When you look up from Tiruwork and Enyew’s home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, you can see the vultures circling. They rise on a draft then swoop down upon the mountain of trash below.

Tiruwork and Enyew are a young couple who live near the city dump. The heaps of garbage form foothills in front of the mountains that surround the city. They don’t like living on the edge of a dump—but it is Enyew’s workplace.

Enyew started searching for scrap metal at the dump 18 years ago. For his job of sifting through garbage, he earns about $13 CAD a month. It smells bad, but even worse, it’s dangerous. In March of 2017, a chemical explosion killed 130 people. Enyew was working nearby, but survived.

Despite the danger, Enyew still goes back every day to provide for his family.

Enyew is wearing a button up purple shirt with a pink wall on one side and blue on the other.

Enyew in the alleyway beside the family’s home

“That was very scary, but since I have no choice I’m still working there,” says Enyew. “It’s very difficult going there every day.”

Turning down the street into the alley where Enyew’s family lives, you will find their one-room home of about 8 by 6 feet, much of which is taken up by a bed. Despite the cracks of light that peek through the stick walls patched with plastic bags, the home is dark. But if you peer in past their pink metal door, you will see the most radiant smile of a mother, Tiruwork, and her two peaceful twins sleeping on the bed.

The peace of her smile and sleeping children contradict the despair Tiruwork felt when she learned she was pregnant with twins.

An unexpected ultrasound

The couple had discussed having children for several years, but they knew they couldn’t support a newborn, so they waited. As the years passed, their desire for a child outweighed the practical considerations. They didn’t have any savings to provide for their child—they could hardly survive as it was. Nonetheless, when they learned Tiruwork was pregnant, they were delighted.

They visited the doctor for a prenatal checkup when Tiruwork was three months pregnant.

“You are having twins,” said the doctor.

Tiruwork sits on her bed watching her two girls nap swaddled in a blue blanket

New mom Tiruwork watching her babies nap peacefully

Tiruwork still remembers the despair she felt at that moment. She cried all the way home, contemplating abortion.

“When I first found out I was pregnant with twins, I was angry,” says Tiruwork. “I thought, ‘How am I going to feed them?’ I thought of aborting them because I didn’t know how I would manage.”

“She wanted to discontinue the pregnancy, saying we couldn’t afford to have one baby, let alone two,” says Enyew. “In my heart, I made a vow to take care of the twins with everything I have.

“I made a vow to do anything so they can survive—even if that included giving them away.”

Sparks of hope 

Tiruwork’s neighbours and Enyew’s family convinced them to keep their babies. Shortly after, they learned about the Compassion Survival program at the nearby church. Tiruwork joined the program when she was almost eight months pregnant.

“When we knew that the church would provide some support for us and that we could get education for our children, we were relieved,” says Enyew. “My wife and I were calm at that time since we knew that there was some sort of support from the program.”

“I was skeptical when I joined the program, but in the darkness and doubt of my heart, I started to smile every time I thought about the babies inside of me. The care, counselling and various provisions from the program sparked hope in my heart,” says Tiruwork.

Tiruwork and Enyew welcomed their beautiful baby girls—Eyerusalem and Absalat—on September 24th, 2017.

The twin baby girls sleep soundly with their arms spread wide covered in a blue blanket

Twin sisters, Eyerusalem and Absalat, sleeping soundly

The Survival program staff were by their side, providing them with assistance and essential items for the twins.

And even though the couple’s financial situation hasn’t changed, the help from the program has made all the difference.

“I still make the same amount of money every month,” says Enyew. “It would have been next to impossible to do everything the program is doing for the twins with the income I get. When you have twins, every expense is multiplied by two. We are very grateful for everything, including a Christmas gift that really increased our hope.”

While the thought of twins once brought her despair, now her children are Tiruwork’s source of hope.

“I am blessed with my twins. Even though I didn’t have any hope before, now I’m a mom and I have hope because of my twins,” says Tiruwork. “I am getting a lot of support because of my children, so I’m hopeful now. Now, because of the program, I can feed my children.”

Enyew and Tiruwork have many hopes for their kids, from providing them with a good education, to one day seeing them support others the way they have been supported.

Thanks to the Survival program, the family has the support system and resources they need to keep their babies healthy and have hope for a better future.


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Words by Amber Van Schooneveld with Tigist Gizachew

Written by: Compassion Canada