting information from our program areas takes time and patience from everyone involved.

Thanks to everyone for following and helping to change the lives of 11 children and their families.

For more information about ChildFund International, visit

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