A famine survivor shares his hunger-to-harvest story in World Vision’s annual Child Sponsors Celebration.
Contributed By Dawn Seow
While many parents in big cities fret over their children putting on too much weight, or struggle to get their kids to eat their vegetables, parents living in Third World countries have problem finding any sort of food to feed their children. Getacher Beyene grew up in a place where going hungry everyday was a reality.
Beyene was 3 when famine hit Ethiopia in 1984. He was one of four children who grew up in a farmer’s house in Antsokia Valley, a seven-hour drive northeast from Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Antsokia was one of the epicenters at the peak of the famine in 1984. The family depended on rainy seasons to sustain their crops, and when the rain did not come, the family’s crop of teff (Ethiopia’s staple grain) failed. Beyene, now 31, vividly recalls being always hungry, watching his hair fall off from malnutrition, spending his days queuing up for food.
“When you don’t have these basic necessities, you totally lose your appetite for life; you don’t think about tomorrow,” Beyene said, explaining how hunger can drain a person of humanity.
The Ethiopian was sharing his life story at World Vision’s Child Sponsors Celebration at Fort Canning on Nov. 19. Hosted by Discovery Channel’s Linda Black, the event was held by World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization that tackles poverty and injustice in Third World countries, to thank the 300 sponsors and supporters who had given to its many aid programs.
Things turned around for Beyene when World Vision came into the picture. “God gave me the opportunity (to live),” he said. Young Beyene knew that life was going to be different when he started receiving biscuits and wheat flour, and was cured of malnutrition.
The food and medical supplies that World Vision airlifted into Ethiopia helped to turn things around for children like Beyene. As the relief operation phased into rehabilitation programs, Beyene’s father joined a local committee to improve the community’s agriculture practice and slowly revived the land in the next few years.
At the age of 6, Beyene became a sponsored child under World Vision’s Child Sponsorship program. His books and school fees were paid for in elementary school; transportation costs to a high school in town was also covered when he entered his teenage years. His sponsor continued to support him right through to teacher’s college.
“If I wasn’t sponsored, it would be very hard for me to complete my education,” he said. “Most of my friends in school who didn’t get the support didn’t manage to complete their studies. Those who were sponsored like me completed their studies in universities and are living better lives now.”
Today, Beyene is a science teacher at Cheffa Robit Comprehensive Elementary School, where most of his students are children of poor farmers and day laborers. “I am thankful for my sponsor’s support. Because of him, I am where I am today,” said Beyene. “So please give hope to the children by continuing to sponsor a child.”
This year, five categories of partnership—church, corporate, goodwill ambassador, school and individual donor—were awarded the Joy Recognition Award. The recipients for the respective categories were Wesley Methodist Church, Johnson & Johnson, Jack & Rai, Overseas Family School and Dolly Lim, who used her child’s birthday party as an opportunity to get 15 of her friends to sign up as child sponsors.
CHILD SPONSORSHIP PROGRAM
World Vision’s Child Sponsorship Program addresses the root causes of poverty and diseases, helping the children, their families and communities break the cycle of poverty. In the year 2010, World Vision Singapore has given hope to 28,925 children and benefited some 1.52 million people in developing countries.
Signing up to sponsor a child will cost S$45 each month, or S$1.50 a day. The money does not go directly to the sponsored child or family but World Vision will gather the funds to improve the fundamental needs, such as access to clean water, basic healthcare, education, nutritious food and increased food security, of the child’s community. Hence this money not only goes to improving the wellbeing of the sponsored child, but also benefits his community and empowers them to help themselves.
Visit http://www.worldvision.org.sg to find out more about the Child Sponsorship Program.
Sophie Koh, a manager in her 30s, was inspired to sponsor a child when she read about Jackie Chan’s story of being a child sponsor in 2004. When she chanced upon the Tree of Life booth set up by World Vision in 2005, she took up the call to sponsor two children, one from Mongolia and another from Myanmar.
“Every year, I would receive photos and letters from my sponsored child. They used to need someone else to write on their behalf, now they can write and draw for me personally. It’s very heart-warming to see them progress in their studies and to see them grow taller and fatter from the pictures. It is amazing what S$45 can do for these children.”