What a warrior mom looks like

I know many warrior moms . . . women who have had to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles as they seek the best for their kids. I know moms who fight for services for their special needs children or advocate for research for childhood illnesses. I know moms who work multiple jobs to make ends meet, and who make great sacrifices to ensure their family’s well-being.

I’ve been astounded by the strength of the mothers I have met this week with Help One Now. We have visited with several families in the Gunchire region who are a part of their unique sponsorship program designed to prevent poverty orphans. These are mothers who were at the end of their rope . . . who faced the difficult possibility of having to take their child to an orphanage in order to help them survive.

I met Birkenesh and Saiga and Marta and Seada Nesa, who shared their stories of survival with us. They were eager to tell of how their lives had been changed. So eager, in fact, that Saiga came running to find us on the road, greeting each of us with a bear hug and showering us with kisses as she led us to her home.

Their narratives were so similar and unfortunately all too common in this region. They had all been widowed . . . most of them losing their husband to AIDS and dealing with their own HIV+ status. In addition to dealing with the loss of a husband – a life-shattering blow by itself, they then had to face being ostracized by their own community. There is still a huge social stigma in regards to HIV, and these mothers and their children were shunned in their darkest hour. As they’ve lost their spouse and community in one fell swoop, they also found themselves in a precarious economic crisis, with no job and no way to earn money. They each described a painful season in which their survival hung in the balance . . . often going days without food, and wondering how to feed their children. Some of them made the difficult decision to take their kids to a nearby orphanage. All of them felt great despair. As we listened, it was hard to even fathom facing such great obstacles. We told the women they were brave, and we meant it. We also fought back tears as we contemplated the love and pain and loss these women have experienced.

But their was some redemption to their stories. Each of them shared the difference that Help One Now has made in their lives. They are now able to feed their children . . . every meal. Marta is opening a shop in her home. Saiga is selling vegetables. Seada Nesa received training and now sells traditional clothing at a nearby market. All of the women received agricultural training and assistant with planting their own farm, as well as livestock, and each of them showed off their garden and cows as we visited.

We also got to meet the children of these brave women, and see the strong bonds shared between this moms and their kids. All of these children were at risk of being orphaned, by either poverty or death. Now, these moms are receiving the medications they need to survive and thrive, and the community is receiving education to reduce the stigma around HIV. Through the help of sponsorship these families are intact and the kids are benefitting from the love and attention of their mothers, instead of growing up in an orphanage. They are also receiving an education to ensure a brighter future.

$42 a month can be the difference between surviving and thriving for families in Ethiopia. Sponsorship provides daily food, school fees, uniforms and supplies, and medical resources for the entire family.  It also helps develop the family economically: teaching modern farming techniques (most Ethiopians have extraordinarily large lots which can be entirely cultivated for food), providing cows, goats, and chickens and the training to raise and resource them, identifying existing gifts, skills, and assets of the parents to harness into income-producing outlets, and equip the HIV+ parents to address and overcome social stigma and regain solid footing in their community.

I was so moved by the warrior moms we met. Their before-and-after stories were dramatic, and each of them were so grateful and also eager for other women to experience this assistance. My hope, as you are reading this, is that you will be moved to partner with another family, to keep them together. This is life-saving work, and such a small sacrifice for those of us living in privilege to provide to women who are struggling to survive.

Please click here to sponsor a family.

Photos by Ty Clark, Jacob Combs, and Scott Wade.