Many bricks are needed to rebuild the soul of one’s home *
There are indelible marks that war leaves on the soul and heart; the wounds linger for years and are not always fully healed. Eden’s story is that of a strong woman who continues to battle the ghosts of the past and present, striving to rise from a tragedy that mercilessly struck an entire country. Eden’s story represents the voice of millions of women who share their fears and hopes in the midst of conflict, when their homes are reduced to rubble and they have to rebuild the foundations of their own souls, brick by brick with hope and love.
Through love, I will conquer my journey
My name is Eden, I was born and raised in Adigrat, Ethiopia, growing up in a small house with my single mother. We didn’t have much money, but my mom was determined to make sure my siblings and I got an education to secure a better job and life.
Tragedy struck when my older brother was killed in a fight at just 17, leaving my mother and me devastated and heartbroken. After his death, with all the determination I could find in me, I worked relentlessly to support my family and pursue my education.
Every day, little by little, I studied and finally graduated from University with a degree in Business Administration and Management. I then completed my Master’s degree and became a lecturer. I couldn’t believe how much I had achieved. After my brother’s death and for the first time in so long, I was truly happy. My future looked bright and hopeful, and my mom had lived long enough to see it. I had built a good life for myself and, more importantly, I was able to take care of my mother until she passed away.
But then, my life and that of so many others around me were overwhelmed by another tragedy: a brutal war broke out in Ethiopia, pushing me into fear and despair. Political and ethnic tensions tore the nation apart and I found myself constantly at risk of abuse and threats due to my Tigrayan background. I lost my home, my job, and my sense of security. I moved in with my aunt to seek refuge and although I managed to secure a new job, the tensions continued to escalate. I cannot express how frightening it was.
All of a sudden, violence had stepped into my life and made my days hell. One day, I received news that an attack was fast approaching our village. I had no choice but to flee on foot, with nothing but the clothes on my back and some meager emergency supplies. Within a few moments, I had lost everything. My journey was a nightmare. The soldiers brutally abused me emotionally and sexually. It was a horrific trauma. I still carry the scars of it, shared by countless others who suffered during the conflict.
My only comfort was reaching a temporary shelter for internally displaced people, but the conditions there were deplorable. The spaces were overcrowded, and food was scarce. Essential services like banking and communications were unavailable.
I only started to regain hope thanks to the Vincentian Family’s support, as I was fortunate enough to access a pilot project offering psychosocial assistance to survivors of conflict-related sexual violence. Trained facilitators, who were survivors themselves, provided a safe space for women to share their stories without fear of judgment. Although I had become withdrawn and broken, I attended every group session; I wanted to recover from this trauma, I wanted to feel better. Inspired by the experiences of survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the sessions followed a “Helpful Active Listening” approach. They helped us to better understand our circumstances, identify coping strategies, and rebuild our resilience. The project also gave us a safe space to stay and much needed emergency supplies, including cash.
In the midst of this desolation, I hope that better days will come. The scars of the past may never completely fade, but with the support of those who cared, I am determined to rebuild my life and contribute to a brighter future for my beloved Tigray.
* The details of this story have been altered slightly to protect the identity of the beneficiary. Alterations have been made to the name, age and location of the beneficiary. Otherwise, all information provided is accurate as narrated by the beneficiary.