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We live for our children, creating opportunities in ethiopia

Adanech has never lacked ambition, just opportunity. Before ChildFund started working in her community, her family, like many others, struggled every day to make ends meet. Today, the Ethiopian mother owns a business, employs five people and is looking to grow her enterprise further. “Most importantly, my children are healthy and in school,” she says.

Adanech first learned of ChildFund`s Yekokeb Berhan program a little over a year ago and signed up for training in business development and micro-enterprise. “Before, we had no money,” she says. “It was a real struggle to make just enough money to live. I had a small weaving business, and I wanted to learn how to make a success of it.” She became involved in a savings group and was able to access a small loan on favourable terms.

The PEPFAR/USAID-funded Yekokeb Berhan program has worked in Ethiopia since May 2011 to put in place a child-focused social welfare network that allows all children, including the most vulnerable, to thrive. Focusing on HIV-affected communities, Yekokeb Berhan aims to reach 500,000 highly vulnerable children throughout the country and is a collaboration among Pact, Family Health International (FHI360) and ChildFund International, along with many local partner organisations.

Adanech (pictured below with her two-year-old son Yohannes) took out a loan of 10,000 Birr (US$500) to get started and has not looked back since. Now, after household expenses such as rent and food, staff wages and loan repayments, Adanech and her husband, Meteke, still have 3,000 Birr (US$150) at the end of the month that they can save or invest in the business.

“Life is so much better now,” says Meteke. “We live for our children. We can send them to school. And they are healthy.” He adds, proudly, that their nine-year-old daughter, Bizuayhue, dreams of becoming a doctor and helping the family, and that two-year-old Yohannes is “happy running around for now.”

Adanech`s community of Zenebework is one of the poorest in Addis Ababa. Most residents are migrants from poor rural areas, attracted to the better job prospects available in Ethiopia`s rapidly growing capital city. The city dump is nearby, and families scavenge for food and anything they can resell. The HIV infection rate is among the highest in the country, and a high proportion of children grow up in broken homes.

Yet Adanech is upbeat: “Life is also changing in the community. Life can change if you are given the opportunity. People here have never been scared of hard work. From the moment they wake to the moment they sleep, people here are working. They just need the opportunity to work smarter.”

At 28, Adanech is full of ambition. “I am looking to hire five more employees and buy a singeing machine to make more elaborate patterns on my fabrics, which I would then sell at a higher profit. The machine costs 10,500 Birr (US$510), which is a lot.” For now, she sells her textiles at the local market, but she aspires to sell to merchants at Merkato, Africa`s largest open-air market, and in Bole, an upscale area in Addis Ababa.

“Sometimes, all people need is an opportunity,” says Meteke, 31. “Before, we did not have the money to grow our business. No one would give us a loan other than loan sharks, who asked for 100 per cent interest. Now our loan repayment, including interest, is 450 Birr (US$22) every month, which is manageable.”

Yekokeb Berhan`s livelihood support is important, says Abraham, a program officer for ChildFund`s local partner called Love for Children and Family Development Charitable Organisation, which implements the program. “Giving families opportunities to earn a decent living is the most sustainable approach to helping them meet the needs of their children.”

He adds, “Ethiopia is seeing rapid economic growth, which is great. But with growth comes increasing inequality. I am proud of being part of this program, because I can see the changes in the lives of children who would otherwise have been left behind.”

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