Like many newlyweds and expecting parents, the love radiating between Tigist and Abebaw is evident. But the consistent physical care and service Tigist offers her husband is the kind that is not commonly required of young couples—and shows just how extraordinary this woman is.
Abebaw is paralyzed, and Tigist is his primary caregiver. He became paralyzed 12 years ago. With extremely limited access to healthcare, he was suddenly unable to work and his quality of life declined rapidly and significantly.
The couple met two years ago when a mutual friend introduced them. Tigist began visiting regularly to care for Abebaw. “I am happy because I feel like I am serving God by taking care of my husband,” Tigist says.
A lifetime of caring for others
Tigist can trace her heart for caring for people with disabilities back to her childhood. “When I was growing up, I used to see a lot of people with disabilities on the streets begging. I used to wonder how people could live in such a condition. I became really passionate about helping and serving people with disabilities,” she says.
She also has a lot of experience making sacrifices to care for those she loves. When she was 14, two of her brothers died in an accident, and her sister became very sick. Tigist had to drop out of school to care for her sister.
Despite her specific passion and calling to serve those living with disabilities, Tigist is under no illusion that being passionate about something makes it easier. “It is very hard,” she says. “It needs a lot of patience. It’s very hard to describe how things go every day at home.”
The joy of a child—and the community of a local church
Tigist is pregnant with her second child—the couple’s first together. It was joyous news for both of them. “I was very happy because my husband is able to have his own child. He gets to have this joy in this area of life. I was very happy that I could give him that gift,” Tigist says.
As part of Compassion’s Survival program at her local church in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this woman who faithfully serves others has now found support for herself in what she describes as a “sisterhood”.
During her first pregnancy—with a daughter who is now six years old—she had little support, and often felt alone. But now, being enrolled in the Survival program has helped provide her with medical care, training, nutritional support and—most significantly for Tigist—a support system of other women and parents.
“When I come to the Survival program, I feel like I have my sisters.
There is a big strength that comes from the sisterhood.”
“The biggest thing I’m thankful for is having someone to come and visit me at home to ask, ‘How are you doing? What’s changed? How are things going?’ It’s very nice to have the Compassion staff come to visit my home and see my everyday life,” Tigist says. “When I come to the Survival program, I feel like I have my sisters. There is a big strength that comes from the sisterhood. The biggest joy I have is from the sense of belonging in this fellowship.”
A major part of the activities at the Survival program each week is the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony. Each week, the moms—and some dads—share coffee and break bread together. But it isn’t the refreshments that make this the highlight of their week—it’s the fellowship.
“It’s nice to be able to just come and say, ‘I have some problem,’” Tigist says. “I have people to go to and ask for advice.”
Hope for the future
Tigist is used to taking care of everybody else. But now, she has a community who can care for her, too.
She credits her faith in helping her through the day-to-day. “Many people ask me [where I get my strength from]. My primary strength comes from God,” she shares. “Both my husband and I are Christians, and our faith helps us.”
She has hope for the future, too. “I hope my children are able to get enough education, so they can grow up and enjoy a better life. And I want them to grow in the house of God and to be strong in their faith. That is my hope—a life of strong faith and good education.”
And finally, her deepest hope is that her husband would one day stand and walk again. “We believe that one day he will be healed in God’s power. We have faith,” she says. “Please pray for us. I have faith that one day my husband will get up—so please pray.”
You can help new mothers like Tigist find their sisterhood through Compassion’s Survival program today.
Words by Alyssa Esparaz; photography by Ben Adams.