Meeting nine-year-old Merharwit was one of the highlights of Courtney's trip.
When I found out I’d been selected as Western Australia’s Youth Ambassador I cried. I couldn’t believe that I’d been chosen to go on this once-in-a-lifetime journey.
Years ago, when I did my first famine, the funds went to Ethiopia, so I was so happy when I found out that’s where we were going. We were away for about two weeks, and it was the best two weeks of my life.
I feel so blessed to have met the focus children for this year’s 40 Hour Famine, including Merharwit and Burtukan.
Of all the people we met, Merharwit’s story probably impacted me the most. She’s nine years old and lives with her mum. Her mum has a life-threatening illness and is often too sick to work. If she can’t work, she isn’t making any money. Merharwit’s mum doesn’t own their home, she rents it off someone else, so it’s important she’s healthy enough to work. Food is expensive, because there isn’t a lot of it around because of the drought.
People in Ethiopia have to work twice as hard as they used to just to survive. Merharwit told us she was happiest when she got to go to school. School is something that Australian kids take for granted, for us it often seems like a chore. When her mum is sick, it becomes Merharwit’s responsibility to stay home and take care of her mother and the house, so she has to miss out on going to school.
We also met Burtukan, who’s seven years old. Unlike some of the other children who were quite shy, Burtukan was extremely outgoing. As soon as our car pulled up in her village, she and all of her friends came running to greet us. She knew exactly what we were there for, and started posing for photos, moving her friends into position. The whole time we were there, it seemed as if she didn’t have a care in the world.
For a while, she seemed like your average seven-year-old – laughing, playing, and having fun. But sadly, it’s hard to play while you’re hungry, and when you can only afford to eat one meal a day, you’re hungry a lot.
Burtukan, like millions of other children, is severely malnourished and small for her age. Regardless of her size, she still has to help her Mum and older brother with the chores. She collects firewood, sweeps the floor, looks after her baby sister and fetches water.
It broke my heart to hear the children’s stories. Our generation is the generation that can end poverty. The 40 Hour Famine is a great way to do something for someone else – not only are you raising much needed funds for kids like Merharwit, but you also get to feel what it’s like to go without.
Do something real. Register for the 40 Hour Famine now.