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Obituary: In memory of Abebech Gobena, the jewel of indigenous humanitarianism

July 8, 2021

Addis Standard08

Addis Abeba, July 08/2021- The death of Abebech Gobena, also known as “Eddaye” by thousands of children she raised, sent shockwaves through Ethiopians who know her for dedicating her life to philanthropy. Thousands of children across Ethiopia were raised in Abebech Gobena Children’s Care and Development Association orphanage. Abebech embarked on her humanitarian journey by adopting two children who lost their family to the famine that hit Ethiopia in the 1970s. Addis Standard spoke to Rahel Berhanu, one of the two children brought by Abebech from Wollo, beginning her humanitarian journey 37 years ago.

‘’I don’t have words to describe Emaye (Abebech). She was my everything’’ Rahel said, fighting tears. Rahel, who is now a mother of two, went to college after she left the orphanage at age of 18. The support never stopped until she stood on her feet, Rahel narrated, “After getting my diploma, I started working with her. She was a mother above mothers.’’

‘’I lived there for ten years. Eddaye was a generous, good hearted mother. She lived for us. She lives in her children’s souls.’’ said Kalkidan Habetamu, a 20 year old who left the orphanage but is still supported by the organization. Kalkidan is studying Agro economics at Werabe University.

The Abebech Gobena Yehetsanat Kebekebena limat Mahber (AGOHELMA) is one of the earliest orphanages and vulnerable children helping organizations in the country, founded by Abebech in 1980. The CEO, Eshetu Aredeo told Addis Standard “I can say Abebech is a national hero. Four decades ago when there weren’t any non-government organizations in the country, without any educational background whatsoever, Abebch opened this center and started serving her people.”

According to Eshetu, Abebech was an upper income citizen and owned three cars who chose to invest what she owned for the poor. Eshetu, who served AGOHELEMA for more than 30 years, says the organization will carry on with its broad humanitarian activities. “The organization is not only the earliest but also the most fruitful and successful” Eshetu said, referring to over 300,000 people who were helped by the organization. Annually, about 6000 children receive assistance from the organization.

Describing the organization’s sustainability, Eshetu said, ”It is led by a visionary strategic plan which is revised every five years by discussing with stakeholders.We will continue to be supported by the government and the community including the donors. Hopefully we will continue Abebch’s mission.’’

“I have no children of my own but I have a family of hundreds of thousands and I have no regrets’’ Abebech said. The little girl who escaped a forced early marriage helped more than 1.5 million people through her Four decades service to the country. She worked on vulnerable children, built schools for those who couldn’t afford to pay, provided capacity building for needy mothers, worked on maternal health as well as environmental issues such as reforestation.

Abebech got a lot of recognition and awards for her outstanding humanitarian works. Jimma University gave her an honorary Doctorate Degree in Humanity. The first and largest maternal and child health center in the country was named after her.

Abebech was dealing with health issues related to her heart for the last 16 years, according to her family. On July 4, 2021, she passed away after battling with Covid-19 at the age of 85. A

Team Addis Standard mourns the passing of “Eddaye” Abebech Gobena, the jewel of indigenous humanitarianism.

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