Samrawit Tujuma still remembers the day she came to the Ketena Hulet Student Center in 1995. She was a frightened 8-year-old, clutching her mother's hand in a crowd of children outside one of the largest protestant churches in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Her mother had tugged at her hand as they pressed through the crowd, but as they arrived at the church steps, the mood changed.
"I clearly remember my mother's initial eagerness to get me into the program and her change of heart once she learned that it was a Christian organization," says Samrawit. "Even though she wanted me to get all the benefits, she didn't want the risk of being alienated from the community. The project staff needed to convince her to not ruin my only chance of getting an education."
Samrawit's mother did eventually consent to enrolling her daughter in the program, and for the first time the child began attending school. The project also made sure that she was provided with clothing, food supplies and medical care. And for the next 10 years, Samrawit proved to her mother that she had made the right decision. She finished high school, and began attending a vocational school in leather and tannery, specializing in garment production.
"I praised God for the opportunity [to go to vocational school]…Through my journey in Compassion, I have seen the guiding hands of God."
Samrawit graduated from vocational school, and subsequently Compassion, in 2005. But she continued to maintain contact with workers from her student center—people that she now saw as her extended family.
Where is Samrawit today? After working for five years at a leather manufacturing company, Samrawit has been promoted and is saving up to pursue an education in design. She is engaged to a Christian man she met through work, and together they plan to set up their own business designing and producing leather goods. She is also able to help support her mother and family financially, a blessing that she attributes to the support of Compassion.
"Had it not been for the intervention through Compassion, I wouldn't be where I am today. Compassion is a place where I found life through Jesus, where I discovered that I can be anything, where I learned the message of love and sharing from the little we have, where I learned about kindness and compassion, where I learned the power of serving with love. [Compassion is] where my foundation was laid."