Being a single mother of four is always a challenge, even more during a global pandemic. Letay Kassa, 34, was already used to hardship and homelessness when COVID-19 struck Mekelle, Ethiopia.
Letay’s family sent her to the city from their village to escape the hard conditions of rural life in Ethiopia, but the work was difficult, and she felt anonymous in an unwelcoming place. For the last decade, she has been doing menial work and begging, after being abandoned by her partners. The reality was different from what Letay hoped for; “living in the city as a single mother was difficult: no reliable jobs, higher costs of living, etc. Life for me and my children got worse and more stressful every day.” The family could not afford to pay rent and therefore dwelled in poorly made small houses, including iron sheets shacks, or in unfinished construction sites, making walls from plastic and old bed sheets – leaving them exposed and vulnerable to wind, floods, and intruders.
Two years ago, Letay met the Daughters of Charity in Mekelle through their support programme for children living in difficult situations. Her eldest son is now able to continue his education. “He is brightening his future and the future of all us, thanks to the Sisters”, says Letay.
When the Daughters reacted to COVID-19, Letay was selected for emergency response assistance. Due to the lockdown restrictions, people who depend on begging or on income from daily labour, vending, and street work are at risk of hunger. Like other homeless families, women-headed households living in shacks, internally displaced people and those at risk of hunger, Letay was provided with 60 kg of wheat flour, biscuits, and hygiene products to protect her and her family from, and to mitigate, the devastating effects of COVID-19.
“Every time I feel hopeless, stressed, and frustrated, the Daughters of Charity Sisters are there for me, my children, and the poor to ease our plights and to take heed of the Ever-Loving God who provides,” says Letay. The fear of the pandemic and the restrictions put in place have deteriorated life for the many who survive on begging, petty paid menial jobs, or on assistance from generous neighbours. Thanks to the Daughters of Charity and the generous benefactors, these families are able to live happily and safely, and survive.