Acenath’s life changed drastically at the young age of 3 when her father died of a heart attack. Her mother—grieving the loss of her husband—spiraled into a mental illness that kept her from caring for her family, which left Acenath and her older sister, Eilise, dependent on their aging grandmother and the kindness of their uncle and aunt for survival.
Before his death, Acenath’s father worked the family’s farmland to provide for his family’s needs. With his passing and the incapacity of Acenath’s mother, Acenath’s uncle and aunt took over the farm. While they gave a portion of the farm’s produce to Acenath’s family, they kept much of the food for themselves in payment for their work. The small portion left over was not enough for Acenath’s family’s survival. The girl’s grandmother, Taran, worked long hours in neighboring fields to help provide for her granddaughters’ needs. Acenath and her sister were surviving, but barely.
Besides her nutritional needs, Acenath desperately needed the love of her parents. Unfortunately, her mother was emotionally and physically unavailable. She often kept to herself and did not speak. At times, the distressed mother couldn’t even recognize her daughters, and when she did speak, she treated them harshly. Acenath could no longer remember her father’s face.
Disheveled and malnourished, the two sisters trudged to school each day, wearing proof of their family’s destitution on their young shoulders and gaunt faces. Recognizing their impoverished situation, Acenath and Eilise painstakingly cared for their scant belongings—a single school uniform, which they washed every day, and two dresses apiece. The few school supplies they did own came from their uncle and aunt in response to the pleas of their grandmother. Tears often stained the girls’ cheeks as they mourned their lack of life’s basic necessities.
A Passionate Plea for Help
When Acenath was in fourth grade, staff members from GFA’s Bridge of Hope Program came to visit their students in her neighborhood. Upon seeing the staff members, Taran hurried out to meet them, begging for an opportunity for her granddaughters to attend Bridge of Hope, which she knew could provide the help she needed to take care of Acenath and Eilise. The tears streaming down her cheeks reinforced the desperation of her cries.
Moved by Taran’s passionate request and the family’s long-time struggle, the staff members offered to enroll Acenath. The day Acenath began attending Bridge of Hope was an unforgettable moment. Though she approached the door timidly, Acenath was grateful for the opportunity and knew her life was about to change for the better.
The center provided her with a school uniform, shoes and school supplies. Acenath also received toiletries for proper hygiene, medical checkups and nutritious meals. Her health, studies and hope for a better life all improved rapidly. The bright look on her face, the high grades in her studies and the evidence of her budding personality all bore testimony to the positive impact of Bridge of Hope on Acenath’s life.
Hope for the Future
Acenath wasn’t the only one who benefited from Bridge of Hope. She shared the resources she received from the center with her older sister, Eilise. Together, they began to cook and care for their grandmother as she grew older. Sometimes, the three attended the local church together and welcomed the continued prayers of the pastor for their family.
“Even if Eilise did not get admission, she gets some help through Acenath, which is very much enough for me,” Taran said. “My grandchild’s life is settled. I [don’t have enough words] to express my thanks for the love and kind hearts of the staff here. … My children will always be grateful to this institution.”
While Acenath is still concerned for her mother and saddened by the passing of her father, she is grateful for the love she’s received from her family, her tutors at Bridge of Hope and God.
Acenath now looks to the future with hope. She dreams of becoming a teacher and providing children with the education she has been blessed to receive.
Read how Bridge of Hope helped another grandmother care for her two granddaughters.
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