Sponsorship And Soccer: Yedenek’s Story


Yedenek is a 13-year-old girl who lives in an open market called Shola in Ethiopia’s capitol city, Addis Ababa. She’s been sponsored through Compassion International by a Korean couple for about six years. This is her story.

Tsehay struggles to provide for her family with the meager income she gains through cleaning homes during the day and selling alcoholic beverages during the evening. The responsibility was laid on her to provide for her mother, nephew, two sons, and her daughter, Yedenek. The family lives in a three bedroom home in a village where it’s not uncommon for nine or ten people to share a small home lined inside and out with mud. Some of the houses have no kitchen or toilet. The village also suffers from a high rate of infectious diseases such as typhus and typhoid because of the uncleanliness of the community.

Although Tsehay works hard, she doesn’t earn much. She considered it a miracle when the opportunity came for Yedenek to join the Compassion Child Sponsorship Program. Tsehay rushed Yedenek, who was seven at the time, to the Yeka Harvest Church of God where children were being registered. She immediately became discouraged at her chances of enrolling Yedenek when she saw other mothers and children who appeared to be in much worse shape. After a lengthy and anxious wait, she got news that Yedenek was indeed accepted into the program.

“I don’t exactly remember the day I joined Compassion,” says Yedenek. “However, I remember my mother was very happy and things started to change at our house a few months after I joined.” Yedenek had the opportunity to start her education at a nearby government school. She was also provided with school materials, clothing, and shoes, which made her feel like she fit in.

“One of the things that makes me happy is that I was equal with my classmates when it came to owning the necessary things for school. I always had my school bag, enough exercise books, pens, pencils, and a uniform. I never once felt that I was inferior to anyone nor did I complain of lacking anything I needed in school.”

Since her registration, Yedenek is one of the few children in the center who comes to attend the program regularly. Her social worker says, “Yedenek is a very consistent and diligent young girl. She never misses any center activity. Even if she cannot attend, she still comes to tell us why she won’t come. We admire her for that.”

Yedenek is in seventh grade and walks to school every day. She attends classes from eight in the morning till three-thirty in the afternoon. She says her favorite subject is Civics.

“My grades improved last year and I’m planning to do much better this academic year,” she says. “I would like to be an engineer or a professional football [American soccer] player when I finish school. However, I would be very happy if I ended up being a football player.”

Yedenek is popular for her love of and talent for soccer, both at school and in the program the church facilitates on behalf of the children.

“My dream is to play football when I grow up. I want to play for my country on the women’s national football team.”

Her social worker agrees, saying, “If Yedenek is on our team, our opponent’s confidence of winning diminishes and we win easily. Even in her school, I know that she spends every break time she has playing football.”

Yedenek recently became a Christian. She takes a salvation class at her local church and studies the Bible once a week with other children at the center. She has also started singing in the youth choir. The future is very bright for the young girl whose mother brought her to the center six years ago, hoping for a better opportunity. Yedenek plans to continue to work hard in school and, of course, play more soccer. She has a very good relationship with her Korean sponsors. Their encouraging letters, gifts, and visits have made a huge impact on Yedenek’s life.

“I love my sponsors,” she says. “Every time I receive a letter from them, I feel like I meet them face-to-face. They have come to visit me more than once, and I long to see them again.”

Mars Hill Church has partnered with Compassion International to sponsor children in Ethiopia during the James: Jesus’ Bold Little Brother sermon series. Our original goal was 500 children sponsored. At last count there have been more than 1,200 sponsored. To find out more information on our sponsorship, visit our Sponsor a Childpage.

This post is republished material from Mars Hill Church for teaching and archive purposes only.