The AGOHELMA (Abebech Gobena Yehetsanat Kebekabena Limat Mahber) Orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is an inspiring place for all. I first visited this orphanage in Addis a few years ago and was quickly astounded by the projects they run and the support they give to so many people.
It is not just an orphanage! It is so much more and supports not just the children of all ages who live there from babies to teenagers, but also local fostering, feeding programs and education to name but a few.
Their vision is “To see a nation in which every child attains their fullness and become responsible and participating citizens, as well as promoting children’s wellbeing, empowering communities and contributing to education and health advancement.’’
I was delighted to be able to visit again this year on my travels of Ethiopia. I had previously spent time there and seen that although the nursery was in need of some refurbishment, all available funds of course go towards providing nurses and carers who are devoted to these little ones.
So with this in mind, before this visit I spent a wonderful day shopping locally beforehand (this ensures that one’s donation goes further and additionally contributes to the local economy). We arrived with a truck full of supplies, and I did not tell them I was coming so it was a delightful surprise!
We bought everything from pots of paint, brushes and ceiling boards to curtains, new bedding, some toys (not easy to come by), books and cotton clothing. The Orphanage used this to rejuvenate the nursery and they have now also purchased new wooden cots, so much better than the awful metal ones they had before.
What is wonderful was that in real terms, it takes only a very small monetary contribution but it makes such an impact to improving the nurseries and the lives of the children staying there. I continue, on each visit to Addis, to add any support we can.
AGOHELMA is far more outreaching than any other orphanage I have visited in Africa.
Abebech Gobena, the mother who founded it, is now 80 years old and has dedicated her life to caring for vulnerable and orphaned children. She is known as the Mother Teresa of Ethiopia and with good reason. She is incredibly humble yet very strong and has faced adversity in her life of caring, like so many do.
Although the organisation looks after and educates the children who live in the ‘village’ (as they call it), this is only a last resort and instead they work on many projects to improve children’s lives in their local communities.
The organisation supports many children to be fostered in families. Their first aim is to place a child with his or her own extended family but if that is not possible, they find a family within the child’s village or local area.
The orphanage then financially supports that family to raise the child, with regular assessments to check the child’s wellbeing and to ensure that the money has been spent on the fostered child.
This ensures that the children grow up in a family environment and have a safe, secure and cherishing family around them. The child also grows up in their own village or local culture so retains the social identity in which they were raised.
No child is adopted overseas and sent out of the country. Thousands of children have been assisted through this method of local fostering.
AGOHELMA is also educating the children under its care and the other local children who would not otherwise receive an education. They have set up two free schools in Addis Ababa which they run, as well as supporting and assisting with construction at various other schools in the area.
The organisation is also involved in a Woman’s Empowerment Association and this includes advising and training disadvantaged women to better and support themselves. Assistance is offered in several areas:
AGOHELMA additionally has several other innovated projects that have far reaching benefits:
From one woman’s devotion to saving her first two orphans many years ago, today this wonderful organisation has supported and bettered the lives of thousands. The vison and devotion of Abebech Gobena is extraordinary and we should all feel humbled.