Overdue update

Sometimes you mean to update the blog often, but then it takes you 6 months between posts! Let me catch you up on all things Fields of Hope…

Over the summer, we celebrated the 5 year anniversary of Fields of Hope. But, it was also a challenging time. Ruth and I were getting ready to leave the US after spending two years there. We made new friends, reconnected with old ones and got used to seeing our family often. Fields of Hope was also in the midst of a lot of changes and everything was new for us.

After a lot of prayer and consideration, we made the choice earlier this year to register Fields of Hope in Ethiopia instead of partnering with a local organization. We also decided to apply and open a tuition-free, non-profit school here in Addis Ababa. Ruth worked tirelessly on the project proposal and we both worked on all of the other paperwork (lots of authentications and letters). A few days before we moved to Ethiopia, we submitted all of the paperwork to the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington DC. A few weeks after that, we followed up with the Foreign Affairs office here in Addis Ababa. They told us that they hadn’t received the application, even though the Embassy told us it would be there in a matter of days. So, we waited some more. Over the next days and weeks, we continued to call and go back to the office until they finally found the application. There was some initial complications, but God was faithful and the paperwork was finished at the Foreign Affairs office in just over a month! In fact, the lady that was handling our application was excited about the project! This is a process that we have heard takes 7 months or more on average.

From there, our application went on to the Charities and Societies office. Again, there was some initial complications. But, again, God was good. We had to rewrite our entire project proposal to fit into their format and then resubmit it. After hearing our vision for the school, the guy that we were dealing with at this office was willing to quickly write us a recommendation letter to the Ministry of Education! He did this within a day!

So, with the recommendation letter in hand, we took our project proposal to the Ministry of Education for them to review. At this point, we are still working with them to come to an agreement on the project proposal. There are some complications because we are planning to have a Bible class on Saturdays. We are hoping that this process won’t take too long.

In the meantime, we also visited the Kebele (the smallest form of local government in Ethiopia) for the target area that we are planning to focus our school project on. Can you guess how they received the idea? They loved it! They were excited about it and told us that they are willing to work closely with us and support us with anything that we need. What’s more, they have already identified a group of about 15-20 women who are currently working as prostitutes and who want to leave that life. The only kind of help being offered to them is monthly handouts that aren’t even big enough to change their lives – the Kebele doesn’t want to give handouts, but wants to equip them. Our school project plans to work with 20 students in the first year. The Kebele already has a group picked out that could very well be the first group of students at Yetesfa Mesk International Academy!

Needless to say, we are blown away by all of this. Many times it takes well over a year (if not 2) to have an international non-profit approved to work in Ethiopia. While we aren’t done with the process, we are nearly finished and it’s only been four months! God has been good to us and to Fields of Hope and we are excited about what lies ahead. We are extremely excited about being able to actually start working and be done with the paperwork side of things.

As you are probably aware, the school isn’t the only project that Fields of Hope plans to do in Ethiopia. We are also working on developing a business plan for a farm and for a coffee shop. The farm will provide a place of restoration for women who are too hurt and abused to simply re-enter society. The coffee shop will provide meaningful and fair-paying employment to women who are leaving prostitution. Through all of these projects, we plan to break the cycle of poverty, prostitution and despair that enslaves tens of thousands of women across Addis Ababa. Then, together with the women, we will build a new cycle of hope, freedom and restoration. While none of the projects are yet a reality, we can see them growing ever larger on the horizon!

We are so excited about all of this! To make these dreams a reality, we need your help. As the year is coming to an end, please consider giving a tax-deductible donation to Fields of Hope. We are so thankful for all of you who have consistently encouraged us through your prayers, donations and communication this past year.

Thank you so much!

By | December 16th, 2014|News, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Overdue update

Amst Amet. Five Years.

It seems like just yesterday that we started Fields of Hope and I moved to Ethiopia. Now five years have passed! This last year has been quite the journey, with plenty of ups and downs to go along with it. On a personal note, Ruth and I have enjoyed our time here in the US. We have loved watching the seasons change – especially this spring after the long, cold winter. Seeing all the flowers bloom and the green leaves pop out of trees that looked dead is nothing short of amazing. Seasons come and go and our season in the US is coming to an end.

At the end of August, we are planning to move back to Ethiopia to continue on with the next steps of Fields of Hope. There are a lot of unknowns and a lot of details that still need to be worked out (where we will live, for example). But, we are choosing to trust God that all will work out as it always has in this incredible journey over the last 5 years.

Fields of Hope is also going through a season of change and we are excited to see what will come out of it. As you know, for the past five years we have been partnered with Yenoh Merkeb in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We have loved getting to know them and consider them to be part of our family. However, starting in September of this year, Fields of Hope will entering into a new season. Our two organizations still share one goal and we will continue to encourage and help each other in whatever ways that we can. If you are interested in continuing to support Yenoh Merkeb directly, I am more than happy to put you in contact with them.

Fields of Hope is working on a few new projects to bring hope to women living in the harsh realities of forced prostitution and human trafficking in Ethiopia. This problem is growing ever bigger in Ethiopia with more and more women and children being sucked into the cycle of poverty, prostitution and despair. This is where we step in and plan to bring a new cycle of hope, opportunity and joy.

You have heard us talk for a while about our ideas of opening a farm, a coffee shop and a school. These ideas are really starting to take shape and we are so excited! The more we have developed the ideas, the more we have realized that they form a complete method of helping these individuals start new lives. If our only focus was on the education of children, then their mothers would still be working as prostitutes, the children would still be going home to brothels and red light districts after school and many of them would inevitably start working themselves. If we only focused on providing new jobs for women, then their children would not be received the life changing education that they need to equip them for whatever God brings to their life. If we only focused on providing new jobs for the women and quality education for their children, then those women who are too hurt and abused would have no safe place to go and be restored.

This is why we believe that the vision we have been given of having the farm, coffee shop and school is unique in that it will allow us to create this new cycle. The school will provide an excellent education that will equip each and every child to stand up and be world changers, it will keep them off the streets and out of the brothels, it will preserve their innocence and it will serve as a community hub for things beyond what we can even imagine. The coffee shop will provide fair paying jobs for women that are seeking to escape prostitution, it will instill dignity into their broken lives, it will provide them with much needed job skills, it will allow them to realize that they can do more than sell their bodies and it will ultimately provide them with the resources that they need to start a new life for their family. The farm is the last piece of this puzzle and is incredibly important – it is interesting that this was the first vision that we had for Fields of Hope. The farm will serve as a place of restoration for women who are too hurt to be able to jump right into working in the coffee shop. They can live on the farm and work with their hands, all while receiving counseling and love from the Fields of Hope staff.

It will also be awesome to see how all three of these ventures will work together in other ways. For example, the farm can provide many ingredients necessary for the food at the coffee shop. The coffee shop can provide food for the children at the school. The school can provide a place to train women who will then go on to be pastry chefs or baristas at the coffee shop. The connections are endless and I am sure that we will find many more along the way. We are really looking forward to all of this and cannot wait until school is in session, coffee is being poured and the crops are being harvested. It truly is an exciting time!

We also need people! We need you! There are countless ways that you can get involved in Fields of Hope. If you feel any kind of calling to be a part of this work, please reach out to us – we’d love to start that conversation with you. If you want to donate to our cause, that’d be awesome! If you want to donate your time, that’s great too! We are going to launch a fundraising effort called the “One Dollar Campaign” soon and are looking for people to help us with this! Even just liking on us Facebook and helping spread the word around is a huge help!

If you’re in the Pennsylvania area and are free on July 19th, then please join us for a Fields of Hope Fifth Anniversary Celebration. It will be at Pathway Community Church in York, PA and will be from 5pm-8pm. Find the event on Facebook and RSVP! We’d love to see you there!

By | June 3rd, 2014|Stories|Comments Off on Amst Amet. Five Years.

Providing Real Change

I can’t believe that Fields of Hope has been around for almost 4 years already! So much has happened both in the project and in my life personally. It has been quite the journey, one that I would do all over again if given the option. I have seen the project grow and more women and children being helped than ever before. I have seen success stories as well as stories that haven’t ended so well. There have been plenty of ups and downs, but it has been absolutely worth it. It’s at this point that I feel absolutely confident to take the next steps. We could easily continue going on as we have been, always relying on donations and helping little by little. Or we could take some big steps and really bring about a big change – not to mention becoming a self sufficient project.

There are three main problems that we see facing the women and children of Kirkos: lack of job opportunities, lack of training for jobs and lack of access to quality education. Our plans in the coming years aim to help fix all three of these issues in a comprehensive way. The long and the short of it is that we are planning on opening a school and a coffee shop (with multiple locations of the coffee shop to follow). The school would address the issues of education and training, while the coffee shop would address the job situation.

A brief overview of the vision for the school is that we want to provide the most excellent education possible. It will be a school where anyone – both rich and poor – will want to send their children. We will charge tuition for those who can afford it and provide scholarships for those who could not. The women of Kirkos will be able to send their children here, which will allow the cycle of poverty and prostitution to be broken in this generation. The women will also have access to training both for their jobs as well as for parenting. We will provide after school activities and countless other ways of being part of their lives.

The coffee shop ties right into the school. We will have a location of the coffee shop right in the school compound where we can train the women how to make pastries and other foods. This will serve as the cafeteria for the school and will provide high-quality, highly-nutritious food to all of the students, teachers and other staff. In addition, we will have a retail location of the coffee shop elsewhere in Addis Ababa. We will set the bar high for the coffee shop and aim to provide the best quality foods, coffee and atmosphere. There will be WiFi, comfortable couches to relax on and be with friends, tables and chairs where people can come and get some work done – all with a goal of helping people lift themselves out of poverty. We want to be a community hub, a place where people want to come, a place that becomes known for having the best food and service around.

Both the school and the cafe will help us to accomplish our goals in a huge way. They will provide the tools and the resources necessary to break the sad cycle of life in Kirkos. They will also stand out in the city as places that have a focus of helping those who are in the most desperate of circumstances. Not “helping” them by giving them handouts but, instead, providing real change and real opportunities. The women and children of Kirkos have immense potential, we just need to unlock it and the world will be theirs. I cannot wait to see how these people will shake up the world, what things they will change in Ethiopia, what inventions they will come up with…it’s going to be an exciting journey!

You can probably imagine how big of an undertaking this is. It will take countless volunteers – people who are willing to help in all kinds of ways. It will take time, it will take money and it will take a lot of perseverance. The end result is that we need YOUR help.

Maybe you have some skill in teaching and want to spend a few months or years in Ethiopia – that’d be awesome!

Maybe you know a bit about baking pastries or making coffee or running a restaurant – we need you!

Maybe you want to give some training to mothers who have never felt loved and don’t know how to raise their kids in a loving environment – please join us!

Maybe you have some money that you’d like to give (or loan) to this kind of work – we could use it!

Maybe you have a great idea that can plug into what we are trying to do – share it with us!

Maybe you know some people who would be interested in getting involved in something like this – connect them with us!

By | April 26th, 2013|General, Stories|Comments Off on Providing Real Change

One After Another

The other day I took some friends through Kirkos, the red light district where our project is focused. We walked through on foot during the day time. There were little kids running around laughing and playing. There was a general hustle and bustle of people doing various things. And there were women all over selling their bodies. As we walked further into the neighborhood, a few of them were asking if we wanted their services. Most of them were just surprised to see a few white people walking through that neighborhood.

We came back in a car a few hours later to see how the place changes at night. During the day there is at least some other business going on in that neighborhood, but come nightfall there is little else happening except commercial sex work. Nearly every door has a young girl standing there, waiting for a customer to arrive. The few doorways which didn’t have a girl standing in front had a curtain drawn across the doorway, signalling that she was currently with a customer. There were girls who looked like they had barely hit puberty. Most of the girls couldn’t have been older than early teens.

We saw guys walking all around too, looking at each of the girls – apparently waiting until they saw one that they would be interested in hiring. We pulled the car over and stopped for a while, which gave us the chance to see how this business actually works. Right across the road from us were a few of the houses which these women work out of. These houses are very tiny, barely able to fit a twin sized bed. The women have to pay a lot of money and they have to pay daily. If they don’t, their possessions will be taken by the landlord. Some of the houses have doors – most do not – but they are never closed. These women are available 24 hours a day.

So, there we were, sitting in a car across the street. As we pulled up, we saw two houses – one with a girl standing outside and one with the curtain closed. We waited there for about 10 or 15 minutes. In that time, we saw a girl come out of the house with a closed curtain and go back inside with another man after just a few minutes. The other girl took a customer inside her house. The man came out after a few minutes and she stayed inside to wash up. As soon as she came outside she began joking with her friends and trying to get another customer. It was as if nothing happened, no big deal.

One after another. That’s how these girls live. Getting paid about a dollar per customer. No hope of making a better life for themselves. Many times, the girls don’t even imagine that there could be a better option. They have given up and assume that this is what their life will be like until they die.

I’ve visited this red light district a number of times. I know what they get paid and how much they pay in rent. I’ve memorized the whole awful situation. But none of it prepares me to see it the next time. Every time I see the way they are living or hear their stories, it breaks my heart. What a difficult and hopeless life they live. I can’t even imagine.

It can be easily overwhelming. There are thousands of girls working like this in just this one red light district and there are a number of other areas like this around the city. But the work has to start somewhere, it has to start with someone.

Helping even one lady get out of this life has exponential impact. It means that her daughter won’t need to grow up and sell her body just to survive. It means that her family, through the generations, can contribute a lot to the world. These people have just as much potential as anyone else, each and every one of them could change the world. But, if they are never given that chance, if they continue to be stuck in the sick cycle of this red light district, then we will never know what could have been.

Please consider partnering with us and helping to bring hope to these women. $30 helps us to start getting a woman out of prostitution, $16 helps us to get a child in school. Or, you could give to our coffee shop fund. We are trying to open a coffee shop with which to be able to hire these women and bring real, long lasting change in their lives. If you are interested in giving to the coffee shop fund, please make a note of that on your check or in the Paypal donation.

It is only with your help that we are able to do any of this. Thank you.

By | February 23rd, 2013|General, Stories|Comments Off on One After Another

Ethiopia is at a Turning Point

I’m feeling a bit under the weather today. Allergies turning into a sinus infection. So, I’m sitting here in my pajamas and a sweatshirt sipping on some warm tea with fresh ginger and honey, trying to get better. There’s a cheesy movie on TV and the sounds of houses being built all around me. Which gets me thinking, Ethiopia is at a turning point.

Most of the news that comes out of Ethiopia is about the desperate struggle that many people go through just to survive. That is a very stark reality here. I am reminded of the ladies we are trying to help get out of prostitution. They serve a customer for around a dollar and may have to pay as much as $6 a day in rent. It’s awful, it’s hopeless and it’s difficult to comprehend.

But, there is this whole other side of things in Ethiopia which gets talked about very little around the world. Just looking outside my window right now I can see people building a beautiful three story concrete house with a little deck and terrace on the roof – I heard they even built a bio-gas system in the basement. Just next door to me another three story house is being built. And my other neighbor is building a one level house. If I take the ten minute walk to the main road where I can get a mini-bus taxi, I will see almost nothing except new houses being built. Driving through the city shows that big malls, office buildings and residential complexes are going up almost everywhere. These will quickly be filled with boutiques, cafes, restaurants, salons and nearly any other business you can think of. Some of these are being built from foreign investment, but many of them are being built by Ethiopian citizens. People are making money here and are investing it wisely. Ethiopia is at a turning point.

I also see this growth and expansion of Ethiopia as an awesome way of helping the poor and disenfranchised that are all around us. One of the things that we are planning to do once we raise enough money is to open a cafe with which to hire women out of the lowest levels of prostitution. The cafe would be a classy place that serves top quality pastries and delicious coffee drinks. It would be the kind of place that the rich would want to come and eat a slice of fresh mango meringue pie while enjoying a vanilla macchiato made with freshly roasted coffee. And the ladies that were working as prostitutes for a dollar a customer would now be working in nice cafe where they could make more than that in one tip.

Just imagine for a minute how that would change their lives. Where they used to struggle each and every day to pay rent and afford a little food, they would now be receiving a fair, living wage that would easily cover their rent and enough food for 3 meals every day. There would be some leftover money to send their children to school. It would even be possible for them to save a little cash for a rainy day. Or to put some aside in their child’s college fund. They would have a chance to live what the rest of us would call a modest life.

If this sounds like something you want to be a part of, please consider making a donation to help us save up and make this a reality. If you have another way that you can and want to help, please contact us and let us know. Thank you.

By | October 28th, 2012|General, News|Comments Off on Ethiopia is at a Turning Point

Is the Rain Here

I think everyone in Ethiopia is asking themselves “ahun krumpt gebah?” (Is the rainy season now here?). We’ve seen a little bit of rain over the last couple days. It seems to be coming in typical Ethiopian Krumpt (rainy season) fashion – rain half the day and sun the other half. The other day, for example, I went to meet Ruth at her school for lunch. On the way, the sun was really strong and I had worked up a decent amount of sweat by the time I got to the school. But, after lunch it was overcast and had cooled down quite a bit – in fact, I almost wish I had a sweatshirt with me!

It’s hard to tell if the rain will be enough to save the country from a drought and major food problems. And I’m certainly no expert on the matter. But I think that we’re all holding out hope and this recent rain has certainly lifted our hope on the matter. If it continues like this, the harvest might just be enough to pull the country through the year. At the same time, however, many large international organizations are calling for more aid and support for East Africa this year because it still looks like food security may be an issue this year.

Another thing that I am always amazed about in Ethiopia is how different the seasons are – and how quickly they change. Even just a few weeks ago, while it was still the dry season, everything was so dusty and overwhelmingly dry. You had to stop breathing if a car drove past (not to mention the massive amounts of dust that was accumulating in our house!). But now we have a different set of problems to deal with. When the rain comes there is a huge amount of sticky, slippery mud all over the place (which sure makes walking around fun!).

Even though we have seen some rain, it certainly isn’t the amount that normally comes during this season. So, there is still cause to be worried. In any case, we are happy that we are getting at least a little bit of rain and that things seem to be looking up on this side of the world. We can only continue to hope that things won’t be as bad as the forecasts are calling for. It’s amazing how much those little drops of water can completely change a place.

By | June 23rd, 2012|General, News|Comments Off on Is the Rain Here


According to the last census, nearly 63% of the population in Ethiopia reported to be Christian (this is includes Orthodox, Protestant and the many other various branches of Christianity). Needless to say, this means that Easter is a pretty big deal in Ethiopia. The Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia probably take Easter most seriously. They have spent about two months fasting in order to prepare themselves for the Easter feast. Fasting for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians basically means being a vegan (no meat, no dairy, no animal products of any kind). This is a big thing to give up, considering the tastiest Ethiopian foods are made with a spiced ghee.

By now, most families will be buying onions, chickens, lambs, butter and all the other items required to prepare an Ethiopian feast. Friday will be spent observing Good Friday. Often times there will be church programs in both the Orthodox and Protestant churches here. Saturday will often be spent preparing the Doro Wot – a spicy, slow cooked, onion and chicken sauce. This is the food that nearly all Ethiopians love and are looking forward to eating on Sunday! It takes hours and hours of stirring it while it’s cooking in order to make it taste the best. It truly is a food made with love. Orthodox Christians (and probably some Protestant ones too…) will attend an overnight church service. This ends at 3am, at which point they can break their 2 month fast. Many families will spend the entire day together, just hanging out and eating.

There is definitely a holiday feeling in the air. You can also tell it by the prices of things. Onions, garlic, chickens, cooking oil, butter, etc. are all going up in price this week. Actually, prices are going up all around (not only due to Easter). It is becoming harder and harder for people to be able to afford the basic things. It makes me sad to think about all of the families who cannot afford to buy a chicken and celebrate.

Ruth and I are lucky enough to have two families to go to (her family, and Frew’s family). We get to enjoy two lovely injera feasts. But, more importantly, we are excited to have time with our friends and family. If you’re celebrating Easter this year, happy Easter! And, you should definitely think of replacing that ham and/or lamb with a mix of Ethiopian foods! You won’t be sorry!

By | April 21st, 2012|General, Stories|Comments Off on Easter

The Problem

As I was leaving my neighborhood today, I was confronted with the many different sights and smells of Ethiopia. I walked by one house where they were cooking some Ethiopian food, the smell of the onions/garlic/ginger was so sweet in the air. Just a minute after that I walked by an area that smelled like a toilet, not such a sweet smell. Then I walked by a school and some restaurants and got in a public taxi. I passed many different kinds of people. Some were wearing suits, some were wearing nothing at all. I saw moms walking with their children and people going all different places. I saw some children who were most likely running errands for the family. One girl who couldn’t have been more than 8 years old was carrying a big container (maybe about 5 gallons), most likely filled with water, on her back.

It got me thinking about the many differences between Ethiopia and where I grew up in York, PA, USA. It’s not too often that you walk through a neighborhood in York that smells like a toilet! It’s also not common to see children working. But here, it is a reality of life. The entire family must pitch in and help out. The children will usually need to help their family with many different things, often times this means having some source of income that they can bring back to the family. This is a huge obstacle in getting these children an education, which is key to improving their lives. In fact, education is one of the main things required for a country to bring itself out of poverty.

It also got me thinking about the women that we help and how, far too often, their children also need to help them make some money. If they have a daughter, it is very likely that she will also start working as a prostitute as young as 7 years old! Since I grew up in the US it is hard for me to even comprehend this. My little sister just turned 9 years old, I can’t imagine her living this life. Let alone the thought of a 7 year old child working in any business, how can she work as a prostitute? I can’t even begin to imagine the problems that this will cause for her as she grows up.

Let me explain for you the kind of conditions that a daughter of one of these women would grow up in. The houses that you see here are typical in the area that we are working. These are the typical houses you find in the red light district where we are workingYou can see that they have curtains over their doorways, these are open when they are waiting for clients and closed when someone is inside with them. The chances of them having running water is very small and electricity usually isn’t more than a single light bulb in their tiny one-room house. They can pay up to $75 USD a month for one of these small houses, with the average probably being around $30-40. Oftentimes they have to pay daily, although they may not make enough money each day. This only forces them into a pit of debt to their landlord and doesn’t give the women any chance of getting out of this life without someone helping them.

This area is called Kirkos and it is one of the worst areas in Addis Ababa. The majority of the people living here are women who are working as prostitutes. Some estimate that there are more than 3,000 women working as prostitutes in this area alone (there are a few other areas like this around the city). They get paid a pittance for the work that they do. The typical amount that a guy pays to sleep with them is about 15 US cents. They can get up to around a dollar if the guy wants to spend the night. If tI took this picture during the morning when we drove through the area one dayheir landlord charges them $30 a month, that means that they need to sleep with around 150 guys each month! And that’s only for their rent, not even their food or any other expenses. Needless to say, these women have to work all day, every day, just to survive. You can see the woman on the left standing in her doorway waiting for a customer. I took this picture one morning when we were driving through this area. It is such a desperate struggle for life there, I don’t know if I will ever be able to fully come to terms with it. Every time I see the area, or even just talk about it, my heart breaks. I only hope that someday we can make a significant change here.

What really gets me is that girls are forced into this kind of life everyday. Some girls take up the work because they grew up watching their mom do it. Other girls come from the countryside thinking that they can find jobs in the city, but end up working as a prostitute (often times getting tricked by some of the pimps). As I said before, they can be as young as 7 years old. Teenagers are extremely common. There is actually a huge demand for the younger girls, Another shot taken during the morning in Kirkos, the red light districtas the guys often think that these girls are too young to be able to have any serious diseases. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth and HIV is extremely prevalent in this area. It is hard to say the exact prevalence rate among these women since most of them haven’t been tested, but I would guess that it has to be pretty close to 100%.

The life that these women live is so hard for us to relate to, because it is so far from our own lives. But, try to put yourself in their shoes. Or imagine if your daughter or sister were one of these women. You can begin to imagine how hopeless it is. You can’t even afford your rent, how would you even begin to think about escaping this life? This is a life that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. It is a life without hope, a life without love, a life full of pain. Our goal is to bring hope to this area. To help the women change their lives from something so despairing to something filled with hope.

By | February 23rd, 2012|General, News|Comments Off on The Problem


Let me tell you about a sweet, young woman named Seble. At 26 years old, she has already lost her husband and one of her children to HIV. When they passed away, she was sick with lung tuberculosis. The death of her husband and child came as quite a shock, everyone assumed that she would be the one to die. She was in the hospital for two months and while she was there, they also found out that she had breast cancer. The doctors had planned to give her a mastectomy, but when she went for the surgery the tumor was already reducing in size. It ended up miraculously disappearing altogether.

Even still, after Seble got out of the hospital, she didn’t have any hope in her life. She felt all alone and didn’t have any money, her husband had been the only one bringing home an income. So, she started to do small, daily labor type work. But this wasn’t enough to get by, especially with a young son to feed. During this time she found out she is HIV positive. She saw this as yet another problem in her life. She lost all hope and simply wanted to die.

Seble started telling me about the turning point in her life. She said that it was her brother who helped her so much. He is a follower of Jesus and helped to lead her to Christ. She said that, at first, she only came to Christ because she wanted to be buried next to her brother (in Ethiopia, you are buried in different cemeteries depending on your religion). But, after some time, she said that she really started to have faith in Jesus and it helped to give her the strength to press on. Her brother also supported her in many other ways. She said that he was the only one who was helping her through all of these difficult situations.

We have now hired her as a home-based caregiver. She visits the other women that we help, checks how they are doing, provides whatever help she can give them and lets us know if anyone is in trouble. Not only does this provide her with a paying job, but it also helps us to have more contact with all the women that we are helping. With a huge smile on her face, she explained how this job has brought so much joy to her life. She said she always liked to visit and help people, so to do it as a job is like a dream come true. In her own words, she said that she has gone from a help-seeker to a caregiver. You see on her face that her hope for life is growing stronger all the time.

She is also very proud of her son, Kidus. Whenever I asked questions about him she got a big smile on her face. When I asked her what dreams her son has for his life, she said that he wants to be a pilot. Smiling, she said that she wants to see this happen for him. When I asked about what dreams she has for herself, she said that she wants to live a good life and to please God. It was so nice to sit down and talk to Seble. She is so kind and welcoming. She has so much joy that it just radiates from her. And although she has gone through so much hardship herself, she has this strong desire to help others and that’s exactly what she’s doing.

By | December 15th, 2011|General, Stories|Comments Off on Seble

The Gap is Stifling

No, not the clothing store (though that can be stifling too!). I’m talking about the gap between the economic classes here in Ethiopia. You can’t go anywhere here without being faced with it. People driving their fancy cars by mud homes and homeless children. On one side of the road is a nice multi-story shopping complex and on the other side there are people starving. Within 10 minutes walk of each other you can find a nice coffee shop and a red light district. Everywhere you walk, there are people asking for some money or some bread. Everywhere you turn, there is someone that seriously needs help. The gap is stifling.

I have been thinking about this more and more lately. I’m not really sure why. I guess after living here for more than a year I am realizing more and more just how big this gap really is. It is difficult to wrap my mind around. It is overwhelming.

What’s even more difficult to figure out is what to do about it. I have been thinking more and more about the homeless people on the street who beg me for money. I have been realizing how cold I have become towards them. Walking by them without even a glance. I feel awful about it. And I debate with myself about what I should do. On one hand, I think that we are supposed to help everyone in need – even if some of them are faking it or are children employed by someone who takes all their money at the end of the day, or whatever other problem there could be. Shouldn’t I just give to them anyway? On the other hand, I have read so many books and talked to so many people that have said giving out money like this only makes the problem worse in the long run. What should I do? This is a question that I am not sure I will ever have a solid answer for.

The world has tried the system of giving handouts for so long now and the results aren’t that great. The world is still in an awful situation, even though billions of dollars are being thrown at the problem. Obviously we need to rethink the way we are trying to fix the problem of poverty in this world. I am completely behind ideas like micro-lending and social businesses. Instead of just giving handouts, we can use that same money and really help these people get out of poverty. On a global scale, micro-lending and social businesses are making a huge change. I think an important factor is that the people get a sense of pride in what they are doing. They are happy to do work to improve their lives.

Another important distinction between the two is that handouts are demeaning and these new methods are uplifting. The world has often looked upon the poor as lesser than everyone else, and the poor know it. When a handout is given, it only makes this gap between the poor and rich even wider. Imagine how difficult and humbling it must be to beg for money. Poor people are still people, no different from you and me. Why not help them in a way that gives them a sense of pride and helps us all to realize that we really are equal? When someone is given the tools that they need – either a job in a social business or a micro-loan – they are able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and make a better life for their family. I have been privileged to witness this a few times and it is an incredible thing. What is really so wonderful about this method is that it builds these people up, instead of breaking them down.

Some great books to read on this topic are:
Banker To The Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty
Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism That Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs

By | November 18th, 2011|General, News, Stories|Comments Off on The Gap is Stifling