For more than 40 years Hon Dr. Abebech Gobena was working day and night to give a mother’s love for thousands of children in Ethiopia. Surprisingly, she was doing all this charity despite many ups and downs that no one dares to face even for one’s own sake. Throughout the times, Abebech gave orphans and many destitute people everything she owned including her life. After such long humanitarian service, Abebech has passed away recently at the age of 85.
In memory of her reputable and unequaled work of love and charity, The Ethiopian Herald presents a precise and comprehensive story about her breathtaking journey of serving a mother’s love to many Ethiopians.
Honorable Dr. Abebech has become the mother of thousands of children in which she found the joy that many families had lost. She has helped many children from a broken family and established a large family of her own for years that was hard to imagine. As a result, thousands of children called “Addei.” hundreds of employees also called her using the same name.
Dr. Abebech remains to be the mother of the masses was born on October 20, 1935, in the village of Shebel which is found in the Garar Jarso Woreda of North Shoa Zone of Oromia state, with her father, Golf Heyu, and her mother, Wosene Birru. Less than a year later, during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, she lost her father with a bullet fired from the Italian side. At the age of eleven, she was forced to marry under family pressure. From then on, she began to suffer from the life she did not choose. Then, she escaped from her husband and headed to her mom. But her mother took Abebech to her husband, fearing humiliation on the other side. Since then, the husband of Abebech locked the door on her or put someone to protect her so that they would not try again.
Abebech decided to use her hut as an escape hatch. One day, in the middle of the night, she broke through the roof of the hut. However, she did not know where to go. So she walked for three days, hiding and spending the night on the sidewalk. She, finally, has got a truck journey that takes her to Addis Ababa. When she arrived in Addis Ababa, she was looking for a place to spend the night as she did not trust the driver. She then headed to Piazza around St. Georges Church.
The day is dark, but Addis Ababa was half a day away from electricity. This is the opportunity that opened the second chapter of her life. Abebech was confused and sat in the corner. A man named Asrat watched her. Asrat was a nobleman of the time and was accompanied by many people.
He was not able to leave the 11-year-old child alone in the dark. So, he approached Abebech, took her home, and took care of her as his child. Asrat sent her to craft school to improve her skills.
Years later, on the orders of the Crown Prince, some of the best students were selected and sent to the United Kingdom after a year of training in Hawassa. Dr. Abebech had the opportunity but she failed due to illness. After her health improved, she was employed by Ethiopian Grain Trade Enterprise and continued to attend school. Dr. Abebech’s long-term plan is to stay in a monastery, but she got married under the pressure of friends and relatives. Although they have no children of their own, she spent years building a good family and living happily with her husband.
It was after all this that the successful journey of Dr. Abebech’s glorious forty-year family formation began. The time is 1980, Abebech will head to Wollo province to celebrate Gishen Mariam. Along the way, she met two children who were suffering due to the then drought. Though it was the second life challenge for Abebech, it was also a great opportunity not only for the two children but also the beginning of being a mother for thousands of children. Dr. Abebech’s journey of kindness had faced challenges from her immediate family since she began her trial. As a result, she was forced to leave her own family to become a mother of thousands.
At the time, she returned to Addis Ababa with the children they had found in Wollo town. Although she carried only two children in her hands, she assumed a lot, and the number of orphans’ increased from two to three, three to four, and 21 in a year. Her husband, Kebede Koster, who welcomed the startup of the program, went to counsel and reprimanded her when things went awry. But Abebech refused. The relatives who had gathered for the mediation did not want her project to flourish, so they said in unison that such work is not expected from a healthy woman and advised her to treat her using holy water.
The response of Dr.Abebech, who was one of the richest people at the time, was the opposite. She chose the children they had saved from starvation and misery, abandoned their marriages and possessions, and began living a life in a hut with hundreds of thousands of families today. The first non-governmental orphanage was founded there.
Dr. Abebech had twelve flour mills in the area called Fiche, Wollo, and Addis Ababa. In those days, a man who owned a mill was considered a rich man. She also had a large modern villa. When she left home, she had only a few clothes and gold jewelry. In front of her house, she took twenty-one children and lived in a shack. And she laid the foundations of the center which is still home to thousands of families. As the gold and the clothes could not carry those babies, she was forced to find another source of income.
At the time, Abebech’s best and most lucrative job was making kolo (roasted grains) and selling corn and lentils. Even so, they could not afford to feed all these babies under one occupation, so much so that she had to sell using the older children. But she decided to continue to face all the challenges. However, the journey was very difficult. She was getting out of bed and sleeping on the ground, dressing up second-hand clothes, sewing children’s garments, Child-rearing, and fasting, these are some of the challenges she faced.
In 1991 an acquaintance threatened to rob her with a gun. Surprisingly, years later, the man was arrested. Dr. Abebech, consider further legalization of her entity and would apply to the relevant body. When they are told that five members were needed, it would be another challenge. At the time, finding someone who only wanted the satisfaction of his soul and conscience was another challenge. They may even ask for help from a relative who understands her plan. It was only after this that the CRC, Menschen Fur Menschen, and other aid agencies began to lend hands for her. Abebech expanded her business from selling corn to preparing Ethiopian traditional honey beer (Tej) and spices production and selling. To this day, she has produced sixty-five types of food products and created more than 200 jobs. And supply these products to giant hotels include the Shera ton New Hotel; Spa Service Enterprise; Ghion Hotel, Simen Hotel, Global Hotel, and other destinations.
Meanwhile, the extended family has been able to grow more than 3,500 children over the past forty years. Currently, more than 7,500 children in Addis Ababa, Burayu, Guder are enrolled in various programs and benefiting from the program. Some of them are fully funded, and some live with their relatives. 34 Children are living under the same umbrella. Some families are funded by a research project called Trusted Family. Abebech is a mother who has a special love for children. Especially for infants, as a result, there is an unwritten law that is always enforced by the institution. For whatever reason, children under the age of one stay in the hands of Abebech for the first few days or weeks until they believe they are in good health.
Dr. Abebech has never received a single day’s salary for her service, and at various times she has received many pieces of jewelry and various gifts from various individuals and institutions, but she has never used any of them for her benefit. She won thousands of awards, including the World Business Award in the United Kingdom. Twice a year in the tribal award, Honorary Doctorate in Humanities from Jimma University; 50th Jubilee Medal from Addis Ababa University.