Atop a mountain outside of Bishoftu, Ethiopia, the air is pure. It runs effortlessly through the nostrils, invigorating the body with each breath on this 76-degree day. Sunlight illuminates every inch of the mound, every leaf of every tree and every blade of grass that can be seen for miles.
This is paradise, and sitting on top of it with her twin daughters and son, Beletu Benti knows it. When life is difficult, she often comes here.
“Even though I’ve encountered many problems, when I come up here, I’m happy,” she says. “I’m content.”
Ten months after her daughters, now 6, were born, Beletu’s husband abandoned the family. She was shocked. Suddenly a single mother, she had no skills, no plan for survival and little optimism for the future.
“I was very hopeless,” she admits. “I had no one behind me who could advise me, who could help me.”
She worked hard on her land and picked up work where she could. Still, she couldn’t afford to send her kids to school and regularly did not have enough food for her family.
The Ethiopian government referred her to the Buckner Family Hope Center in Bishoftu, an effort that helps families through a variety of services. Buckner caseworkers began getting to know her, her family and her needs. Then they set forth on a path toward self-sufficiency.
The Family Hope Center provided food to supplement what Beletu was providing for her family. Caseworkers identified her skills and helped her see ways she could create businesses around those skills.
When her daughters were old enough, they enrolled in the Buckner school in Bishoftu. In addition to learning, the twins have made friends with other children. Through Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls®, the girls have received new shoes when needed.
Buckner invested in Beletu as well as her children. The ministry provided 2,000 birr – roughly $100 – for her to start her first venture rearing animals. She used it to buy two cows. She raised them and sold one, reinvesting her profit into another cow. Since then, she’s repeated the pattern and diversified her livestock to include chickens and sheep.
According to the World Bank, nearly 30 percent of Ethiopians live below the poverty line, struggling to survive like Beletu once was. Through hard work, the single mother has transformed her life. Buckner Ethiopia Executive Director Moges Feleke is proud of the progress Beletu has made.
“When we first met Beletu and her family, she had little,” Moges said. “In her family, we see an image of the kind of transformation that Buckner Ethiopia is helping take place all across the country. Hope truly shines in this family.”
Beletu’s confidence grew with each step of the journey. She provided for her family. She felt them come closer together. At one point, she didn’t know how her family would survive; now, they’re thriving.
“I’m very happy,” she says, hugging her children. “My children are getting an education. My kids are playing with other children in school. I pray that my children do not encounter the same challenges that I have. I want them to get an education. I want them to help others.”
John Hall is the associate director for public relations for Buckner International. He can be reached at jhall[at]buckner[dot]org.
[caption id="attachment_10732" align="alignright" width="750"] Beletu Benti reads John 1:5 to her family: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” This verse, Beletu says, is like her. She once was hopeless, but now beams bright.[/caption]
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