“I believe this requires sacrifice to live one’s passion and fulfill one’s mission in life. However, I also feel privileged to live my passion that makes a difference in the lives of the neglected.”
Born and raised in Wolaita, Worknesh Munie, a mother of three, now lives in Addis Ababa with a group of elderly people. Leaving her comfortable life as a wife of the then Ambassador to France and Belgium, Worknesh lives with the elderly in a small room, in order to follow up to the day to day needs of their care.
Having worked in different organizations, Worknesh’s life changing path occurred as she recovered from a fatal health problem and felt that she received a divine call to take care of the elderly who were abandoned in the streets. She found a purpose in life and a passion to pursue – restoring dignity to the elderly. Studies show that there are many senior citizens who are neglected and abandoned in streets and sustain their livelihoods by begging. She found that was very humiliating and dehumanizing. Senior citizens can live in dignity contributing their knowledge and expertise if they have support system that sustains them through their old age. However, their dire living and social conditions was so dehumanizing that at the age where people would feel respected and celebrated, they were rather in the streets begging. This prompted Worknesh to establish a care system.
At first, Worknesh used her family resources to provide this care and support to selected elderly people. Then, she established a local NGO, Kibre Aregawuyan Migbare Senay Direjit (KAMSD) in July 2007 and continued to use both her family as well as community resources to provide the services. The motto of KAMSD is “Dignity and Better Life to the Elderly! “In order to continue providing this support in a sustainable manner, Worknesh devised ways to raise funds as well as recruit partners to continue the work. Resultantly, the following strategic objectives were devised to ensure sustainable support:
- Establish institutional care support for those who live on street.
- Establish community-based support program and for those who have houses, renovate their house for them to have a decent living.
- Establish income-generation program and work for those who are capable of working in the institution.
- Establish cash support for those who have a living place outside but cannot earn money.
- Construct a multi-purpose care and support center for institution-based beneficiaries.
At present, 60 elderly people are supported in the institutional care program of KAMSD and about 200 in its community-based projects. About 1000 people in the community are indirectly supported as each family unit has on the average five family members.
The organization is committed to providing financial, material, psycho-social, and spiritual needs of the elderly who are above 60 years old and fulfill other selection criteria of the Bureau of Labor and Social Affairs to be admitted in the institution.
Since its establishment, KAMSD has achieved quite a lot of victories, including but not limited to:
- Establishment of an income-generating project focusing on disadvantaged elderly women in Lideta sub-city. The bread-baking project that was launched in the woreda consisted of 30 elderly women organized by micro enterprise unit of the woreda. It is now fully functional and has enabled elderly women to be financially self-sufficient;
- Construction of a care and support center for the elderly through the granting of more than 8,000 sq. meter of land free from lease to KAMSD by the Municipality of Addis Ababa. The construction of the center was made possible through a philanthropist who sold her own house and donated the proceeds to KAMSD.
- Signing of a partnership agreement between Ambassadors and Heads of Mission Spouses and Diplomatic Spouses Group (AHMSDSG), towards the purchase of necessary furniture and equipment for the elderly home and health care room;
- Established income generating activities through flour mill and bread baking services in Yeka, Lideta, Kirkos and Arada sub-cities, through a Japanese Embassy grant towards:
o full repair 106 residential houses
o partial repair of 16 residential houses were partially repaired
o 30 elderly women were organized in bread-baking in Y eka sub-city .
o 30 elderly women organized to do IGA in flour mill IGA in Yeka sub-city. o 30 elderly women organized in Lideta sub-city.
o 30 elderly women organized in Arada sub-city.
- By winning the second call of the Civil Society Support Programme, 10 public latrines, and bathrooms were constructed for the community in Yeka Sub city and 40 elderly women organized to manage the public latrines and bathrooms;
- With the support of the French Embassy 75 damaged houses of the elderly in Yeka and Kirkos sub-cities were repaired; 90 elderly women were involved in income-generating endeavor. Six shops for income generation activities were set up to sustain their business;
Worknesh continuously enables others economically using IGA schemes, physically catering to their physical health needs, spiritually creating the environment to worship their God in whichever religious way they want to connect; psycho-socially allowing social events and routines that address their needs, training volunteers to support the elderly. She enables the elderly to be active socially, and giving them dignified life by restoring their living places. There are twelve employees who work in the administration and finance, clinic, kitchen, and who take good care of the elderly through her organization KAMSD.
Worknesh is a pioneer in starting care for the elderly. She used all her networks and connections to fulfill her dream and leading the organization she established by modeling servant leadership.
It was useful to get grants to establish the institution that caters to the needs of the senior citizens. However, to sustain the care and support, Worknesh is now given a plot to build residence for the elderly which could be used not only as a residence for them but also as a means for income generation by renting some rooms. This is planned to sustain the care provided to the elderly through the generated income. In addition, some of the rooms are designed to be rented as a nursing home for people who can afford to pay for their loved senior citizens but cannot live with them.
Worknesh’s main challenges revolve around leaving her family members to live with the elderly. Since she has children who also need her constant love and attention, she has to manage her responsibility to her family from a distance. Her second challenge includes, fund raising to build the new facility but one she believes the One who gave her the vision will also enable her to fulfill her dream.
“I envision an Ethiopia in which elderly people are no more on the streets for begging and live their final days with honor and dignity.”
“This work started about eight years ago and I have known Worknesh for the past five years. She is a visionary and soft-hearted person. I am a volunteer in the program unit tasked with preparing project documents. What I appreciate most about her is her visionary stance and commitment. She is appreciated for her vision, industriousness, and commitment. She is now building elderly multipurpose facilities. In terms of delegation, she has yet to learn lessons but her qualities overweigh the gaps. She is a pioneer in starting service to the elderly.” ~ (KAMSD Volunteer)
“I appreciate how Worknesh takes care of the elderly. I got to know her when I brought a woman who was about to go and live on a street and followed up on her wellbeing until she died. I was impressed with the sanitation of rooms, the way each senior citizen was taken care of and how they felt about their life. I was very impressed to see such quality in this place. For me she modeled quality of life.” ~ (KAMSD Service User)
“I sold my house and live with the elderly but what impressed me most is the fact that she considered life with the neglected part of the society as worthy to live for and left her life in Europe and lived with us in a 2×3 bedroom. I am grateful that there are kind people like her who take good care for others as their way of life.” ~ (KAMSD Beneficiary)