Ethiopian humanitarian Haregewoin Teferra dies

It is reported that Haregewoin Teferra has died yesterday of natural causes at her home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The following story about Haregewoin is taken from Mellisa Fay Greene’s book, “There is No Me Without You.”

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.

32 thoughts on “Ethiopian humanitarian Haregewoin Teferra dies

  1. Aden1 on

    An inspiring as well as a sad story. 400 people at her custody are a big volume without a major contribution from an organization. The government had been receiving its share of funds for Aids victims from US, which is headed by the PM’s wife, Azeb. It is strange that a big center like W/o Haregewoine’s had been left out on its own.

    May God bless her soul as she parts in dignity after completing may be what she was called for to do. If there was an opportunity in crisis, her daughter is also the angel disguise.

  2. በአሉ on

    ኧግዚአብሄር ነስዎን ይማር፣ የሚያሳደጔችውንም ልጆች የሚረዳ ያምታ

  3. Anonymous on

    Wow…It is a heart touching story. May God receive her and put her soul in his right side!

  4. Anonymous on

    What a wonderfull woman. May God put her soul by his side. I wish all of us have half of her kindness. I wish “tsinat” for her family.

  5. Carole Turner on

    She inspired so many. I pray her death does even more to encourage us all to help MORE then ever, the orphans and vulnerable children of the world.

  6. yasaznal on

    I know the woman,she came to atlanta and was interviewed by DINQ magazine.

    She was there for those who are in need. May God bless her soul.

  7. anonymous on

    Her story is amazing. The plight of the children she took in is heart-wrenching. Heregowoin Teferra worked with a courage that we all should possess.

  8. Tegga Lendado on

    This is a life worth living. I believe Mrs. Haregewoin has inspired many people close to her. Apparently, the tragedy was a turning point in her life. She left a legacy for us to follow.

    I pray that her orphange would continue for long time. I also believe this is an opportunity for bloggers to send some help for the organization.

    God bless every one!

  9. Anbessa on

    She played her part in helping our people with Generousity and Sincerity. I believe all Ethiopians do have some to contribute to their people irrespective of all our differences and backgrounds especially in challenging times. She is the best example to all of us whereever we are. May She rest in peace.

  10. Meftehe on

    I used to live next door to Hargewoin. OMG she was such a generous woman. She really doesn’t deserve to die NOW. I don’t know what is going to happen to those children in her compound.
    I am so sad.
    May God take her soul.

  11. Anonymous on

    God Bless your soul. I know you very well and we meet each other 8 years a ago. I helped your organization. God Bless your soul.

  12. Anonymous on

    Such an inspiring story. How great it could be if she knew that even after her death, her story is giving hope and inspiration to many. A great woman of God.

  13. asheber abegaz on

    This angel of a woman used to hug, cuddle and sleep with children afflicted with AIDs when no one wanted to be near them. She used to give special care by feeding each of those children who were weakened by the disease. To this day, when a lot of people come in contact with people who have the virus, they are highly guarded and think that they will get the virus easily. But this angel surrounded here life with those who have no where to turn and made them whole again. There is no word to describe her life and service except by just saying thank you, you will be missed by so many of your children and those who knew you through your selfless work. What better way to honor this wonderful life other than by donating generously for the charity she established. I bet sheleft us for a better place. So long.

  14. yalemfanos on

    After she camme back from abroad organizing help from diaspora ethiopians, the gov. officials imprisoned her for while and took the children away to excuse her from the responsibility . That is why so many people believe that the wrong accusation caused her weakeness and lastly her death. God Bless!

  15. Dorothy on

    Tragedy! Her helpers told me on the 20th that she died of ANGER. She was seen in clinic and “there is nothing wrong”. Imagine having your 40 HIV+ children taken from you by force! Visiting her home is like visiting a tomb with children’s voices still ringing in the background. Those twenty need the love and care of their mother and now she is GONE! She is to be acclaimed forever and at least the book does that. Every visitor to Africa who wants to understand the effect of the AIDS crisis on children must read Melissa’s book. May God find a way to continue this important work started by a saint!

  16. samson on

    Death is always in our hand, we should secure our reponsiblity and share with friends on time. God bless her.

  17. Yoftahe Nigusse on

    It’s heart-breaking.She lost her beloved ones,now herself.The orphaned children need immediate attention.I suggest besides the goverment Ethiopian communities in the develiopd world should come to aid the helpless children.

    May God rest the soul of woizero Haregewoin and her deceased family in happy abode!!!

  18. Gary on

    I was very touched by the book as our own childern are currently adopting from Ethiopia. She was a woman of courage and conviction who overcame her own grief to alleviate the grief of others. May God bless all of those she helped.

  19. Anonymous on

    I wish we all can support once who can do things like her than trying to do more than what we can afford. May God rest her soul in peace.

  20. Patricia Malley Thacher on

    Thank you God for this woman. She was an extraordinary human-being. Thank you for living this life Haregewoin. You are an inspiration.

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