A Different Path: 8 Stunning Portraits of Mums Defeating Poverty

These courageous mums have been empowered to overcome abuse and abandonment.

Let me introduce you to eight of the bravest women I’ve ever met. Their stories are characterised by resilience and bravery. As a group they’ve overcome grief, domestic and sexual abuse, medical challenges and abandonment.

These women call Togo their home. A beautiful and culturally diverse country with 37 tribal ethnic groups. But one plagued with the complexities of poverty. A country where if you give birth to a child, you are faced with the terrifying reality that there is a 1 in 20 chance they won’t live to their first birthday.

But, there is cause to rejoice. These women also have testimonies of hope. Each of these remarkable mums has been given a different path out of poverty.

Warning, some readers may find the content of this post distressing

1. Chemine, Assaulted Aged 16

Chemine’s life has been characterised by neglect, abuse and assault.

Chemine’s parents died when she was small, so she was sent away from her home in Legbanou –a rural community around two hours north from Togo’s capital city, Lomé–to live with abusive relatives in Lagos, Nigeria.

“There I was not taken care of at all. I was very unhappy and sad,” she remembers. When she returned as a teenager to live with her elderly aunt, she’d already missed too much education so she struggled to make a living by farming a rough patch of ground outside their home.”

Mum in Togo

It was shortly after her return that she met the father of her child in a neighbouring town. She believed he wanted to marry her, but after he assaulted her, she never saw him again.

“I was not happy at all because of this situation because I was not prepared and did not want to have sex with him. When I realised that I was pregnant, I was very scared,” she recalls. “The very worst about the situation is that I had nobody with whom I could share my worries.”

That has now changed, with the support of the Compassion Child Survival project. Whilst Chemine never experienced the love of a mother herself, the Compassion team are helping her to take good care of her daughter.

“The project takes care of my child’s health and mine too,” she explains. “They pay all the bills when we go to hospital and buy all the medicine prescribed by doctors. They also assist us with food kits and hygiene kits every month. We are taught lessons in the project about how to take care of our children, how to live in hygienic conditions in order to prevent sickness.”

You can empower a mum like Chemine by donating to our Different Path Appeal. Even though our appeal is now closed you can still donate. Your gift won’t be doubled by the UK government, but it will still make a big difference. 

2. Ama, Courageous Mum of 5

As two-week-old baby Luke snuggles into his mother, Ama, he is the picture of health, but many dangers still threaten this tiny baby. Across Togo, 52 babies per 1,000 live births are likely to die before their first birthday compared to just 4 in 1,000 in the UK.

Mum Togo

When Ama became pregnant with Luke, prenatal check-ups were a luxury she could not afford, which is why the Compassion Child Survival project stepped in to help.

With the support of the local implementer from the project, the anxiety that had marked her previous pregnancies was gone. The family were provided with food, so no one went without. Hygiene packs were given, so their health wasn’t compromised.

“When I was pregnant without being in the programme, I could not regularly go to the hospital for checks whereas after registration, I always and regularly go to hospital as needed,” she says.

As Ama cradles baby Luke in her arms, she is much more hopeful about the future of her youngest son. Through the church-driven project this family are no longer focused on survival –they are thriving. “I really believe that my children’s lives will be better,” continues Ama with conviction. With the help of Compassion, this family are now on a different path.”

3. Sowaye, Raising Her Grandchildren

Sowaye never dreamt that in her widowhood, she’d be raising three grandchildren in the home that she raised her own children. But when her daughter died the day after giving birth to a baby girl, Sowaye didn’t think twice about taking care of her new granddaughter.

different path sowaye

Milk and medication were initially provided by the local hospital, but when that provision came to an end the little girl, named Dellali, started to get sick. Sowaye, who makes a living from subsistence farming, didn’t know what to do.

News of a Child Survival project run by the Evangelical Church of the Christian Mission in Legbanou, filled her with hope. “I heard people talking about how the programme was able to support vulnerable and motherless children providing them with food and healthcare,” she recalls.

“Without Compassion, Dellali would have just passed away.” While the regular provision of food, hygiene supplies and medical support have put the family on a much more stable footing, her greatest delight is in knowing that life is no longer a lonely fight for survival. “At the beginning I was wondering, asking myself if I will be the only person taking care of this child without any support. I was really feeling alone at that time. But since I have gone to the Compassion project and found support from them, I am not feeling lonely any more,” she smiles.

4. Nicole, survivor of Domestic Abuse

Nicole has spent her life fighting for survival, but with the help of the Compassion Child Survival project at the Temple of God Church, this resilient young woman is now building a stable future for her family.

Nicole now lives with her elderly uncle in a small compound. She arrived here barely 18 months ago, after her second husband attempted to poison her.

“Sometimes, if he told me to do something and I didn’t do so, he would punish me, and refuse to give me food and other things,” she remembers. “One day, I fell sick and he was afraid that I could die in this house and then he told me to leave.” She was two months pregnant with the youngest of her four children at the time.

Nicole credits the Child Survival project with turning her life around. With access to antenatal care, medical support and nutrition, she was able gain her own strength and ensure the healthy development of the child in her womb.

Different Path Nicole

“When I was pregnant with Daniella, I did go to the hospital for prenatal checks. I had anemia, so I was always sick because I did not feel well,” she says. “I became healthy before giving birth to my child and this made so happy. Every month, we received food kits and hygiene kits from the programme; we were taught on how to be in good health, how to gain peace of mind.” Beyond the physical benefits of the programme, the staff from Compassion and the local church have also been working to build friendship and trust with Nicole. Having been orphaned at a young age and so badly abused by both her husbands, Nicole’s trust in human nature has been badly shaken over the years. In the church she now feels she has an extended family who know her, love her and are committed to protecting her and her family now and in the future.

“With Compassion, I looked at how things were going, and I became hopeful about the future, saying that my children will become someone in the future,” she beams. The health and success of her children is all this young mum wants and with Compassion, she is confident that they will achieve it.

5. Akossiwa, Abandoned By Her Family

As Akossiwa bounces four-month-old Amen on her knee she looks content enough, but her journey has been tough. When Akossiwa discovered she was pregnant she was overjoyed, but her husband was not.

Togo mum and baby Akossiwa

“When I talked to him about prenatal checks, he used to rebuke me saying in the times of their forefathers, there were no prenatal checks but women were delivering easily,” recalls Akossiwa.

Akossiwa’s husband eventually abandoned her completely. She had no idea how she could cope alone, but from the moment she was enrolled in the Compassion Child Survival project, Akossiwa felt at peace. The first things she received were the antenatal check-ups. What’s more, Compassion even covered the transport costs so she could safely get to the clinic – another issue that prevents so many women in Togo from accessing life-saving support.

When Akossiwa went into labour her first port of call was the local church. It was the project director himself, Fabrice Sogan, who took the frightened mother-to-be to hospital, where she delivered a son via caesarean section.

Fabrice stayed at the clinic until three in the morning, pacing the corridors until he was satisfied that Akossiwa and her son were safe. The high level of care continued when Akossiwa returned home.

“When I gave birth, it was the project staff who took care of me.” she says. “They provided me with water and food and everything. I rejoice over the way that Compassion took care of me … Without Compassion we would have died a long time ago,” she says with clear conviction.

6. Afiavi, Became young mother As A Teenager

Afiavi gave birth to her first child, Marcel, when she was a frightened 18-year-old. When she discovered she was pregnant for a second time at the age of 21, the prospect of raising a second child on her husband’s meagre income as a street-side barber was even more daunting.

Family in Togo

Koffi makes an average of 20,000 CFA (£27) a month and 16,000 CFA (£22) is immediately siphoned off to pay rent.

“My second pregnancy was four months when I heard for the first time about Compassion,” says Afiavi. “What I heard and liked about Compassion is that they told me they help pregnant women attend prenatal checks and take also care of their health.

One of the most obvious benefits of the programme was the food packets and hygiene kits given to pregnant mums each month. For couples like Koffi and Afiavi, the peace of mind that comes with knowing where the next meal is coming from cannot be underestimated.

As Koffi tenderly cradles his 15-month-old daughter, it’s clear that the additional support this family received during their pregnancy has given them a strong and healthy foundation for family life.

“My dream is that I want to see our children grow up well and become self-reliant,” says Afiavi. “As I did not complete my apprenticeship as a seamstress, [through the project] we now have a workshop where we learn to make local fabric. It makes me happy because now I know at the end of the process, I could have a job to meet the needs of my family.” As the young couple hold hands together in prayer they do so with real hope and not just wishful thinking.

7. Ami, Suffers With Epilepsy

Ami’s scars tell a painful story. Her left arm was disfigured after boiling oil was poured over her as a child and her right arm bears marks from an incident where she fell into a fire during an epileptic fit.

Burns survivor Togo

Ami spent much of her childhood with a distant relative in Abidjan in Ivory Coast. While in Ivory Coast, she was dreadfully abused. When she returned to her village in her late teens, Ami had missed out on so much education that she felt her only option for the future was to get married.

But her husband left before Ami discovered she was pregnant with her daughter Christine.

“I was not happy at all because here it is a disgrace to be abandoned by the man that got you pregnant and to be left alone to face the challenges,” she says. Ami’s situation was further complicated by the fact that she’d been having epileptic fits since she was a child.

When Christine was around four months old, Ami completely blacked out and fell into a fire. She was found roaming the community in a state of confusion. Her right arm was so badly disfigured that she could barely move it. It was shortly after this incident that Ami and Christine were registered into the Compassion Child Survival project.

“Without benefitting from the support of Compassion at that very moment, I would have simply died,” she says. But further struggles were to come. Through regular infant checks, doctors noticed that little Christine was unable to hear and, as a result, speak. Raising a child with very specific needs, whilst coping with a condition like epilepsy is impossibly hard in Togo and Ami credits the Compassion project with giving her the strength to cope.

8. Adjowa, Nearly Lost Her Baby In Pregnancy

Togo mum and baby Adjowa

Adjowa and her husband were so excited when they discovered she was pregnant, but their joy turned to fear when Adjowa began bleeding several months into her pregnancy. Doctors urged her to abort her child – a prospect that filled Adjowa with dread.

She didn’t know where to turn for help, so her husband went to the Child Survival project at the Baptist Church of the Rock Hountigome. With the support of the project implementer, Adjowa sought a second opinion and received antenatal care and specialist medical support throughout her pregnancy.

She spent several months in hospital being carefully monitored –something she and her husband would never have been able to afford on their own. “Without going to Compassion we were unable to start a treatment because we do not have means,” she says. When Merveille was born suddenly two months premature in the toilets of the hospital, she took everyone by surprise.

For the next three months and six days, Adjowa diligently stayed by the side of her daughter’s incubator in the intensive care unit, watching her little girl until her feet ached.

Access to healthcare is difficult in Togo, so without the support of Compassion, Adjowa couldn’t have paid for the high level of care her daughter needed. “After giving birth in the toilet of the clinic, and seeing the complications, we were afraid. We could do nothing if Compassion was not there. Without Compassion, Merveille would have died.”

Save the lives of vulnerable mothers and babies in Togo by supporting Compassion UK’s Different Path Appeal. Even though our Different Path appeal is now closed you can still donate. Your gift won’t be doubled by the UK government, but it will still make a big difference. 

Compassion UK

Words by Compassion UK


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Compassion UK Christian Child Development, registered charity in England and Wales (1077216) and Scotland (SC045059). A company limited by guarantee, Registered in England and Wales company number 03719092. Registered address: Compassion House, Barley Way, Fleet, Hampshire, GU51 2UT.