Single father overcomes self-doubt to give his children quality care

Zewde received crucial assistance from the SOS Children’s Villages Family Strengthening Programme in Ethiopia. Through the Programme, he gained valuable skills to provide for his children, break the cycle of poverty, and honour his late wife’s memory. 

After his wife of 19 years suddenly passed away, Zewde, 42, wasn’t sure if he would be able to cope as a single parent. 

“My wife fell sick at night, and I rushed her to a health centre nearby,” he continues unprompted.  

“The doctor tried to save her in what seemed like five minutes,” Zewde turns to look at a framed photo of his wife sitting on a shelf, surrounded by bright flowers, “Then she was gone.” 

Initially, Zewde doubted his ability to earn a living and nurture his family at the same time. But despite his struggles, the father of five (one daughter and four sons) has kept his family together. 

He says taking good care of his children is the best tribute he can give his wife. 

I try to follow in my wife’s footsteps, remembering her dedication and how well she cared for our children. I fall way short though, I am not able to do it like she did.”

“I cook for them and scald my fingers in the fire and I have no time to socialise with my friends anymore – but that’s okay. I will always put my family first.”   

Zewde is a farmer in Tulu Moye in the Oromia Region of Ethiopia, an area rich in wheat farming. He grows his own food – maize, vegetables, beans, and wheat on land he leases from neighbours. He sells the excess harvest for income. 

The father of five says even when his wife was alive their income was barely enough. Sometimes the children skipped school for up to two years as they were unable to pay the fees, delaying their education. His eldest daughter, at 20 years old, is only in grade nine. His 19-year-old is in grade eight and the youngest, age 11, is in grade two. 

Farming is back-breaking work, and with production dramatically reduced by unpredictable weather, harvests aren’t what they used to be. Yet the prices of fertilizers, inputs, and land rent keep rising.

Overwhelming life

For Zewde, carrying his children’s emotional and physical needs is overwhelming at times.  

“The donkeys and cars on the road cannot carry the weight I’m carrying around,” he says. “Supporting a family is a very heavy burden.  

“I face countless daily issues like the price of onions, cooking oil, sugar, and other essentials. In the end, I run out of money only and find I can’t afford charcoal to cook. Being responsible for the household is very difficult.” 

Not alone 

The good news is, Zewde is not alone.  

In 2018, the family received support from the SOS Children’s Village Family Strengthening Programme in Ehtiopia. The children are now in school with education support from the Programme. the family has also received hygiene kits and food parcels whenever needed. 

The Family Strengthening Programme is tailored to address the needs of each individual family. In addition, it aims to prevent family separation and promote a stable environment, which is essential for the development and wellbeing of children. 

Zewde’s desire to develop his parenting skills has been addressed, training him on how he can nurture his children.  

To ease his financial stress, Zewde was encouraged to join a Village and Savings Loan Association (VSLA), which helped him develop essential financial skills and provided him with access to money he could use to meet the needs of his children. 

The SOS Children’s Villages support has been vital for my family’s survival."

“If I were to pass away like their mother did, no one (not even my father) would manage to provide a home for my children. They would be divided among relatives and would lose their education.”

There is no one who would gather and support this family like SOS Children’s Villages does."

Breaking the cycle of poverty 

The widowed father reminisces on his life as a young boy and attributes his poor quality of life to a lack of education as a child. 

By intentionally keeping his children in school, Zewde is breaking a cycle of generational poverty that would have otherwise caught up with his children. 

“I plan to educate my children to the maximum level possible, until they achieve something for themselves,” says Zewde.  

“I expect the older children will support this family and their younger siblings, once they settle in their jobs. These children brought my wife and I great satisfaction and joy, their success is important to me. I’m not an educated man, but will consider myself successful if they are successful.”  

Zewde is not completely cut off from social life. He has three friends who often come to his house to visit him. They plough the fields together and take care of each other’s wellbeing.  

One of the men has four children. He says Zewde is a role model for the men in the community. They feel he is doing a good job as a father. 

“My relationship with my kids is great. We laugh and eat together. And they’re doing well at school. “I have put in a lot of hard work here and won’ tallow anyone to take that for granted. I would rather support my children with short-term help. What I fear the most is for someone to mistreat them. They enjoyed the love of their mother, and they loved her. I want to keep that memory.  

“Like trees have leaves, they have me and I have them and we have each other.”  

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