Korah is a community characterized by contrasts. Stories of pain, loss, and economic hardship are common in Korah, yet the depth of strength, resilience, and generosity in this community is strikingly apparent. In the darkness, there is hope. And in the pain, there is healing, comradery, and compassion. Each person has a story. And in each person's story is a beautiful picture of the resilience of the human spirit. It is our privilege to share a snapshot of life in Korah with you through the perspectives of different individuals from our program whom have inspired, challenged, and awed us with their strength and courage.
*note that some of the names in the following stories have been changed to protect the identity of these individuals
A Mother’s Perspective - Habesha’s Story
Habesha is a young mother of four in her mid-30’s. As a beautiful young woman, quite conservative in her values, she “saved herself” for marriage. Unfortunately, her husband (unbeknownst to her) did not ascribe to the same principles and gave her HIV early in their marriage. To compound things for her, due to poor prenatal teaching and care in her earlier pregnancies, she passed along her HIV+ status to her son. While he is now an active, bright, handsome boy, exceedingly capable in sports, he is on maximal antiretroviral therapy (ART) and his life expectancy is much diminished, as is hers. Health complications exacerbated by her HIV status have made it difficult for Habesha to provide for her family, or to heal from other health complications in recent years.
What does hope look like to Habesha? Hope has looked like acceptance, despite her HIV+ status. Hope has looked like support, love and knowledge that her children would be cared for if something were to happen to her. Hope has looked like praying with her through her fears. Hope has looked like finding belonging in a community that rejects her for something she acquired so innocently.
A Daughter’s Perspective - Berhane’s Story
Berhane means “light” in Amharic, the most widely-used language in Ethiopia. It is a particularly poignant name for this young lady as her mother is blind- and has been from the time she was 3 years of age. Berhane’s life does not look like the one of a typical 16-year old. Rather, she was born an able-bodied daughter to a disabled mother, destined to be her mother’s eyes. Her childhood was spent on sidewalks begging alongside her mother.
What has “hope” looked like to Berhane? It has come primarily in the form of support. She and her mother now live on our Yedeste Gibi compound, where she lives alongside daughters of other disabled mothers who are being looked after not only by their mothers, but by hired caregivers through HFK. Hope has taken the form of friendships with other kids through our Berta, after-school tutoring, and soccer programs. It has looked like community, belonging, and not being alone. Berhane remains her mother’s “light”, but looks towards her future with bright hope in a God who has been faithful.
A Father's Perspective - Lemma's Story
As a young man, Lemma was in love with his beautiful girlfriend Tigist. However, the two were separated when he served in the Eritrean War. Tragically, while he was in combat, he was severely injured and had both of his lower legs amputated. When Lemma returned home distraught and overwhelmed by his new disability, he encouraged Tigist to leave him, believing that she deserved better than what he could offer her. Consequently, they were separated again, but one year later, Tigist returned to Lemma, expressing that she only wanted to be with him; that she loved him and his disability had not changed the feelings that she had for him. The two were married, and now Lemma is a loving father to four children.
Hope and selfless love is so evident in the relationship that Lemma shares with his wife Tigist. Together they have overcome war, separation, disability, and extreme poverty, while remaining faithful and committed to one another. Tigist and Lemma have actively engaged in Hope for Korah's Family Empowerment Program, and refined their skills and business knowledge through income generation and business training. As part of a Savings & Credit Self-Help Group (SHG), Tigist and Lemma have practiced saving their money, advocating for themselves and their community, and even borrowed the first loan from their SHG to launch their Legal Paperwork Services business. Being fully literate, Lemma completes necessary legal documents for those who are unable to read and write. We are both proud and inspired by the perseverance and hard work displayed by this family that has never given up, no matter what obstacle they have faced!
Today we celebrate that Lemma and his wife have successfully completed their first year of the transition process out of sponsorship, and now are fully paying for their own rent, groceries, and teff. Lemma's business is going so well in fact, that he plans to fund a completely new start-up business for his wife Tigist, so that she can pursue a job closer to her own passions!
A Son's Perspective –
Courageous - Alayu's Story
"I Set Out to Change Lives – But a Courageous Young Boy Changed Mine"
Written by Jake Boner
Over the course of the last three years, God has put a place in the center of my heart -- Korah, a neglected and poverty-stricken community outside of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. For me, Korah is more than just an urban slum on the outskirts of Ethiopia’s capital city. Korah is the epicenter of my most meaningful relationships and the beginning of my spiritual journey.
Last year, I witnessed first-hand the painful reality of everyday life in Korah when I met a young boy named 'Alayu'. When I first encountered Alayu, he was hobbling through Korah on only one leg with both of his eyes covered in rags. As my eyes made contact with him, he suddenly tripped and was thrown to the ground. Unable to see where he was going, and without anyone to help him, he had lost his balance and fell. He looked so defeated and helpless as he lay in the dirt. I had no idea who this boy was, but I immediately rushed over to help him stand up. As I inquired about Alayu's story, I learned that he had lost his leg in an accident while scavenging at the local garbage dump trying to earn enough money to eat. He was run over by a bulldozer. Compounding this tragedy, was the fact that he had just lost his mother, and was recently diagnosed with a lifelong illness. I could not begin to comprehend how any child could bear such enormous challenges at such a young age. That entire day, Alayu and his story did not leave my mind. God had put him on my heart.
I met Alayu the next day and brought him to the local medical clinic. I carried him in to the nurse, and asked her if she could do anything for him. She cleaned his eyes and for some time we prayed over him. Having done all we could, we left Alayu in God’s hands.
Four months later, when I returned to Korah, I unexpectedly felt a small hand touch my back. As I turned around, I saw Alayu looking up at me with beaming eyes, both as good as new. He took a few steps back and proudly showed me his new prosthetic leg. He had a giant smile on his face and all I could do was embrace him. Alayu was now a part of Hope for Korah's Family Empowerment Program. For much of that morning he would not leave my side. He was a whole new person, beaming and full of life. It was truly a miracle. I have never experienced first-hand, a story of redemption as mighty as this. God has a special purpose for Alayu's life. So many of his trials and woes have been turned into smiles and praise. I look forward to watching Alayu grow up to be a strong leader and voice for Korah. He has forever changed my life and will always remain very close to my heart. I set off to Korah to change lives, but I never imagined how a courageous young boy named Alayu would forever change mine.
In Loving Memory of Berhanu – My Prayer Warrior, My Friend
Written by Eve Pohl
There are those few people in life that you will never forget. Those who touch your heart and leave you forever changed. For me, Berhanu Bishaw was one of those people and it is with great sadness that I received the news this week of his passing. He will be dearly missed. He was my prayer warrior, my friend… and his gift to me humbled me and encouraged me. On those days when I struggled, or things in my own life seemed hard, I always knew on the other side of the world, Berhanu was praying for me.
Over the years I never once saw Berhanu in the streets of Korah… due to his diminished health and vision he was always limited to the area in front of or inside of his one-room mud hut. During our many home visits together he would always share his thoughts and opinions in such a way as to bring much laughter and many smiles to others. Even through his cataracts, you could see a mischievous twinkle in his eye. He was a real character, gentle and kind. When he prayed - he was PASSIONATE!! Oh my, he would cry out to God, hands stretched heavenward and bless us with such animation and vigour. What joy filled my heart! I always left smiling, until recently... over the last few visits as his energy and heart was struggling, my own heart became heavier, already grieving, knowing this dear, sweet friend would soon be leaving us.
I will never forget these words that he repeatedly shared with me. I cannot tell you how often he told me; "Every day, I come out here and I sit on this log…. And I pray for you! I pray every day for you - that God will bless you and your family! I pray God, please give her strength, please give her long life! I pray Heaven for you Eve!" Berhanu did this for me… every day for almost four years.
It will always bring tears to my eyes, I don't get it? Why me? Why am I so lucky? Why am I so blessed to be known and loved and prayed for by Berhanu… someone who has struggled and lived under such horrendous conditions… isn't it me, who should be praying so fervently for him? He has suffered the pains of extreme poverty, the ravages of leprosy, lives isolated in a little shack, in an urban slum, in the middle of a city of millions, is completely unknown and on the other side of the world. How did I even come to know him and in such a way that he would feel led to serve me? To pray for me and with such faithfulness? This is not something to be taken lightly, this is a treasured gift, one of the greatest God has given me and I am so thankful, so honoured to have known Berhanu. I will always cherish his friendship and he will continue to encourage me and motivate me to follow close after God, to put one foot in front of the other, even when days are hard because I am certain I now have a prayer warrior in Heaven that is standing in a crowd of witnesses, cheering me on to finish the race and to finish it well. What more can I say? I am blessed!
Berhanu - you were a loving husband, a good father and a committed friend. We love you and you will be dearly missed!
With deep respect and much love, Eve
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