The year was 1980 and Ethiopia lay in the grip of what would become one of the most devastating famines in its history.
Abebech Gobena, a devout Christian, was on a pilgrimage to a holy site in the north-east region of the country when she came across a dead mother and her baby, lying amid a sea of people who were starving to death.
"One of the chauffeurs charged with picking up the corpses said to me, 'I am waiting for the child to die so I can pick up both bodies. I just can't bear to take the child as well while she is still alive,'" Gobena said in an interview with CNN.
Without a second thought, Gobena bundled the tiny girl into her arms and smuggled her to the country's capital, Addis Ababa. In that instant, she transformed both the baby's future and her own. In one year, she brought 21 children to her home.
Haunted by the images of the dying people, it wasn't long before Gobena headed back to the countryside in an effort to source water for the destitute locals. She came across another child in the arms of his dying father.
As she started her work, family drama and rejection followed. Her family began to think she had lost her mind and some members of her family even suggested that they have her admitted into a mental health institution. As the family drama escalated, her husband asked her to make a choice between her family and the children.
Gobena continued: "I was not welcome at home. So I decided to move to some land I had bought with the intention of raising some chicken. I moved into this forest area with the kids."
Giving up on family and her usual life was not new to Gobena. Born in 1938, she had been brought up by her parents until the age of 11, as tradition dictated, she was to be married off into an arranged marriage.
Being a resilient woman, she ran away from home and her family to Addis Ababa where she worked on a basic education which earned her a job as a quality controller and remarried.
Today, AGOHELMA, the association she founded, provides various services in addition to the orphanage itself, including formal and non-formal education, HIV/AIDS prevention activities, habitat improvement and infrastructure development, empowerment of women, among others.
Additionally, it provides institutional care for 150 orphans. Since its establishment, the association has impacted over 12,000 needy children, with over 1.5 million people having benefited either directly or indirectly from its work in different regions of the country.