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Holding Up A Community

Stories of resilience during the Ethiopian drought

Story by A Glimmer of Hope January 17th, 2017

OUR impact, six months later

When the Ethiopian drought hit in 2015, AdiKeyh and Senale were some of the hardest hit Glimmer communities. Glimmer’s investment in clean water, good schools, health care and agricultural support before the drought prepared the people here to withstand the loss of rain and devastation of crops. With the addition of Glimmer’s lifesaving food program during the worst of the drought, children stayed in school and families stayed healthy.

While life in rural Ethiopia is defined by harsh weather and cycles of drought, life in AdiKeyh and Senale is now also defined by strength and stability. Six months after Glimmer’s emergency food program, our staff visited the people in AdiKeyh and Senale to hear their stories of resilience.


Eight-year-old Helen and her family are healthy and growing. Despite the drought, they found stability through the Glimmer projects in their village.

Helen Ashenafi & her mother, Medihin Tesfay-112416-H16_8368 (33).JPG

Helen’s school provided food and clean water, along with the education Helen needs to break the cycle of poverty.

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Helen is one of the thousands of children in her community who stayed in school throughout the drought. The weekly food provided at her school fed her family when the lack of rain devastated harvests.

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Helen’s mother, Medihin, sees a different life for her daughter. While Medihin left school at an early age for an arranged marriage, she is determined that Helen will thrive in school and create a new life.

“I want her to continue her education till the university level. Her father and I will support our children to go to school,” said Helen’s mother.

With a healthy, stable family at home, Helen continues to pursue her dreams, along with her classmates—a generation of girls in AdiKeyh who have the chance to reach their full potential.

Meet Silas, the Village Entrepreneur

Silas grows maize, carrots and cabbage on her successful farm at her home in AdiKeyh. When we walked through the rows of vegetables with her in December, it didn’t seem possible that a drought hit her community.

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In 2013, Silas took out a small loan from Glimmer and purchased an irrigation pump to expand her small farm. Over the years, Silas rented her pump to earn money and reinvest in her crops.

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The foundation of resilience for Silas extends to her children. Her consistent harvests enabled her to support her sons through school. In an area where few students go on to graduate from university, Silas is putting all five of her sons through college. Two of her sons graduated and work in Addis Ababa, and with two more close to graduating from Gondar University, Silas is close to realizing her goal for her children.

Through the support of Glimmer's programs, Silas was able to stay in the area throughout the drought. Her youngest son continued his education and is on track to follow in his brothers' footsteps.

Birho’s Strength

On Monday, the market day in her village, Birho sells bananas, oranges and lemons. Bags of grain from her farm and fellow traders line the walls of her home. She uses the grain to make bread for her children and “tsiwa,” a local beer that she serves to her guests.

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As a single mother, Birho works multiple jobs to maintain independence and stability for her family. Her farm, produce and beer brewing business were supported through small business loans from Glimmer.

When the worst of the drought hit in early 2016, Birho relied on the emergency food program to feed her family. This especially vulnerable time could have changed the course of education for her children, but they stayed in school.

Helen with her mother, Birho Desta-112416-H16_8309 (19).JPG

Birho represents the strength of the women of rural Ethiopia—holding up their families and their communities. Through her story, we see the resilience of this community and their ability to overcome extreme hardship. With a foundation of clean water, education, health care and agricultural support, the people of AdiKeyh and Senale can see the promise of a brighter future.

To learn more about Glimmer’s emergency food program in Senale and AdiKeyh, visit .