Every year in Ethiopia, there are a few beneficiaries “graduating” from the Child Sponsorship Programme* supported by CEDAR. Generally, beneficiaries are no longer supported by the programme once they reached 18 years old, however, we believe that the criterion to “graduate” from the programme shall not be limited to their age. We, instead, take the holistic development of the beneficiaries into account. For this reason, even as they turn 18 years old, we continue to subsidise them in occupational training for 1 to 3 years in hope of a higher chance for them to be employed with a certain qualification. For those that were admitted to university, our subsidy will apply until the completion of their degrees. From 2018, the programme has subisdised 145 children and adolescents and helped 204 parents or guardians form self help groups to fight against long term poverty.
When the program was launched in 1994, it was initiated to support children of the most impoverished families. We provided them with basic daily necessities and medical aid, education, and looked after their spiritual growth. Over the years, our partners organised and conducted Sunday schools, regular home visits, social gatherings during festivals, and so on to embody and to tell the story of the love of Jesus Christ, while helping these families in building a network that enabled mutual support.
To help them walk out of poverty in the long run, we supported our partner to establish self help groups in 2011 for the purpose of reinforcing support given to the whole family instead of only the children. In group meetings, we taught them the habit and impact of savings, which are especially crucial to the families who already could not benefit from the government’s allowance. Each self help group comprise 15 to 20 people, and members of the group are required to set aside a certain amount of savings every month to contribute to the group’s capital, which can then be borrowed and used to start a business at the lowest interest rate possible. This practice shall increase the income of the families, hence lower the dropout rate of children due to poverty.
As God has blessed us with a journey of 25 years with the children of the Child Sponsorship Programme, we witnessed them growing up, maturing in faith, graduating from schools, and securing a stable job; but what is more pleasing to us is to know that we have cultivated young people with the strong will and a sense of responsibility to help others in need.
Eskedar: “I want all to be free from poverty, not only myself.”
Eskedar is one of the “graduates” from our Child Sponsorship Programme. She grew up in an impoverished family, completed her studies in a teacher training college with the assistance of our programme, and is now a teacher in a public primary school. Her improvement of living condition did not make her complacent about life. She remembered the difficult days that she experienced hunger herself, she was determined to help students who were unable to afford lunch at school. Eskedar and her fellow teachers contributed to pay for 130 needy students for their lunches. She was responsible for coordinating the lunch programme, making sure of equal distribution among students. As a former sponsored child, she told us that she has learnt to honour and fear God, to love her neighbours, and to care for and respect others.
We can tell from Eskedar’s story that age and educational level are only the quantifiable indicators of whether an individual is ready to be “graduated” from, namely, to be detached from the Child Sponsorship Programme. We believe that these children truly “graduated” as they begin to understand God’s mercy, to give back to the community, and to respond in the act of love.
We will no longer be funding Child Sponsorship Programme** starting from 2020. After careful discussion and evaluation between our representative colleagues, and our partner’s colleagues, and stakeholders in Ethiopia, we have reached the consensus that it is appropriate to terminate the project in June next year. In doing so, we hope that local churches and organisation can be empowered to address the issue of poverty in their own community. We have designated a 3-year transition period from 2017 to 2020, during which we will help our partner to establish a “Mentor Scheme” (a programme for impoverished children), to provide vocational training for fresh graduates, to facilitate government to regularly follow up on the self help groups, so that the caring network between churches and the community is strengthened.
Please keep Ethiopia in your prayers that all children in the country shall live an abundant and blessed life.
*CEDAR Fund had supported the Addis Ababa Child Sponsorship Project since 1994, first partnering with Addis Ababa Guenet Church (AAGC); and in 2016, AAGC’s headquarters, Ethiopian Guenet Church Development and Welfare Organisation (EGCDWO), began to manage the project directly with CEDAR’s continued support.
**Although we will be closing the Child Sponsorship Programme, we will not stop caring for children and youth in need. You can be a supporter of “Join Hands Join Hearts” Children Ministry Scheme, making a monthly donation to walk with CEDAR Fund and our worldwide partners in fulfilling the teachings of the Bible, helping children in poverty, and sharing the love of God.