The Tenacity of Destu

by | Jul 28, 2022

Destu Abdella stole our hearts when we first saw her standing by the tattered tarp shelter on the side of the road. Unsure of how to behave or react at four white faces smiling and walking towards her, she scrunched her face in a confused mix of timid smiling and suspicious sideways head tilt. By the time Destu saw Sata, who had interviewed her and her family earlier, the nine-year-old relaxed her posture and skipped away to play with her two little sisters.

Destu had never gone to school. And the dress she wore was the only piece of clothing she owned. When the local government had originally referred Destu’s family to PATH, Sata asked Destu’s mother, Fetiya, why they were living on the side of the road. Fetiya explained that they used to own land, but when her husband died they had to move to a rented house. The cost of living eventually became unaffordable, so Fetiya had to chose between feeding her children or paying rent. Fetiya and her three daughters had since been relying on begging and charity from the local mosque in order to eat. Despite having never been able to send Destu to school, Fetiya made sure to educate her the best she could at home, teaching her basic reading and math. As we observed Destu playing in the distance, we could see a unique joy mixed with free-spirited sass. It was our delight to accept Destu and her mother into our program.

Early on, Destu showed a genuine excitement to attend school and to come to PATH’s office every Saturday for the mentorship program. She quickly took the lead in arranging jump rope competitions with her other PATH children and she is always eager to show Sata and Aynalem (our case manager in Chiro) her homework and class quiz results. During these Saturday programs, Destu confidently insists that she gets to try to complete the math worksheets we give the children before anyone explains to her how to do them.

One day, Destu lost her shoes. While it would be unheard of for students to attend private school without shoes, Destu was so eager to learn that she walked barefooted all the way to school, unphased by either pain or potential bullying she might encounter because of her poverty. Sata and Aynalem quickly bought her a new pair of shoes.

A few months into the program, small government housing opened up, and Destu and her family moved to a promising new home. Unfortunately, this housing was in a bad neighborhood, and one day as a male neighbor was harassing Destu, Fetiya hit him in the face with a stick causing blood. Fetiya was promptly seized by the police, being held in confinement at the police station while waiting for her sentence. For months she stayed there, and her daughters, having no where else to live, stayed with her at the police station too. Every day, Destu would leave the police station to attend school, and every evening she would return and spend the night in those quarters with her mother. PATH worked hard with the local government’s women’s and children’s affairs office, but not much could be done. Finally, when Fetiya was officially sentenced guilty, she was moved to the prison, and her daughters would no longer be allowed to leave during the day. Destu, in her spunky spirit, boldly asked Aynalem if she could live with her while her mother carried out the last few months of her sentence, and Aynalem tenderly brought Destu into her home to take care of her for this time.

Destu continued attending school and PATH’s weekend program, and observing her from the outside, one wouldn’t know that her mom was in prison and she was living in a stranger’s home. She quickly adopted Aynalem’s family as her own, and eagerly continued in her studies, striving to learn and grow.

Fetiya has just recently been released from prison, and hoping for a fresh start, she wants to move her family to the countryside. This, of course, would mean the family officially withdrawing from PATH’s program. Destu, however, is adamantly against this decision. Having tasted the sweetness of education and community, she told her mother, “Allah has given me this opportunity to go to school and become a part of this program. How could I throw it aside now? I will stay with Aynalem if I need to in order to keep learning.”

We are praying that Jesus reveals himself to Destu as the one who is her refuge, hope, and provision.

In Ethiopia, we do not have a residential care options right now, and it’s hard to watch children like Destu and her sisters struggle. But we also know that God has brought Fetiya, Destu and her sisters to us for a purpose. About half of the children in our Ethiopia program come from Muslim families. We are praying that Jesus would work in their hearts and one day they will know him as their Lord and Savior.

Your faithful support is what is helping Destu stay in school and have hope for a better life. Right now, we are looking for more people to step up and sponsor children or to join the Hope Collective with a recurring monthly donation.

Would you prayerfully consider sponsoring one child, two children, or becoming a part of the Hope Collective?

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