Seven year old Aster is a confident, smart and playful student at our Bethany School in Ethiopia. Aster is dependent on her mother, her sole carer, who washes clothes for a tiny wage. This income was never enough and so we welcomed Aster into our care where regular food and healthcare has helped her become much healthier and thrive as one of the top students in her class.
But Aster’s progress was hiding the struggle of her home situation which was revealed to our staff when Aster’s mum, Bekelu, arrived at our project office. She was distressed and concerned for her daughter, she begged our staff: “take my daughter and keep her in the project because I am not sure how long I will live. Maybe in the following three or four days I will die.”
Our staff comforted Bekelu and asked why she was expecting to die. She explained that she hadn’t eaten for days. For months she hadn’t been able to afford much food, giving the little that she had to Aster. She showed her emaciated arms and torso, our staff could see each individual rib. Bekelu was starving.
Immediately our staff sprung into action, reassuring Bekelu that she no longer would starve as Stand by Me has a programme to provide nutritious food for families exactly like hers. They went to the store cupboard and collected milk, peanut butter, sugar, eggs and other food as well as money to cover her rent and other needs.
Over the following months, Bekelu returned for her monthly food parcels and we began to see her health improve. Today she has a smile on her face and is hopeful that she will be around to look after her daughter long into the future. We only wish that she had come to us sooner so that we could have saved her from the anguish and desperation.
So many families in Ethiopia are in Bekelu’s position, with no other choice but to use what little money they have on rent or feeding their child, starving themselves and therefore risking their child becoming an orphan. Our family support programmes are a safety net for families facing this daily dilemma.
Sometimes the smiling, happy and healthy faces of children like Aster hide the destitution that so many of them face when they return home. Stand by Me is committed to seeing lasting change not only in our children’s lives but also in their families and home situations. Food parcels, help for those living with HIV, rent support, funding for medical care and small business grants are just some of the ways we do this.