Assoupi, in the blue dress, sits with her two brothers and their mother in their home. Thanks to help from Compassion, they no longer worry about going hungry every day, and now have a reason to believe in a better future.
The unhealthy atmosphere of Dekon, a typical poor area in Lome, Togo, is apparent. Most young children do not go to school. Young boys sell mobile phones and many young girls devote themselves to prostitution in order to make a little money for the family to live on.
Assoupi, a girl growing up in Dekon, and her family knew well the struggles to meet basic needs. It was almost lunchtime and Assoupi, her twin brother Assou, and Edoh, their little brother, were feeling pain in their stomachs. Their mother Kodjovi Amele, a 32-year-old widow, could not cook and the family was going to spend the whole day without eating. There was no food and no money.
The father passed away five years ago after a short time of illness, leaving behind two widows and nine children. Being the second wife and much younger than her spouse, Kodjovi (Assoupi's mother) suffered a lot with her three children even when the father was still alive.
As in most polygamous families, the father of the family's favorite wife was his second wife, Kodjovi. Animosity was so strong between the two wives that the husband decided to leave the house for another place to live with Kodjovi and her children. At the death of the husband, Kodjovi, who did not have a job, was so helpless she decided reluctantly to join her co-spouse in the Adoboukome area.
This other family was also experiencing food problems. They used to cook in the morning for the whole day; they would eat at lunchtime, and if there were leftovers they would keep them for dinner. Otherwise they would put flour in water and add sugar to drink before going to bed. This food was called "flour milk." When the family was totally out of any food supply the mother would buy unsafe food made of cassava in the street.
Assoupi and her two brothers were going to school when their father was alive, but after his death they were threatened with being forced to drop out because their mother could not afford the school fees. Last year Kodjovi did not pay the school fees and Assoupi could not attend courses normally, and so this year she is repeating grade five.
Assoupi's mother tried many things to make money but was usually unsuccessful and the pay was unpredictable. One day she tried to sell small items in the marketplace. This seemed to bear fruit so much so that she created a kind of system with the other women selling in the market. As the initiator of this system, she was designated to keep the money.
The method was that every month each member would pay a given amount of money and the entire amount collected was to be allocated to one member to invest it for her own benefit. And the operation was to be continually repeated every month. In short, it was a type of microfinancing. Assoupi's mother was on the right track.
Unfortunately, she fell sick around that same time. She was suffering from fibroids and was told after consultation to get ready for a surgery.
As she was not well off, she had to use the total amount of the money, $400 (which she was supposed to keep for the group of women in the market), for her medical consultation. Still, the money was not sufficient for the surgery.
To worsen the situation, the other women were after her day and night demanding their money.
Assoupi's mother had to hide to avoid being taken to the police. Assoupi and her brothers could no longer go out in the area without being pointed at as the children of "nyÕ·u katafitito" ("lady crook" in Ewe).
Overtaken by Hope
At the height of despair, Assoupi's mother heard about Compassion International, which had just opened in the country and was registering children in need.
The Compassion center workers and volunteers were sent out to families to make sure needy children were effectively registered for the program. After screening, Assoupi and her twin brother were registered.
From that moment, a great hope came to the family.
The first thing the mother noticed as a change in the lives of her twins is that they began to pray every morning before going out.
"My children often tell me that they pray for a change in my living conditions," the twins' mother said.
Assoupi and Assou are now able to go to school, thanks to Compassion's partner church.
In addition to attending school, the children also attend the Compassion-assisted child development center every Saturday. There they receive both breakfast and lunch.
The center also cares for the children's health needs, making certain they are sent to the hospital for regular checkups and receive medical treatment when necessary.
Transformation of the Heart
Assoupi's mother was planning to make Assoupi work as a servant in a house to make a little money for the family. But after the girl was registered in the Compassion program, she no longer faces that grim prospect.
Now Assoupi dreams of being a doctor. In the past, Assoupi's only dream was to eat her fill every day at least once. Assoupi is making plans to fulfill her new dream as she finds support, encouragement and hope through Compassion.
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