Restoring Lives from Violence in Tigray

June 11, 2024 • Ethiopia

Samrawit endured unspeakable violence at the hands of armed groups. Now she's learning to heal, forgive, and rebuild through a Biblically based trauma healing and livelihoods program.

Ethiopia Projects

Years of war devastated the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia from 2020-22. Families were shattered and their futures were left uncertain. Samrawit was one of the countless women struggling against the odds to keep themselves and their children alive.

It wasn’t always like this. She can remember many years of peace.

She and her husband ran a successful clothing business with enough income to meet their children’s needs and to provide for the couple’s aging parents and grandparents. They even had money left over to help people in their community who were struggling to get by.

Samrawit and her three young children had never known days filled with fear and the gnawing pangs of hunger.

All of that changed in 2020 with the onset of war. Their once-stable world crumbled beneath them.

Samrawit was left with a terrible reality–one she could never have envisioned. Her husband was tied up and savagely beaten in front of her and the children. And then he was taken away. She’s not heard from him since.

The burden of protecting and providing for their kids has been on her shoulders now for years.

“The women watched the horrors of war unfold before their eyes—but they couldn’t react,” said Rachel Chadalavada, a Samaritan’s Purse program development officer in Ethiopia. “They didn’t have the luxury of processing anything they witnessed because if the women broke apart, who would take care of their children?”

Samrawit walks with her youngest child.

Samrawit walks with her youngest child.

She pushed through unimaginable pain while trying to appear strong for her three children, but the months turned into years, and Samrawit’s despair overcame her at times as threats of starvation loomed over her children.

“I was thinking that if I didn’t get any kind of food for my kids and myself, I would commit suicide,” Samrawit said.

It was in this darkened state that God connected her with Samaritan’s Purse. At the height of the conflict, when it seemed that no help would come, our team began to care for Samrawit and her children.

“I was unable to nurse my daughter, so they gave me milk. They gave food and other items, like a sleeping mat. No words can explain how much I appreciate them for taking care of me,” she said.

After she met Samaritan’s Purse, Samrawit was able to face the reality of what she’d been through.

Healing Beneath the Surface

She’s still in pain every day from the attacks. It’s still uncomfortable for her to sit because of nerve damage. And like thousands of other Tigrayan women, Samrawit even today becomes overwhelmed by the shame and humiliation of the things they did. With husbands, fathers, and brothers at the frontlines or taken captive, countless women and children were left vulnerable. Many suffered sexual violence and even torture.

Samrawit didn’t know where to begin to grieve what she’d endured or to even think of a future with her in it. Though peace agreements had been signed in her country, there was no peace for families like Samrawit’s.

“We’ve had the opportunity to provide trauma recovery programs and to do them from a Biblical perspective,” said a Samaritan’s Purse staff member serving in Ethiopia. “We can say God loves you and He has a plan for you. He’s not forgotten you or abandoned you, and we’re here to care for you and to provide for you because of the love that Christ has for you.”

Samrawit talks with a Samaritan's Purse trauma recovery team member.

Samrawit talks with a Samaritan’s Purse trauma recovery team member.

Samrawit and many others like her began talking with program counselors about their experiences. The counselors themselves were also survivors of similar violence during the war. Now they could equip others to process the trauma and remind victims like Samrawit that they’re not alone. That God has not forgotten them.

Recently, Samaritan’s Purse has been able to work through local churches to provide this training. This also includes trauma healing programs for children. These local churches have opened their doors to create safe spaces for kids to come eat, play, and talk with a counselor to begin working through their experiences as well.

So far, the program has helped 1,600 men and women face the experiences that haunted them and the shame that kept them quiet for so long.

“There was a day that I asked the soldiers ‘Please, I want to die. Save my kids, but my life is over,” Samrawit said, recounting her captivity and the alienation she experienced from her own people. “I was segregated by the community and I was hearing them talk about what the armed forces had done to me.”

But the stigma attached to Samrawit’s trauma was removed the moment she heard counselors speak openly about the trauma they had endured. The trauma healing program, she said, has transformed her from shameful to hopeful.

“As you can see me, I’m standing in front of you. I’m still mentally stressed by the experience, but I’m also able to feel happiness return,” she said. “I didn’t even imagine I would be in such a state again.”

Creating a New Beginning

And now as part of our trauma healing and livelihoods program, Samrawit received livelihoods training and a cash stipend to start her own small enterprise. With her previous business experience she was able to quickly get up and running. She purchased product and begin selling various clothing items, shoes, and other basic necessities at a local market. Now, the new business is providing a source of income to support her kids and a renewed sense of promise for their future.

Samrawit working at her shop in the market.

Samrawit working at her shop in the market.

“Life before I was introduced to Samaritan’s Purse compared to after is completely different,” she said. “Previously, it was very difficult for me to take care of my kids, but after I met Samaritan’s Purse—thanks to God—I am generating an income and my kids are still alive. They’re not hungry anymore”

Samrawit’s gratitude for our help throughout her difficult years has turned to compassion and a desire to help others from what God has provided through her new venture.

“I learned how to support others from Samaritan’s Purse,” she said. “Now, I’m generating a daily income and I will not keep it for myself. Rather, I will give to someone else in need.”

Join us in prayer for the families in Ethiopia, like Samrawit and her kids, who have faced unimaginable difficulties. Pray God continues to use the work of Samaritan’s Purse to lift up His Name in Ethiopia. Pray that as our staff demonstrate God’s love in tangible ways that many will place their trust in Him.

Ethiopia water station
Ethiopia Projects As a result of war, many families in northern Ethiopia are displaced with unreliable access to food, water, and other basic necessities. Samaritan's Purse partners with local churches to provide hot meals, Biblically based trauma recovery programs, and more for vulnerable families. We are also strengthening communities by establishing greater access to clean water, repairing damaged medical facilities, and offering high-quality medical care. Through our work we are able to present the Good News of Jesus Christ.

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