Sister Asayech: Resilience in Essence

Born and raised in Addis Ababa, Sister Asayech was the seventh child in her large and caring family household. Her compassionate father who believed in giving back to his community was her biggest inspiration. He was a successful businessman who actively participated in and contributed to building churches, schools, and bridges. Witnessing his selfless acts and dedication from an early age made her who she is today.

Sister Asayech recalls watching a movie with a storyline of nurses helping wounded children as a young girl and that incident triggered her aspiration of becoming a nurse. Upon completing high school, she was accepted to join Addis Ababa University. When faced with the choice of departments, she made a decisive move toward her vision and took the Black Lion Referral Hospital’s exam to join the nursing department. Ranking fifth out of five hundred applicants, she joined the department.

Sister Asayech graduated in 1996 and quickly followed in her father’s footsteps by community volunteering while working for a health center on the side. After working at the health center for six years she joined the Integrated Services for AIDS Prevention and Support Organization (ISAPSO), a local NGO focused on combating the spread of HIV/AIDS. For two years, Sister Asayech dedicated her time and efforts to this organization, contributing to its objectives and initiatives in addressing the challenges posed by HIV/AIDS.

After her tenure with ISAPSO, Sister Asayech transitioned to an international NGO called Family Health International (FHI). Her role at FHI aligned with her drive to support underprivileged community members. She engaged in various projects that target sex workers and women living in poverty. These projects focused on providing these groups with assistance and resources empowering them to lead healthier and more fulfilling lives.

Moving on from FHI, Sister Asayech joined Hiwot Ethiopia in 2006, a time in Ethiopia when the spread of AIDS was at its peak. Hiwot Ethiopia is an organization that focuses on the prevention and awareness creation of HIV/AIDS in children and youth. HIV/AIDS was highly stigmatized and people had little to no awareness about the disease. Sister Asayech was once again at the right place at the right time. She led a group of thirty volunteers as a supervisor and trainer nurse taking care of more than 370 HIV-positive patients. She and her team provided home care to patients, challenged misconceptions, promoted understanding, raised awareness, and worked towards creating a more inclusive community.

The moment Sister Asayech witnessed an infant losing both parents to AIDS had a profound impact on her life. Moved by the child’s plight, she made a courageous decision and took the baby home. This compassionate act marked the beginning of a transformative journey for her and soon there were eight orphaned children under her care. She had to work several nursing jobs at a time to support them as well as her biological children. Owners of the houses she used to rent weren’t pleased with her situation which led her to repeatedly move from one place to another. But this didn’t deter her – the number of orphans kept growing.

In 2007, Sister Asayech founded Tikuret lesetoch ena lehitsanat mahiber (TTLM), an organization dedicated to supporting special needs children and their mothers in addition to providing temporary shelter for orphaned children. Over the years, TTLM has made a significant impact, providing assistance to more than twelve thousand orphaned and special needs children. The organization takes a holistic approach, offering a wide range of services and activities to support these children and their mothers. One of the key aspects of TTLM’s work is to empower mothers by helping them generate income while caring for their children. Today TTLM located in Nifas Silk Lafto supports 538 children with special needs and their mothers. Beyond Addis Ababa, TTLM extends its services to women and children in Welete, Hawassa, and Bonga.

Sister Asayech wasn’t immune to the unprecedented challenges and uncertainty that came with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 – eight funders of TTLM withdrew their financial support. This put Sister Asayech in a tough position but how she faced this difficulty showcases her remarkable resilience, selflessness, and unwavering commitment. She sold her personal house and pieces of jewelry to cover rent and other necessary expenses of TTLM. Her actions not only ensured the continuity of vital services but also served as an inspiration to those around her, demonstrating the power of resilience in the face of adversity.

Sister Asayech’s journey has been marked by numerous challenges and filled with moments of resilience. Today, Acacia Village built around Haile Garment is owned by TTLM and it stands as a testament to her unwavering determination. She considers this milestone her biggest achievement and humbly acknowledges the role of faith in her journey, attributing her strength to God.

“This is just the beginning” says Sister Asayech with her ambition even more contagious than her positivity. Envisioning the future of TTLM, she sees a twin G-9 building with its own health center, gym, training center, daycare, physiotherapy, restaurant, and hair salon so that it can accommodate more mothers and children.

“Leadership doesn’t only come from education, it also comes from grace. We see many women with no formal education manage their time, money, and household, while they guide their children towards a better life – this makes them leaders.” Says Sister Asayech.

Sister Asayech’s advice to the youth emphasizes on the importance of discipline and time management. She stresses that many opportunities that were not available in the past are available today and urges the youth to use those opportunities selectively focusing on what matters. Moreover, she adds the importance of having social networks and sincerely living each day selflessly.

Sister Asayech expresses her gratitude for being a member of AWiB and highlights the impact it has on young women. She mentions the importance of being surrounded by authentic women who are accomplished in their respective fields. “It inspires and fills me with joy that an organization like AWiB exists as a platform for us to lift and support one another.”

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