Toiling away in the smoke-filled kitchen of a Kenyan restaurant—long before sunrise to well after sunset each day—kept Kassech teetering on the edge of exhaustion. But the wageless servitude filled her belly and provided a bed to collapse onto each night. Carrying her growing daughter, Halmona, on her back all day long, as African mothers often do, made her job even more difficult. But Kassech had few options. Having fled unrest in Ethiopia as a 15-year-old, she had sought safe refuge in the neighboring East African country of Kenya. As a foreigner with few skills, kitchen work was all she could find.
One night after having finished her shift, a coworker crept into the small corner of the restuarant that Kassech called home, and raped her. When Kassech reported the violation to her employer, her attacker vanished.
Halmona was born, and Kassech worked on, carrying her newborn in a sling while she cooked. But by the time little Halmona reached two years of age, she no longer tolerated the confines of her mother’s back. This forced Kassech to search out other work and shelter arrangements. Mother and daughter moved from place to place, exhausting the list of options provided by Kassech’s friends, including those from the church she attended. Many days the pair went hungry.
Eventually, however, Kassech found employment with another restaurant—this provided a small salary, enabling her to send Halmona to an affordable daycare.
When Halmona turned five, Kassech was forced to stop working due to a respiratory illness caused by breathing charcoal-fired smoke in poorly ventilated restaurant kitchens for so many years.
She had lost all hope of her daughter ever attending school—the only opportunity one has in many developing countries to escape the cycle of poverty. But then she heard of a place called Cindi’s Hope Christian School that accepted needy Ethiopian children.
Thin and frail, Halmona walked through the doors of Cindi’s Hope for the first time, uncertain of what to expect. She ate ravenously like each meal was her last, hungrily eyeing the food of others. And, despite having devoured a healthy portion of food herself, she often hoped for more, refusing to leave the table with the other children.
Halmona’s body began to quickly strengthen over the next months, thanks to a steady, nutritious diet provided by contributions to the Food Ministry of Heaven’s Family.
Today, Halmona is carefree and full of joy, and she can be seen playing energetically with her friends during recess. She’s able to turn her attention to learning each day in school. She’s also experiencing the love of Jesus through the staff at Cindi’s Hope.
And Kassech is thanking the Lord for “smiling on her after so many years of hardship, bitterness and loss,” and for providing her with a spiritual family to care for her and Halmona in their hour of need. She’s also experiencing a newfound joy at seeing her little Halmona bloom in the rich new soil in which she’s been planted.