|   Posted: February 09, 2023

Hunger leaves many students without energy to focus, so no lunch means no school for many children. Learn how Compassion staff, supporters and local mothers in Ethiopia showed Christ-like kindness to bring children back to the classroom.

How Kindness Filled Empty Stomachs and Classrooms

Hunger leaves many students without energy to focus, so no lunch means no school for many children. Learn how Compassion staff, supporters and local mothers in Ethiopia showed Christ-like kindness to bring children back to the classroom.

Story and photos by Tigist Gizachew
2 young girls

In homes across the globe where school-age children are present, mornings are typically full of chaos.

In Ethiopia, mothers rise early to prepare their children’s breakfast and pack their lunchboxes. The type of lunch children take to school varies depending on the economic level of the family. But all families work to make sure their children have something to eat during the school day.

Research shows the critical role that nutrition plays in childhood development. Well-nourished children are full of energy. Having a healthy, well-rounded diet allows them to focus and actively engage in their classes. Beyond the school room, children with full bellies are also better able to play and interact with their friends. Having food to eat at school goes beyond the child’s nourishment — it affects their psychological well-being as well.

A Growing Hunger Gap

The global food crisis, conflict and inflation have destabilized families’ ability to provide for their children. Children are at the forefront of food scarcity, which affects their education and development.

According to World Food Programme, food insecurity and malnutrition are major concerns for Ethiopia, with 20.4 million people in the country needing food support.

The soaring price of food is choking most families’ budgets. The gap between what they earn and what their money can buy is becoming wider by the day. Most families are forced to choose which meal to cut out of the day — breakfast, lunch or dinner.

2 young girls eat lunch at their school

In one central Ethiopian town, Compassion’s local church partner began to hear more and more stories of dwindling school attendance. They learned that students, including many in Compassion’s program, were facing increased hunger at home.

Birtukan, a 65-year-old grandmother, was struggling to feed her 7-year-old granddaughter, Yeresen.

“I raise my granddaughter alone. I work hard to provide for her, but recently it feels like my hands are tied. I save a little here and a little there, but it is never enough to consistently feed my family. I have never seen a time as challenging as these recent years.”

“What do I do if there is not enough food for everyone in the house?” she continues. “I wouldn’t want Yeresen to go to school with no food and sit while her friends are eating. It is a difficult choice, but sometimes it is the only choice.”

“Teachers reported to us the number of children who were missing school regularly,” says Bayush, director of Yeresen’s Compassion center. “They tried to buy lunch from their own pockets for those who didn't bring anything. However, when that became too much, they brought those children to our office. The number kept increasing.”

Education is a powerful force in freeing children from crippling cycles of poverty; without it, their opportunity for a future free from poverty dwindles.

“We knew we had to do something quick,” says Bayush.

“We vowed to do all we can for our children in the program. No child should worry about missing school because they don’t have lunch. These little children deserve to be in school. They deserve to thrive.”

Ripple Effects of Kindness: Full Bellies!

To mitigate the food crisis, Compassion’s local church partners in Ethiopia have been responding with the help of generous people who give to Compassion’s Disaster Relief Fund and other funds that cover costs beyond what sponsorship can pay for. But every response requires uniquely tailored, creative actions.

The staff at Yeresen’s Compassion center prayed about what to do and met with families to ask about their struggles. Then they took a bold step. They began preparing and packing lunches for every child in the program to eat on school days.

several young girls hold their new lunchboxes
Yeresen, third from right, and several of her friends hold the lunchboxes they received.

“A heavy burden lifted off my shoulders with the center’s intervention,” Birtukan says. “It would have just been impossible to keep my granddaughter in school without this support. The lunch that the center packs for Yeresen didn’t only guarantee her not missing school, it also built her self-esteem as she confidently takes her lunchbox to her class to eat with her friends. The center really proved that they cared.”

When the children’s mothers learned of the center’s plan, they were so grateful that they wanted to join in with their own acts of kindness. They volunteered to prepare the lunches themselves. They now go to the Compassion center early in the morning to prepare lunchboxes for students.

Thanks to acts of kindness from the Church, mothers and Compassion supporters, children in this community now look forward to going to school every morning.

“Our reward is seeing the smiling faces of children when they run to the center for their lunchboxes,” says Bayush. “Children are happy and thriving. Their minds are no longer fixed on whether or not they would be able to go to school. Their minds are now focused on learning. The mothers are also thankful. We are grateful for being able to do something to reverse the culminating effect of this crisis.”

Activities to Spread Kindness

2 girls hug each other

Be inspired by 21 kindness activities and ideas for kids.

2 girls hug each other