Photo: Shlomit Eileen-Goren
Village in Ethiopia
Photo: Shlomit Eileen-Goren
Israeli changes Ethiopian woman's life
During a trip to Ethiopia, 58-year-old Ishay Hadas came across a young girl working in a bar who seemed, he says, like she didn't belong. They made a pact: She would fulfill her life's dream to study pharmacology, he would fund her tuition

Over the past decade, Israeli advertizing producer Ishay Hadas, 58, has been financially supporting an Ethiopian woman by the name of Sofiya Nigatu – an orphaned waitress from a small mining town when he first met her, and a college graduate with a degree in pharmacology today.



In a piece aired on the Channel 2 investigative television program Uvda (literally meaning fact), Hadas shared his story, which started in 2004, when he first met Sofiya. During an archeological expedition to Ethiopia, he came across a then 19-year-old waitress working at a bar that also functioned as a brothel in a mining town north of Adis Ababa.


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Hadas couldn't help noticing that the young girl looked out of place. "The other women seemed to have already accepted their fate. But Sofiya had that innocent look on her face,” the Daily Beast quoted Hadas saying.


On an impulse, Hadas asked the young girl a question: “I asked her if she had enough money to do anything she wanted, what would it be?” Hadas recalled.


Her answer, Hadas said, was surprising: rather than clothes or a home, Sofiya's dream was to become a nurse. "All I could think of was how I would love to give her the money to get out of this hell hole. All I wanted was to help her," Hadas noted, according to the Daily Beast news website.


Hadas' following decision turned out to be life changing, both for Sofiya and for him. He decided that he would cover the expenses of both her tuition and board until she graduated from high school and college. In return, Hadas conditioned, she would have to leave the bar.


After some reluctance, Sofiya ultimately acceded and signed a contract that Hadas wrote up on the spot. In the contract, she agreed to stay away from prostitution, promised she would not drop out of school, and said she would take an HIV test (that turned up negative).


Giving her $300 and driving her to a big city nearby, Hadas said that if she followed her side of the deal, he would send her money on a monthly basis.


Relying on Sofiya's banking account details that Hadas received in the mail, he sent her $100 dollars every month. Other than short, sporadic messages from Sofiya letting Hadas know that she was fine, Hadas has no way of making sure that she was staying in school as promised.


After a decade passed, Hadas received an email from Sofiya bearing incredible news: she was about to become a graduate of pharmacology. Hadas said he simply could not believe it. "After all these years, she had done it. She managed to change the course of her life and live her dream," the Daily Beast cited Hadas saying.


In an emotional meeting between the two at Sofiya's graduation ceremony in Ethiopia, Hadas was surprised once more, when she introduced her three-year-old son to the man whose kindness of heart had deeply touched her life. “I was so happy to hear that she was a mother. That she found someone who truly cared for her and loved her,” Hadas said.


“She’s restored my faith in the human spirit," according to the Daily Beast, Hadas, who is now helping Sofiya find a job, added. “I thought I’d be done once she graduated, but now that she’s in my life, I can’t seem to stop worrying about her."


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