|   Posted: May 11, 2017

Sameson says his journey to transformation started at Compassion.

Sameson Tilahun

Sameson says his journey to transformation started at Compassion.

Sameson teaching in the workshop at the Compassion center

Home Country: Ethiopia

Occupation: Teaches woodworking at the Compassion student center where he grew up.

Life Goal: “To continue managing his woodworking business and teaching students.”

One of Sameson’s earliest memories is keeping watch over his aunt’s cattle as a 4-year-old. Under the dark Ethiopian sky, Sameson was scared. He missed his mother. He was hungry and tired. But most of all, Sameson felt alone.

A New Beginning

“I remember the day my mother brought me to Addis (Ababa),” recalls Sameson. “My mother took me to my aunt’s house where there were a lot of children to play with. I was happy. However, my excitement quickly diminished when my mother came to say goodbye. I was confused. I stood up to go back with her, but she told me that I would be staying with my aunt from then on. She cried so much when she said goodbye and left. For a long time, I always believed she would come back for me. But she never did.”

It was easy for Sameson to get lost in a home bursting with 11 children. As the littlest one, he always got what was left over — food, beds and attention. Along with his cousins, Sameson was assigned chores, and his primary duty was watching the family’s livestock.

“I was almost 5 years old, and I spent the whole day tending to the cattle and the sheep alone,” says Sameson. “The rainy season was the worst time, since I had no shelter. Because I didn’t know my way back home too well, many days I grabbed the tail of a cow and followed it home. I had no friends and no one to talk to while I spent my days in the field.”

Sameson begged his aunt to let him go to school. But there were too many children, too many mouths to feed. He occasionally went to evening classes, but they were aimed at older kids, and Sameson was lost and confused.

A neighbor told Sameson’s aunt about Compassion. She let the woman know about all of the free resources Sameson could get at the center — snacks, school fees, clothes. At first she was skeptical. Who would watch the livestock? And would they try to convert Sameson? What would the community think about her sending him to a church?

But finally, she relented. At the center, Sameson was quiet and reserved. And the fear that had plagued him throughout his childhood was still present.

Sameson reading his sponsor letter

“The first year of my stay in the center was filled with fear,” says Sameson. “I was afraid that the chance would be taken away from me. I was afraid that it was not real. I was afraid that I would go back to herding the cattle alone in the field. I was afraid that someone would come and tell me that I didn’t deserve it all. It took me almost a year to believe that Compassion really came to give me a better life.”

Sameson thrived at the Compassion center. He made friends and did well at school. For the first time in his life, the boy had found a place of caring and belonging.

But he still lived with his aunt and still had responsibilities at her home. When Sameson was in the 10th grade, the family opened a wood shop on their farm, and his aunt told Sameson he had to work.

Sameson studying for school

Passing the 10th-grade exams is crucial for students in Ethiopia. Those grades will dictate whether a student can complete high school and go on to college. If you fail, you must drop out of school or enter a vocational training program.

Sameson still remembers the day he got the envelope with his scores inside. His hands shook as he pulled out the paper. And all he saw was one word.


Sameson was devastated. Were all of his dreams over?

The staff at the Compassion center immediately reached out to Sameson. They helped him enroll at a woodworking program, since he had already shown talent in the area. But they gave him more than a set of skills; they gave him the promise that they would not give up on him.

“When I heard that failing my exam was not the end of the road for me, I praised God and I was very thankful to Compassion,” says Sameson. “For so many children in my village, including my aunt’s children, failing 10th grade means the end of the road for them, since most of them couldn’t afford vocational school. But for me, God gave me a second chance through Compassion.”

Sameson teaching children in the woodshop at the Compassion center

Today, the Compassion center where Sameson grew up has its very own woodworking shop at the church. Sameson works in the shop, teaching students and managing a team of woodworkers who make furniture for the surrounding community. From his salary, Sameson has been able to rent his own home.

Sameson has come a long way from the scared little boy in the pastures of Ethiopia. He is confident and able and has many dreams for his future. And he says that journey to transformation started at Compassion.

“Compassion is a place where my life took a better turn,” says Sameson. “Compassion is a place where I learned how to be kind and generous through the interaction I had with my sponsor. Compassion is a place where I grew up to be the young man God created me to be. Compassion for me is truly special. I’ll keep on reflecting on Compassion’s influence in my life for as long as I live.”