Hirut’s Testimony

My Testimony

I come from a very large family in Debre Zeyt. Being one of the oldest child among my brothers and sisters, I took care of them very early, starting from my childhood, proud to support my mother. Since then I have always loved to work with and care for children of all ages. I learned from my mother and I realized myself later that correct feeding is of tremendous importance for the development of children and their abilities in the future. I believe also that if a child is well fed and feels loved, he can accomplish whatever he wants and show love to his brothers and sisters and most importantly to God.

I took nutrition studies at Addis Ababa university, participated into literacy campaigns for children and worked during five years in harsh conditions such as refugee camp on the Somali border, caring for malnourished children. Then, I devoted my time to my own children and husband, continuing my university courses in Belgium where we settled. One of my life goal has always been to open a cantine in my neighborhood in Debre Zeyt to care for children in need.

I was thus so amazed and delighted to hear that an organization like BCI Academy was already in place while I was planning to stay a few months in Debre Zeyt for family purpose. I contacted “Bless the Children” to offer to volunteer as nutritionist to monitor the children, give health and nutrition advice to the mothers, etc. They responded quickly, we have discussed the matter and I have been warmly welcomed, feeling a sense of family!

My first concern has been how to deal with and get added value from the kitchen’s waste disposal. Especially the organic waste. We have started to produce compost with the children so they can learn about the environment and sustainability by diminishing waste and re-use it in other ways. They will also learn how to grow plants from that compost.

Then, we have worked on the kitchen arrangement and diet plan. We want to increase the fish intake of the children because it is a great source of proteins and other important nutrients for growth. Arrangements are needed with local fishermen to carry quickly the fish in frozen bags from the numerous lakes surrounding Debre Zeyt to our freezer to avoid waste.  Furthermore, it is good to teach the children the importance of local products and markets. We will introduce fish at least once a week in the children’s diet.

A few days after my arrival, we greeted 13 young volunteers from abroad. Our young students welcomed them and prepared our traditional coffee. Afterwards, they all discussed together and exchanged ideas, read texts from the bible and sang songs. It was really so pleasing to see them all together. Among all the activities planned, the distribution of school material an equipment to the families in need was the most interesting one for me. During home visits, we are asking a lot of questions to understand the situation in order to donate some material according to their real needs. We can see people in their own environment.

It is always moving our heart because the poorest people are usually the kindest people and they are offering us their only asset, love and respect. By being in their home we realize what is appropriate or not. For example, what is the use to provide cereal in grain to a single mother if she cannot buy charcoal for cooking? We have to find other solutions.

The newcomer volunteers also did a really good job painting the walls, chairs and the doors. The night before their departure, our young students showed great kindness by cleaning the feet of the group to show them love and politeness. It was really moving to see them do that with genuine love. It really shows their love of God and to one another.

The social workers organized everything efficiently and in a very correct way. At the beginning of the school year, they started the distribution of school material for the university students who also received transportation money to go to school. The fresh students also received money for their transportation as well as school material. The little girls were also being taken care of, they received uniforms as well as bras and hygiene kits. It is important to teach them proper hygiene to avoid any kind of health problem.

This morning I stumbled by chance on my return plane ticket. I got emotion and tears welled up my eyes. It was a mixture of joy – the perspective to be reunited soon with my husband and children – and sadness – leaving all those children who gave me a thousand time more than what I could ever give them. They made me strong, they raised up my soul and spirit. They raised up my faith in God. They made me better for my family. I would like to thank “Bless the Children” very sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, for trusting me and for giving me the chance to go through this spiritual journey.

Yours faithfully,

Hirut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Excuse for Dishonesty

If you can imagine being a young child in Ethiopia and watching mom or dad or grandma struggle to put food on the table, you can imagine the temptation to pocket the money you found on the school playground one morning. That is the temptation faced by four young students at the BCI Academy recently, and all four passed the test of honesty with flying colors. When the girls encountered some lost money on the school grounds, they immediately reported it to a staff member. The staff member was so pleased with their honesty that he brought them up in front of the entire school body for public recognition. The BCI Academy doesn’t just educate, it instills values and character. It is a good lesson for everyone – there is no excuse for dishonesty!

BCI Academy Keeps Growing

We strive for “Excellence in Everything”

KG students at the BCI Academy are now learning in brand new classrooms. We recently finished construction of a new KG building, which has meant that our 160 KG students have more space to learn. Our previous building served us well but we have outgrown it. The new building has five classrooms and is well-lit and painted with vibrant colors. It is a welcoming learning environment that will allow us to further improve the educational experience for our KG students.

KG is a combination of preschool and kindergarten age groups and serves children from approximately the ages of 3 to 6. The former two-classroom building is being used as a daycare, which is especially helpful for teachers and staff who have young children. The BCI Academy continues to improve and grow!

Melkam Gena

Ethiopia recently celebrated Gena (Orthodox Christmas) on January 7th, 2020. We had a wonderful time celebrating with our children, their families, and our staff. Celebrations took place on the eve of Gena – January 6th.

Our staff shared a delicious cake, fresh coffee, and warm conversation, and had a much needed break from the rigor of shaping young minds.

Our students at the BCI Academy dressed up in fun costumes and clothing, performed plays, and sang songs.

Our sponsored children and their families shared a warm meal and fellowship and were visited by a missionary who read from the Bible.

We are so grateful for our sponsors and ministry partners who made this uplifting day possible. It was just what the children and adults alike needed.

Future Doctor Tariku

We have spent much of the fall season feeling humbled by bearing witness to God’s hand in the life of 18-year-old Estifanos Tariku (nicknamed “Steve” by his American missionary friends). His story has the feel of being too good to be true, but it is true, because God is good.

Steve in his early days at the BCI Academy

Steve was raised by his mother, Messay, who grew up with an alcoholic father and a brother full of rage. One day, her brother beat their mother so severely that she spent a year in a coma, and beat Messay to the point of breaking her neck. She fled to Debre Zeyit to escape the violence and danger.

Messay’s life took another tragic turn when she lost the ability to walk right at the time Steve turned two years old. She had to rely on neighbors to help care for her young son and she continued to live in fear that her brother would find her.

When Steve was 10, his life was changed when his mother received a wheelchair from the BCI ministry. Although he was initially timid to push his mother in her wheelchair through the busy streets of Debre Zeyit, this blessing opened up a new world of possibilities for Steve and Messay. It was at this time that a BCI missionary noticed Steve and took a shine to him. Steve displayed great maturity and intellect and the missionary took him under his wing and not only provided for his basic needs through monthly sponsorship, he went above and beyond in visiting Steve, writing to him, and guiding him as he grew into his teen years.

A young Steve with his mother, Messay

Grade 10 school photo

Steve excels in academics and is a driven student with lofty goals. In fact, he has long stated his intention to become a doctor. Of course, this is a common childhood career aspiration that is difficult to achieve in any case, let alone when you’re growing up in a rural neighborhood in Ethiopia with no financial resources.

Steve took his grade 12 national exam in June, and when the results came in during the summer, we received our first indication that his dream may have legs. His scores were exceptional and he easily secured university placement.

Shortly after this, Steve indicated that he intended to enroll at a private medical school in the capital city of Addis Ababa. The school is part of a Christian teaching hospital and comes with a price tag of more than $5,000 USD in annual tuition. In a country where the GDP is $570 USD, this surely seemed to be a whimsical dream.

It wasn’t long before we received word that Steve was not only accepted to his dream school, he was offered discounted tuition due to his excellent scores and financial need. Although this was wonderful news, Steve was forced to decline and notify the university that he would be unable to pay anything to attend the school.

Leave it to God to clear the way and move the university to extend Steve a full-ride scholarship, which he immediately accepted. It was a whirlwind of events that started with receipt of his national exam score, and by the end of August, he had moved to Addis Ababa and started classes as a first-year medical student.

In the university cafeteria

Everything felt like it happened so quickly, but in reality, it did not happen overnight. It happened when God drew Messay to the town of Debre Zeyit. It happened when He led a missionary to discover a gifted 10-year-old boy who needed a little support and encouragement to rise above his circumstances. It happened day-in and day-out as Steve grew, applied himself to his studies at the BCI Academy, and continued to hope and dream. And it happened when God fueled this hope by regularly bringing compassionate missionaries into contact with Steve.

As Corrie ten Boom famously said, “never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” There were so many things that could have derailed Steve’s journey to becoming BCI’s first-ever medical student, but God knew all along the plans He had for Steve, and Lord willing, we will one day introduce him as Dr. Steve Tariku.

Meskel Holiday

Meskel is an important holiday for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. It has been celebrated for more than 1,600 years and marks the finding of the True Cross. It is celebrated on 17 Meskerem in the Ethiopian calendar, which is the 27th of September in the Gregorian calendar.

There are nearly 50 million members in the Orthodox Church in Ethiopia. Large crowds gather in Meskel Square in the center of Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa. There is a large bonfire and a procession of people bearing torches, merging from all directions. The celebration lasts until dawn and includes traditional foods and music.

Meskel Celebration in a small village in Ethiopia

Adana Shisema celebrated Meskel by traveling 250 km (155 miles) to spend time with his extended family. They shared a meal of cultural foods that included kitfo and kocho, and enjoyed socializing with one another and with local villagers.

Adana Shisema and Family

Oral Healthcare Professionals and Students Needed

Oral health in childhood impacts long-term health. Poor oral hygiene can lead to pain, disfigurement, tooth and bone loss, and systemic disease.

Ethiopia is part of the “Noma belt”, a region of Africa with the highest prevalence of a severely painful dental disease (Noma) that eats away at facial tissue and has a mortality rate of 90%. There are 140,000 new cases of Noma each year, primarily in rural, sub-Saharan Africa.

We provide children in Debre Zeyit, Ethiopia with dental hygiene products to protect their oral health. We are always in need of dental professionals to provide services to the children for more comprehensive oral care.

If you are a dental hygienist, dentist, oral surgeon, dental student, or other oral health practitioner, we invite you to reach out to us about opportunities to travel to our ministry site in Ethiopia and provide care for hundreds of precious children.

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Learn about Mission Trips / Internships

Thanks, Intern Abbey

Abbey is a 20-year-old university student who is pursuing a pharmacy degree. This summer, she spent six weeks serving a medical internship with the ministry. She also spent time sharing her passion for soccer with students at the BCI Academy.

It’s been said that innovation happens at the intersections. Mission trips to our ministry site in Ethiopia allow missionaries to combine their skill sets and interests to serve in a way that uniquely suits them. There is an intersection of cultures, ideas and experiences that happens during each mission trip, and this intersection is where the magic happens.

For example: Gardener + Youth Leader + Engineer = Teaching youth how to build and maintain a vegetable garden to help feed their families.

 

What would your intersection look like? We would love to chat about it: info@blessingthechildren.org.

Learn more about Mission Trips and Internships.

Peer Mentor and TV Star

Tizita Abreham is 18 years old and has been in the BCI program for more than 10 years. She is entering 12th grade in the fall, with hopes of progressing to university next year. Her ambition is to become a doctor to save people from illness and early death. She admires a singer named Meri, who encourages women to exceed the limits society has placed on them.

Tizita lives with her mother, stepfather, and 8-year-old stepbrother. On a typical day, she helps with housework at home and spends time with her friends at church. She enjoys listening to music, watching movies, and chatting about school with her best friend, Feven. Her favorite subject at school is biology because she finds it simple and she enjoys the fact that it relates to life. Her most difficult subject is physics.

Some friends from church saw an advertisement for an opportunity to participate in a TV drama that is televised on a Christian TV channel. Tizita received an acting role in the series and travels to Addis for three hours every Thursday for filming.

Tizita is a strong young woman who has become a leader in the youth community that helps lost youth come to Jesus. Tizita chooses to spend her time with “bad kids” in order to influence them like Jesus did. She is the BCI mission in action – taking what she has gleaned from the ministry and spreading seeds to create change in the local community. When asked what she would like others to know about her, she stated that she would like others to know that she is a good person and to not judge her by the people she spends her time with.

We asked how we can help her prepare for her University entrance exam, which she will take in June of 2020. Tizita stated that she needs tutoring in English. The cost for tutoring from September through June is $250 USD in total. Please reach out and let us know if you’d like to provide this inspiring teen with a one-time gift of English tutoring.

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Academic Excellence Incentive Program

For every 1,000 children who begin school in Ethiopia, only one half will complete 5th grade, and one fifth will complete 8th grade. Of those students who make it to 10th grade, 3% will score above a 75% across their core subjects and less than 25% will receive an average score of 50%. This means that for every 1,000 students who begin school in Ethiopia, only 6 will one day be enrolled in 10th grade, receiving a “C” average or higher. We think this is a staggering statistic.

A solid education is one of the cornerstones of our philosophy regarding breaking the cycle of poverty for the children we serve, and we’re tackling this by providing a quality education at the BCI Academy. Because the odds are stacked against the children, we have decided to step up our efforts to ensure that the children stay enrolled in school and engaged in their studies.

For the 2019-20 academic year, we will be launching an Academic Excellence Incentive Program. This program will incentivize students for their academic achievements over the course of the school year. Additionally, teachers will be incentivized to produce high scores.

3 Tiers of Recognition

  1. Honor Roll: All students receiving at least a B average for the year will receive Honor Roll recognition and a $25 USD cash reward
  2. Grade Level: The top student in every grade level will receive an additional $25 USD cash reward
  3. Teachers: The top 3 teachers with the highest average scores will receive a $100 USD cash reward

It’s unheard of for student academic achievements to be acknowledge in this way in the Ethiopian school system. Honors assemblies, class valedictorians, and the like are not standard practice. It is our hope that recognizing the academic achievements of our teachers and students will put a focus on academic success in a positive way. We plan to pilot the program for the upcoming school year and evaluate any changes in academic outcomes and student retention.

How You Can Help

Sponsor an Honor Roll student for 1 year: $25
Sponsor a Teacher: $100
Sponsor the top student in every Grade Level: $300
Underwrite the program for 2019/20: $2,000

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“Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor.” – Nelson Mandela