In this series, we introduce you to the four inspiring Ethiopian women with recipes to teach and stories of hope and courage to share.
The lush, greenery on the path to Sadiya’s home brushes past me. All around are fields of leafy vegetables and African violets glittering under the early morning sun. Few would guess that in this little oasis, Sadiya’s children were once malnourished because of extreme poverty.
The family is all smiles as they greet our team in front of their farmhouse. I’m immediately swept up in a warm welcome from Sadiya and her children. Sadiya’s beaming face and energy reminds me of a favourite aunt I loved to visit as a child. We are invited inside to sit down for a visit with the family, have breakfast and enjoy freshly brewed, delicious, Ethiopian coffee. Heavenly.
A story to tell
Sadiya gushes as she talks about her family life: The business she started to build the family savings, the hopes and dreams of her children who have been able to stay in school.
This mom has enough room in her heart for everyone- including two little kids from the community who showed up for breakfast! Photo: Brett Tarver
But as we start to talk about how life used to be, a shadow crosses her face.
“I had nothing. Paediatricians told us our children were malnourished,” the mother says. "My family life was full of challenge."
What has made the difference? Put simply, child sponsorship
. When Sadiya’s son Abdurhaman, now 14 years-old, was sponsored by a Canadian donor everything changed. Sponsorship meant that Abdurhaman could go to school. Sponsorship gave the family access to a special pilot project that greatly improved their access to nutritious food and put them on a path to healthy childhood development.
Sadiya begins to stir a big, boiling pot of Marqaa, a traditional Ethiopian breakfast food, over an open fire. She swirls the thick, bubbling porridge with a large wooden spoon. This breakfast staple and typical Ethiopian baby food used to be made with just a few ingredients in this community, including readily available crops like sorghum and beans.
But it wasn’t providing enough nutrition for what babies needed. Through World Vision, community members were given access to new foods and learned to augment the baby food with wheat, chickpeas, barley, lentils, rice, cabbage, carrot, eggs, potato and milk, The meal now packs a vitamin-rich punch and has drastically improved the lives of Sadiya’s children.
Sadiya is ready to feed us the Marqaa. Photo: Brett Tarver
“After they started eating nutritious Marqaa, they grew fast,” Sadiya tells us. “The sponsorship program enabled me to feed my children. Now they are growing not only physically, but also mentally, and their class performance is very good,” she finishes with pride.
Mealtime with the community
The Marqaa is now ready to eat and it seems like all the kids in the neighbourhood have shown up to dig in. The Marqaa is dolopped onto large platters and doused with a healthy pour of farm fresh milk. The dish is completed with a pat of golden butter that Sadiya has just churned this morning.
The meal starts with us. Sadiya deftly scoops up a ball of Marqaa with her fingers and feeds us by hand. Having food stuffed in our mouths makes us feel a little like babies ourselves. But Ethiopians call it “gursha”: An act of love and respect to start each meal for family and for visitors.
“There is a significant difference between the children eating the nutritious food and the ones who are not,” Sadiya says. She believes that her younger children, who were raised on enriched marqaa, are taller and healthier than her first two children.
The neighbourhood children turn up for mealtime. Photo: Dennis Prescott
The children gather around the platters and the Marqaa soon begins to disappear. I find the Marqaa is surprisingly delicious and deeply satisfying. I dig in with relish, knowing that the ingredients will give me the energy I need. It’s filling and I find I’m not hungry until much later in the day.
Strength to share
After eating, I find a moment to talk to Sadiya’s son Abdurhaman. Standing face to face with this young man who has grown as tall and healthy as a cornstalk, I ask Sadiya: “What are you feeding him”? Everyone laughs, it’s no secret. I am struck by his confidence and wide smile. My daughter is around his age, and I can easily picture Abdurhaman walking the halls of her school, as healthy and strong as any Canadian boy.
When Abdurhaman talks about his sponsors, his eyes mist over with gratitude. The opportunities he now has in front of him wouldn’t have been possible without someone coming alongside and giving him the chance, literally, to grow. He now dreams of being a doctor, something that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
Abduhaman has grown tall and strong through the support he receive from child sponsorship. Photo: Brett Tarver
Sadiya was also able to support Abdurhaman’s siblings through the sale of butter from a cow donated by their World Vision sponsor from Canada. She has also been able to build a house for them with the savings they have been able to accumulate.
Sponsorship also gave access to a Rural Saving and Credit group, a group of more than 20 women that receives financial training, savings help and support from World Vision. The group enables them to build savings while also providing a safety net should the family face an unexpected crisis.
Sitting down and talking to this family over a healthy breakfast was a great way to start our day. It was so encouraging to see these children getting opportunities to start strong, at home and at school, and to see what is possible.