The passing of a hero

From Melissa Faye Greene's blog;

I have learned this morning that our dear friend Mrs. Haregewoin Teferra has died. She felt sick, called for a friend, and died in her bed. I have no more details at this time. I will post here as I learn more.


—Rev. Dr. Gary Gunderson Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University

Haregewoin Teferra was happily married to Worku Kebede, a biology teacher and high school principal. She worked in the accounting office of Addis Ababa University and of Burroughs Computer Corporation. The middle-class couple lived in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, and doted upon their daughters, Atetegeb, born in 1967, and Suzie, born in 1969. Then a pair of tragedies altered Haregewoin’s life. In 1990, at the age of 54, Worku collapsed and died from a heart attack. Bereft, Haregewoin raised her daughters alone. Atetegeb married, had a baby boy, then fell ill. Her sickness seemed untreatable. Haregewoin spent eight months at her daughter’s side, seeking every cure, consulting every clinic and physician, until, at the age of 24, Atetegeb died.

Haregewoin’s life ended. She spent all day every day draped in black, seated beside her daughter’s grave. A year passed in this way. She felt unable to return to work, unable to accept visits from her friends. “But my daughter,” she protested when they sought her out. “I liked her very much.”

She typed out a line from a song she remembered – “There is no me without you” – and placed it over an old photograph of teenage Atetegeb and Suzie laughing together. After 18 months of profound mourning, Haregewoin asked the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to take her into seclusion. She would leave the world, she would inhabit a hut in the cemetery near her daughter’s grave.

Instead, a Catholic organization approached Waizero [Mrs.] Haregewoin and asked her to shelter a homeless teenage girl. “My life is over,” she replied. “It doesn’t matter what I do. If you think God wants me to take her, then I will take her.” Two weeks later, the Catholic group phoned again to ask if she could shelter a homeless 17-year-old boy. Again she replied, “My life is over,” and she took the boy. Two weeks later, the agency phoned again, this time with two orphaned little girls. They’d lost their parents to AIDS; no one, in that moment of the dawning pandemic, wanted to risk contacting the disease by sheltering the children. But Haregewoin, who felt her life had ended anyway, accepted them into her compound, into her heart.

All that occurred roughly 400 children ago. Today Mrs. Haregewoin provides two houses to about 40 orphaned children, half of them HIV positive.

She has named her two compounds after her late beloved daughter, Atetegeb Worku. Thus: Atetegeb Worku Metasebiya Woleji Alba Hitsanet Merja Mahiber AWMWAHM (Atetegeb Worku Memorial Orphans Support Association) Mrs. Haregewoin gets no government help to care for these children; she relies on the generosity of friends, neighbors, and outsiders.

You may contact her by writing to:

w/o Haregewoin Teferra
Gullele Sub-City Kebele 10/11/12
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

There are also a couple of e-mail addresses for Haregewoin:

Tax-deductible charitable gifts may be given through the Illien Foundation for Children of Atlanta, Georgia. Illien is a 501(C)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to caring for needy children around the world. All donations are transmitted in full to the designated recipient and all donations are tax deductible to the donor.

You can send a charitable gift to Mrs. Haregewoin online by visiting : and indicating that the gift is for Haregewoin or for AWM.

Or you may send a check to:
Illien Foundation for Children
1250 Piedmont Ave, NE.
Atlanta, Georgia 30309
Noting, on the check, either "For Haregewoin" or "For AWM"

Her story is told in the book that I love so much called There is no Me Without You.


Elysa said…
I'd heard about this book for a long time, but when I read this, I was prompted to get it thru Inter-Library-Loan. I finished it up last night around midnight and WOW! I'll never forget this woman or her story.
Heidi Coglon said…
I am currently reading there is no me without you. I went online to find out how I could get in touch with
Mrs. Haregewoin Teferra. I have never met this woman, but at hearing that she has passed away in March, my sadness was enormous. I cried for a long time over the loss of such an incredible woman, and can only hope that she is now at peace with her beloved daughter and husband. The world has lost a shining light. I will do whatever I can to help make sure her work for children will continue.
Bless you Haregewoin.

Popular posts from this blog

Gay Adoption

The Womb, Being a Woman and Baby Loss

Holding the Snake by His Head