Formation: Ethiopia Squad
by Jen Hatmaker on July 14th, 2016

"I dream it..."

"I work hard..."

"I grind till I own it..."

"Cause I slay."

SLAY ALL DAY. The Ethiopian women above all started their own businesses in Wolaita Sodo this year: a courtyard restaurant, a neighborhood market, a hair salon, a wholesale injera company. These are some things they told us about their lives last year:

"I was caring for my aging parents alone, and we were desperate." ~Estaganet

"My children ate either once a day or none." ~Chaltu

"I had no way to make a living after my husband died." ~Beletech

"I couldn't get work after my husband left me, so I was a daily laborer at constructions sites hauling rocks." ~Genet

There was more, plenty of tragedy and loss and violence. These women and their families have known sorrow, that is for sure. But the short version of their incredible rise is this:

They were all identified as candidates for the Help One Now Family Empowerment Program which they enrolled in around six months back, and every single one is not only financially independent but solidly thriving in the Ethiopian middle class after struggling to feed their children just half a year ago. They have employees, store fronts, vendors, clients, accounting books, equipment, and importantly, honor. Chaltu told us: "People who hated me are now my friends and customers." BOOM.

Let me tell you what the women already had in spades:

Work ethic.

Here is what the Help One Now Family Empowerment Program added:

Business training.
Accounting instruction.
Skills and assets assessment.
In-kind funding.
Materials and equipment.

Together, magic! Magic, I tell you! Each business was tailored to their individual skill set, location, viability, and interests, and they developed a sustainable business plan. After receiving training, business mentoring, and start up funding, they launched.

And they are slaying, y'all.

I told the team while listening to them discuss their stories: "They don't wear any of their sorrow." I'm serious. Having endured what they've endured, I would expect a darkness about them, or at least a dimmed light. But NAH.

The program is one year long. It costs $1000 to send one woman all the way through. That includes all start-up money plus the training, professional development, equipment, and marketing. There is no other way to say this:

It is life changing.

This is not aid, not relief, not a handout. It is not a short-term gap stop. It does not create dependency nor rob women of their dignity. It is an entrepreneurial program that sends capable, smart women into enterprise without debt. It is for Ethiopians, by Ethiopians. We just get to provide the seed money. They graduate from the program financially solvent, never to return to poverty.

And of course, it is orphan prevention as these women can fully provide for their children and their families stay intact. I feel so incredibly tender here, because had this program existed sooner for my favorite Ethiopian Mama, my adopted son would have an entirely different story. It is not right that loving, committed moms have to relinquish their children because of poverty. It's not right. When all they lack is opportunity?? It's not right. (After finding her, we sent Ben's mom, Sentayu, through the program, and she now owns her own tea and coffee shop and has rebuilt her entire life. I am so proud of her but grieve her losses in a way that I can't express. Our reunion with her last week was impossibly sacred.)

All but one of the women we met were single moms except Chaltu whose husband is blind. So don't forget who else the Family Empowerment Program serves:
JD and Aschalew bought lollipops and Cokes from Chaltu's neighborhood market,
passed them out to every kid, raced them,
then sent them home hopped up on sugar and adrenaline.

It's this simple: we want to send 300 new women through the program. If you specialize in math, that amounts to 300K. Think of any vulnerable community. Now imagine that THREE HUNDRED OF ITS COMMUNITY MEMBERS started successful small businesses, emerged from poverty, and began contributing to the local economy.

This doesn't just change individual families; it literally changes the entire community.

THIS IS AN INVESTMENT, not a handout. We have the chance to provide the capital for a slew of motivated, savvy entrepreneurs. They are required to set aside a percentage of their earnings each month, and once they've saved enough to repay their loan...they find out it is a grant and get to reinvest it back into their businesses. (This made me do a Happy Clap.)

Listen, if anyone EVER invested in you - parents, grandparents, aunts, teachers - if you got to go to college or trade school or learn a craft, if anyone ever loaned you start up money or gave you a big break, a second chance, if anyone ever helped you in any way get to where you are now, then you've been exactly where these women are. A small amount becomes a huge tipping point, and their lives will never be the same.

None of us can provide the full 300K, but WHO CAN'T CHIP IN $25? $50? More? Together, we can certainly raise that amount. CERTAINLY. Do not despise the small gift; a bunch of small gifts turns into 300K in a hot minute. (Of course, we don't despise big gifts either!) (*twirls mustache and laughs*) But because we believe in this program so intensely, we want to sweeten the pot for you: You get a bunch of cool, free stuff for joining in. Cause you are the best tribe that ever lived. You really are.

You can donate and find out about your swag here.

When we were leaving Beletech's hair salon, she hollered out: "I AM MY OWN BOSS!!"


Okay ladies, now let's get in formation. Let's show up for our sisters.

Posted in not categorized    Tagged with no tags

Blog (1)