How Local Support Helped a Family Through a Crisis
Any family can fall on hard times. For a family living in poverty, a setback such as sickness and unemployment can be devastating.
Gode Gevena (37) knows what it is like to face a family crisis. Her husband used to make a small profit trading goods locally. With three children in school, it wasn’t much, but enough for the family to get by. The children were doing well and Gode, who did not have the opportunity to go to school herself, was proud of their academic progress.
But when Gode’s husband became seriously ill eight years ago, he was no longer able to work and the family was left without an income.
“I was caring for my husband and children. We had no money. With rent to pay and food to buy, I was overwhelmed.”
Community Care Coalition support
That’s when the Kebele (sub-district) 2 Community Care Coalition (CCC) in Benishangul-Gumuz region stepped in – providing practical support, and links to services.
CCCs are traditional community-based support systems, collecting monthly contributions from those who are able to pay. Community members are also encouraged to contribute crops or practical support, such as labour, to the coalition. These assets are distributed to households in need, protecting children’s health, education and wellbeing – so that a family crisis doesn’t become a child’s crisis.
Gode’s family received cash from the CCC so that the children could continue to attend school. But the CCC support didn’t end there. The family had one asset – a small plot of land. They had never been able to afford to build on it and had, up till then, been living in a rented house.
The CCC arranged for community members to build on the family land. Today, that two-room blue house is surrounded by beautiful plants. Gode knows that her family was close to homelessness, family separation and the end of her children’s education. She would have had to send the children to relatives, who would have expected them to work rather than go to school.
Gode described how the community had given her family more than a home – it had given them a future and hope.
“Their strength gave me strength and I was able to continue.”
The CCC also played an important coordination role – linking the family to social work support from the Bureau of Women, Children and Youth and health support from the local medical centre.
The Government of Ethiopia and UNICEF are supporting and investing in CCCs as a valuable system of social support that protects children at a local level and links and refers them to other child protection services.
Gode’s husband received free medical services from Dr Mohammed, the owner of the local medical centre. Dr Mohamed works closely with the CCC to identify those families in need of free medical care and medicine. Since he started practising, Dr Mohammed has provided free medical care to the vulnerable – previously a private act inspired by his faith.
Now Dr Mohammed works with the CCC and the regional social worker in a formalised process to help the poorest families. The centre provides free medical care and prescriptions to 40 people from Kebele 2. One of those is Gode’s husband.
“Through my example, I would like to mobilize the community. Perhaps others will give what they can to those in need – whether it is shelter, education, legal or another support.”
Social Work Support
Abdulfatah Mohamed Ali, Social Worker at the regional Bureau of Women, Children and Youth, supported the family and helped Gode into work. Gode had never been to school or had paid work so felt daunted and lacked confidence – but is now working part-time making injera at a local hotel. The work involves intense heat over a fire and hot plate and pays only 500 birr ($15) per month – but it has enabled her to sustain her family for the last seven years.
Last year, the family celebrated a major milestone. Gode’s eldest daughter, Deratu, graduated from high school. Graduation pictures and banners of congratulations decorate the house as a reminder of Deratu’s achievement, the strength of the family and the support of the community.
Deratu has now started teaching at a nearby primary school. Every month she comes to her home Kebele to collect her wages and visit her mum and the family. Gode beams with pride as she talks about her eldest. Having never been to school herself, she is happy that her children have an education. She looks forward to her two younger children graduating in the next few years.
In the future, Gode hopes to open a small stall selling tea and coffee in the Kebele to supplement the family income.
The family has thrived, thanks to the stability provided by the support of the CCC and their links to other services. UNICEF is working with the Government of Ethiopia to support CCCs – and build a social service workforce for child protection.