Sponsorship helps Dagim Fanta, age 10, avoid ills that plague thousands of Ethiopian children surviving without parents. "I have become very happy," he says, smiling.
Dagim Fanta loves to go to school. There he studies Amharic and English, plays sports, and sings songs. When he returns to the home he shares with his grandparents in rural Ethiopia, he does his chores - he fetches water, helps his grandmother cook, and, of course, feeds the chickens. It's a simple but blissful existence for this 10-year-old who lost his mother to death and his father in the murky events of war. It's also an idyllic life compared with the millions of other Ethiopian children orphaned by life's circumstances.
About 13 percent of Ethiopia's 46 million children have lost one or both parents, according to the United Nations. The country staggers under the weight of caring for the nearly 5 million orphaned children who wander its streets, flood its labor market, and appeal to its officials for food. But Dagim has been spared this life of homelessness, child labor and hunger -thanks to the care of his grandparents and help from Compassion sponsors.
"We can't express in words our happiness," says Lechebo Lankno, Dagim's 75-year-old grandfather. "For me it's like being born twice to know that I have someone, that the family as a whole has someone abroad thinking of, praying for, and helping us."
In a country in which nearly half the population is under age 15, children are indeed the future for Ethiopia. But a perfect storm of tragedy - HIV/AIDS, war with bordering nations, and poverty - has converged to rob the nation of its adults. Parentless children are usually taken in by extended family, but there are so many Ethiopian orphans that even that safety net is strained. The government estimates it costs $115 million a month to care for orphans. That price far exceeds the $140 million a year it spends on the country's entire health system.
A Chance for Hope
In a darkened room in his wooden home in rural Awassa, Dagim squats down near his grandmother, Zenebech Zeleke, age 50. The two are preparing an evening meal. Though Dagim's family has virtually no income - his grandfather, Lechebo, is bedridden with arthritis - the family is much better off than the others in its rural community. Dagim attends the Yirgalem Full Gospel Believer's Church Student Center (ET-431), and this Compassion-assisted project gives him food, clothes and school materials.
"Before Dagim's registration in the Compassion-assisted project, I worried about how to meet his school needs," says Zenebech. "The neighbors helped me in covering his school fees and educational supplies. Now this burden is off my back. It is a big relief for me."
Lechebo says because of Compassion sponsorship, his grandson has a chance for a future. "We wish to see Dagim finishing and completing his calling and being a good person," he says. "We want to see him being molded in God's work. We feel very happy and we thank God for that."
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