Compassion-sponsored child Simagne sits with her mother, Ato, while her father holds her younger sister. The couple is receiving lifesaving medical treatment through Compassion's AIDS Initiative.
It's early in the morning in Ethiopia, and Bekelesh and Ato sit in the front yard of the home they share with their two daughters. The house is small, with only a bed and a bench made from dry wood in its single room. A curtain hangs around the bed to provide a bit of privacy. Although the house is small, the love that fills it can't be contained.
Another enemy besides poverty
When Bekelesh and Ato first married, their only enemy was poverty. As the family grew, their two daughters filled their home with giggles and joy. When they enrolled their oldest daughter, Simagne, in Compassion's Child Sponsorship Program, Bekelesh and Ato felt their family would finally have a future.
"It was 12 years ago that we got married," Ato says. "Back then & we were hale and hearty. We used to look like colorful fish swimming in the warm pond of life and love. Yes, if you have love you feel as if you have everything in this world and the world to come. We used to love each other as we still do, but HIV ...," his voice trails off.
In November of 2005, during a voluntary counseling and testing campaign conducted by a local Compassion project, Bekelesh and Ato learned that they were both HIV-positive.
Compassion brings hope after diagnosis
Although a diagnosis of AIDS is always devastating, families in poverty have no chance for medical care making the disease even more burdensome for them. Without medical intervention, death comes quickly for AIDS victims, and often there is little time to prepare children for the devastating loss of their parents.
But thanks to the support and care they receive through Compassion's AIDS Initiative, Bekelesh and Ato are living their life instead of contemplating their death.
"Living with HIV doesn't mean dying tomorrow and/or soon afterwards," Ato says. "You can live a long life as long as you strictly follow the advice you receive from your counselors."
Program secures children's futures
In the poorest countries in Africa, many parents do not receive lifesaving care and treatment like Ato and Bekelesh have. More than 15 million children are now orphans because of the AIDS pandemic, and that number is steadily growing.
Although nothing can take away the fears of a parent with a terminal disease, families in the Compassion program know that their children will be cared for even after they are gone.
"Had it not been for Compassion assistance, I always say to myself, we would have been doubly killed by the virus," says Ato.
"Now, even if we die, our children will not be left (as poor orphans). God, using Compassion, will continue to minister to our daughters' needs, and they will (each) become somebody in the future."
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