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From Sydney to the hills of Ethiopia – meeting my sponsored child

World Vision
30 April 2013 by Lucy Perry
From Sydney to the hills of Ethiopia – meeting my sponsored child

Our family has sponsored a child through World Vision in Ethiopia ever since I began working with Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, an organisation based in Addis Ababa treating women with childbirth injuries and training local midwives.

I began as a volunteer in 2004 and now I am the CEO of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia (Australia). World Vision sponsors some of our midwives at the Hamlin College of Midwives and I sponsor a child through World Vision so it’s a win-win!

Living conditions for more than 80 million Ethiopians are very, very hard. Most villages have no sanitation or running water, very few health services and a basic education system with no social support for the poor.

We went to the World Vision website one evening and chose a little girl named Derartu who lives in the western hills of Ethiopia. She’s about the same age as my eldest child (Hudson is now 9, Harlow 7 and Sheba is 5 years old). We popped her photo in a frame and she became part of the family overnight. We wrote letters, the kids sent drawings and I masterminded ways of sending her nice little gifts, which could still fit in the required flat DL envelope!

In 2009 on my annual trip to Ethiopia, I was able to include a personal visit to Derartu’s home. I had already been travelling for a few weeks and was glad to be picked up by the World Vision team in Addis Ababa and driven for a full day out west. I can easily drive around Ethiopia all day long – it is so fascinating.

We stayed overnight at a motel en route where I had my first encounter with what I thought were monkeys galloping on the roof but turned out to be rats!

The next day we drove to Derartu’s house and found that she was at school up the road so we went there to see her. It was quite an eye opener. My son’s school had been fundraising for smart boards and here was Derartu’s school with a dirt floor, wooden benches and a blackboard. Not even a light switch, let alone a USB port!

It seemed like every kid in western Ethiopia came out to see me, the ferenji (foreigner) with the WV team. Here’s a snapshot:


We then walked to Derartu’s home and I met her mother and father and her seven brothers and sisters. They cracked open Coke especially for my visit and I was touched that they had put on drinks for me.

We sat in the sun on the front porch of their little house, drinking warm Coke and chatting through an interpreter for a while. Derartu’s dad produced an envelope and in it was everything I had ever sent to Derartu, with little red dirt fingerprints all over it like it had been loved to death!

Derartu was very shy at first but by the time I left she was the life of the party. She introduced me to the family donkey and gave me a big hug when it was time to leave. I had to get a photo with the donkey!

Donkey (1)

Visiting my sponsor child was a very special experience, one which made me feel privileged to support them and their community. When I go back to Ethiopia later this year, this time with my daughter Harlow, we hope to make the trek west to catch up with Derartu again.

Lucy Perry is Chief Executive Officer of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia (Australia).

Have you ever visited your sponsor child? We’d love to hear your stories below! 

8 Responses

  • #NoFGMOz says:

    I hope this gorgeous little girl is also spared the trauma of infibulation, the most common form of genital mutilation commonly practised in Ethiopia. Can you confirm that sponsorship has helped protect this girl and others like her? Thanks Paula

    • Guest says:

      I can glad confirm that, Paula. Protecting these children is of the up-most importance to World Vision.

      Heath education programs and workshops are a pivotal part of what we do. World Vision has been responding to the issue of female genital mutilation and circumcision for some time. Common approaches include working with faith leaders to challenge the idea that the practice is required by religion, carrying out ‘alternative rites of passage’ programs, challenging perceptions at the family level, facilitating opportunities for community dialogue, and increasing community understanding of the health risks and rights violations.

      World Vision is working hard to continue to develop better ways of responding to this complex cultural issue.

    • Tim, World Vision team says:

      Hi #NoFGMOz, thanks for your comment and query. In countries where FGM is practised, World Vision is working with women, International health and human rights organisations to eradicate it. Several strategies have been implemented to reduce this practice through active advocacy committees in our project areas. Through our programs, we strive to eradicate FGM by raising awareness about human rights and the adverse health effects of FGM and by empowering men, women, boys and girls to advocate for change. By reviewing what has been successful in the past, World Vision has recognised that it is crucial to involve the community in programs being run, as FGM is usually deeply entrenched in cultural and religious beliefs. FGM is irreversible and can significantly increase risks associated with childbirth. As there are around one hundred and forty million girls and women worldwide who are currently living with the consequences of FGM, World Vision also assists victims of FGM when they encounter medical and social problems during their lifetime.

      • No FGM Oz says:

        Thanks for your reply, Tim. I am glad that you are aware of this terrible human rights abuse which is frequently not discussed and therefore hard to tackle. It is only through bringing the problem out into the open that we can come closer to eradicating genital mutilation and all the problems that go along with it. It would be unfair to the girls that are supported through World Vision if this painful and (often) deadly abuse is not addressed.

  • Katie Manuel says:

    Great to read this! It’s our family’s dream to visit our sponsor child in Malawi one day. I bet it took a while for Derartu to get used to you being there! She’s beautiful..

    • Mark, World Vision Team says:

      Thank so much for sponsoring, Katie. we couldn’t do the life-saving work we do in the field without the invaluable support of people like you.

  • azmara says:

    wow that is so amazing , my name is azmara and i was born in western Ethiopian in a smell villages. this story remands of me when i was a little girl in Ethiopia playing on the street with my family and friends so yea

    thank u so much for doing that it is really hopeful.>3

    • Mark, World Vision Team says:

      Thanks for sharing your story, Azmara. Thankfully, our work in Ethiopia has come so far from the famine of 1984 to now, seeing communities be able to build better, sustainable futures for themselves with our help.

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