Sisay Sira, 20, lives and teaches in Ethiopia’s capital city. Here, he describes how Islamic Relief’s orphan sponsorship helped him to overcome poverty and illness – and carve out a bright future.

Sisay was not yet four years old when his mother died, just a week after her husband. “I remember that my mother loved me very much,” he said. “She used to carry me on her back even when I could walk well on my own.  My brother looks a lot like my father, and I look like my mother. Maybe that’s one reason for her extra love!”

He went to live with his grandfather in Addis Ababa, where Sisay studied hard and did well at school, despite the family’s poverty.

“My step-grandmother used to bake ambasha (bread) and I had to sell it in the morning before school. Sometimes I was very hungry and ate it.”

At the age of 12, Sisay contracted tuberculosis. “My grandfather didn’t earn much money for food, let alone to get me medical treatment.  I was very sick with tuberculosis for a long time, and I couldn’t continue my schooling. I was lying ill in bed when an Islamic Relief social worker came to visit me.”

Sisay was registered on our one-to-one orphans sponsorship scheme, which provides vulnerable children with a regular allowance. This covers their basic needs and enables them to go to school.

Support came at a critical time

“The sponsorship support money started to come soon after my registration. The support from Islamic Relief reached me at a critical time, and helped tremendously in my recovery.

“I needed a balanced diet and was instructed by the doctor to eat eggs and drink milk. We couldn’t have afforded these things before.  We used to eat one or two times a day at the most. Once the sponsorship started, everything got better. We started getting enough food to eat.”

“If Islamic Relief hadn’t reached me at the time, I don’t know what I would have become. There was a time I ran away from home, thinking I could earn my a living by carrying stuff for people, before my uncle found me and brought me back.”

A bright future for Sisay

Sisay stayed in the sponsorship scheme until he was 18, when he was completing his teacher training at college. Now qualified, he teaches mathematics at Gofa Primary School, in one of the capital’s sub-cities.

“I want to be able to support my family. I wish to make my brother and especially my grandfather happy. I am saving money to buy a laptop, which will aid me with my work and studies. I plan to continue my education to masters level in engineering or mathematics.

“I believe I wouldn’t have achieved what I have, if it weren’t for Islamic Relief. God led them to my house, somehow.”

Sisay hopes that Islamic Relief can help more vulnerable children in a country that is amongst the poorest in the world.

“A lot of children come to school troubled and have nothing to eat. I suggest the organisation visit schools to identify children who could benefit from the scheme. I also wish Islamic Relief will be able to reach many more people.”

Islamic Relief’s one-to-one sponsorship scheme provides a lifeline for orphaned children in 24 countries across the globe. Around 37,000 vulnerable children are currently enrolled in the programme.