Eyerusalem, who grew up in rural Ethiopia, had lost both of her parents by the time she was eight. Because her relatives abused her, she ran to the city, where she was able to get a good job. But after becoming pregnant with twins, she found herself abandoned by her boyfriend and out of work.
This common occurrence in Ethiopia often leads single mothers into homelessness, begging, or even prostitution. Women like Eyerusalem have no voice and it is nearly impossible for them to raise the status of their lives by themselves.
But Eyerusalem’s story is different.
Watch Eyerusalem’s story.
Within a year of meeting Eyerusalem we were able to open Yetesfa Mesk (Fields of Hope) Academy for single women and their kids in deep poverty. This was in September of 2016. We started with 15 students in preschool, including Eyerusalem’s twins.
Very soon after opening the school, we began to see hope take root in the lives of these families. One mom shared with us that she had tried to commit suicide multiple times in the few years leading up to the school opening, but after seeing her daughter in the school she felt hope for her life. She’s been working hard to make a better life for herself and her daughter.
One of the first things we prayed over the school was that when people walked through the gate they would have their burdens lifted and would experience a sense of peace and joy. We have witnessed this day in and day out over the years. We have seen the moms approaching the gate with tired and worried faces, but as soon as they step inside it appears that a literal burden is lifted from their shoulders and they are full of smiles and laughter. We have also seen amazing progress in the students themselves as they learn to deal with their emotions and traumas through our curriculum.
They are getting a taste of the abundant life and hope we long for them to experience fully.
And what about Eyerusalem? She has moved out of the little tin shack and has a new place off of the street. Last year she took part in our economic empowerment program that provides business training and a seed money loan to the parents of our students. She’s received a small loan to launch a coffee business that will be opening soon!
One of the most heartwarming things that has happened in Eyerusalem’s life since the school started is with her son Kirubel, who has a disability. We first met him when he was two years old, and he couldn't walk, crawl, or talk. Through physical therapy and the freedom he has at our school, he is now able to freely crawl, climb up play structures, and even walk with a walker or with someone holding his hand! He’s starting to talk and can say a few names of our staff and some other words! He’s a very sweet and clever boy who likes to take part in group activities and he keeps up with the rest of the kids.
Eyerusalem, like many other single mothers in Kera, now has a reason to hope for a better life for herself and her children. We have big expectations for who these children will become, and the impact they will have in Kera, Ethiopia, and the world!
About Yetesfa Mesk Academy
Yetesfa Mesk (Fields of Hope) Academy is located in the Kera neighborhood of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. As in most of Addis, poverty and wealth are mixed together in our neighborhood. Many poor people live in shanty houses made of tin, tarps or whatever trash they can find to build a structure. It’s very common to find someone living in a shanty right next to someone living in a very large house. Our ministry focus is on single mothers in deep poverty, especially those women who are working in low level red light districts. Kera has many women in this situation; it’s one of the main reasons we chose this part of the city for our school.
Our goal is simple, to give women like Eyerusalem hope: hope of a new life, hope that their children might have better opportunities than they had, hope that they won’t always have to struggle each day just to survive.
This is hope in action. Take a look.
We are now in our third year and have 30 students split between Pre-K and Kindergarten. Our school is growing with our students; each year as the oldest kids advance, we add another grade.
We believe in a student led learning approach and have seen it be very beneficial for the type of kids we are working with. Currently our student to teacher ratio is 1:8, with additional staff for our special needs students. We’ve implemented curriculum from around the world that we have applied to the local context, and have an emphasis on high quality education.
Yetesfa Mesk Academy is already receiving recognition and awards across Ethiopia. But the true reward is seeing the transformation in the lives of the people we work with.
You can learn more about Fields of Hope on their website. If you would like to support the work of Fields of Hope, you can use the link below to access their giving site.
Dan and Ruth Butera live in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with their two children. They are part of Novo’s order among the poor, InnerCHANGE, and founded Yetesfa Mesk Academy in 2016 to bring hope to single mothers and their children.