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Fanye, a graduate of Convoy of Hope’s Women’s Empowerment Program, says she used to beg but now feels Fanye, a graduate of Convoy of Hope’s Women’s Empowerment Program, says she used to beg but now feels "like a real human being."

MARCH 8, 2014 | 10:30 AM

Throughout our four-day journey in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, we’ve met many women who are having life-changing experiences as a direct result of our Women’s Empowerment Program here. All of their stories are profound – whether it is their quest for equality or an innate desire to escape poverty. Today, we celebrate their lives on International Women’s Day as we introduce you to a few of them we’ve met along the way.


Genet is a rock to the women who’ve come through our Women’s Empowerment Program in Ethiopia. She serves as the program coordinator for Convoy of Hope, coordinating the trainings and recruitment that give the women here so much hope.

“We’ve opened their eyes to create their own businesses and at the same time, we’re working to ensure their children are being fed at school,” says Genet. “They now know how to manage their businesses and their funds. Training them to make a profit and be fiscally responsible is critical to their success.”

While humble regarding the impact she has had on hundreds of women’s lives here in Ethiopia, her passion for spreading love and hope to the less fortunate is unmistakable.

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At just 30-years-old, the strains of a life in poverty are evident on Gidey’s face. But as she emerges from a training class in our Women’s Empowerment Program, she grins when asked what she’s learned today.

“I’ve learned so much!” she says. “I’ve been in the training for 10 days and I’ve learned how to make homemade biscuits that I will sell along with tea and coffee from my home business.”

Gidey says she’s so poor that she can’t afford to send her four children to school and sometimes they go to bed hungry.

“But that is about to change,” she quickly adds. “This is the opportunity of a lifetime to be selected for this program. I’m happy now because I’m preparing to work.”


Rahel carefully pours small cups of Ethiopian coffee for patrons in her new restaurant who’ve stopped in a horse drawn carriage for a drink and a hot meal. After serving them a helping of Injera (traditional Ethiopian bread) with vegetables, she pauses to talk to us about learning business skills through our Women’s Empowerment Program.

“My life is amazing now,” she says. “I don’t worry anymore about how I’m going to feed my three children and I am happy!”

Rahel is HIV positive, but says she is no longer depressed about her illness because having her own restaurant has given her new hope.

“I don’t even think about it,” she says. “Now I have a reason to work hard and stay healthy for my children. I am so blessed.”

Yeshigetneh & Zinbwa

Moving about a crowded kitchen in their restaurant on a bustling street in Addis Ababa, Yeshigetneh and Zinbwa laugh and cut-up as they give direction to women preparing food for the coming lunch patrons.

“We are very good and we are working hard,” says Yeshigetneh, simultaneously checking pots full of sauces. “My life has improved so much since the program and now look what I have here!”

What she has, along with 11 other women who graduated the Women’s Empowerment Program and co-founded the restaurant with her, is a very successful business that sees wall-to-wall customers during lunchtime.

“Yes, it’s a famous restaurant now!” adds Zinbwa, one of the co-founders.

With the success of the restaurant the women were able to hire six additional women to help run the business.

“We are very proud of this,” says Zinbwa. “Because now we have this capacity to hire others and give them help.”


Eighteen-year-old, Zinash, is one of the fortunate women Yeshigetneh and Zinbwa were able to hire to help run their restaurant. The teenager was forced to drop out of school to find a job.

“I had to make a living just so I could eat,” she says. “It’s very nice now because I have my own money and I’m supporting myself.

Zinash lives alone and is now able to afford to rent a small home.

“I am very happy now for the first time in my life I am honored to have this opportunity,” she says.

Zinash says she plans to open her own restaurant someday using the skills she’s learned from Yeshigetneh and Zinbwa.

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MARCH 7, 2014 | 3:30 PM

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — View a photo essay of our week in Ethiopia.


See 13 inspiring photos from Ethiopia.View Photos


MARCH 6, 2014 | 1:30 PM

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — Imagine living in your closet. Now, imagine your closet is made of plastic tarps and bamboo and sits in one of the most dangerous, poverty-stricken slums of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where crime is rampant and life is a daily struggle.


That’s the reality for 22-year-old Genet and her five-year-old son Biniam. But, there is light at the end of the tunnel for this single mother and her son thanks to our Women’s Empowerment Program and Children’s Feeding Initiative in this African country. Genet graduated the Women’s Empowerment Program just two weeks ago and has begun the path to starting her own tea and coffee business to provide for herself and Beniam.


Standing in her plastic hut, Genet pulls out a small identification card with a picture of Beniam and shows it to Genet Abay, Convoy of Hope’s Women’s Empowerment Program Coordinator in Ethiopia.

“It’s hard to live here in these conditions and I’ve had to accept it because I am very poor but I have to change for him,” she says, pointing to his picture. “I won’t accept it anymore and thanks to Convoy of Hope, I am planning on changing my life. My transformation has begun for my son.”

“Ah, I have some more good news for you,” Abay responds quickly. “Beniam is being enrolled in our Children’s Feeding Initiative today at school and now he will always have lunch at school.”

Genet looks up at Abay seeking confirmation as her eyes become watery while smiling at the same time.


“I am touched,” she says. “He’s been coming home from school in tears because he would have nothing to eat at lunch. I had nothing to send with him. Now, he will be so happy.”

Genet accompanies our team to the school, brimming with excitement to see Beniam eat a healthy meal there for the first time. She sits with him as he scoops up spoonfuls of pasta and her pride is unmistakable.

“This is why Convoy of Hope is here,” says Abay, watching them closely. “Today, their future is brighter than it’s ever been.”


Stories and photography from the field by Adam McMullin and Austin Elliott.

 MARCH 6, 2014 | 10:00 AM

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


MARCH 5, 2014 | 3:00 PM

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — “Now I am a real human being.”

Of all the interviews I’ve had the privilege of doing for Convoy of Hope with people we’re helping around the world, those words strike me perhaps more profoundly than any I’ve ever heard.

Standing in her home made of plastic tarps and mud in a slum of Addis Ababa, Fanye’s eyes sparkle as she speaks.


“I’ve been a day laborer all my life,” she says. “Now, later in life, all of the sudden I can support myself better than ever before.”

Fanye is farther along in age than many of the women in our Women’s Empowerment Program in Ethiopia and I hesitate before asking the question you’re never supposed to ask a woman.

“Do you mind telling me your age?” I ask.

“I’m only guessing but somewhere around 50,” she says, laughing.

Fanye recounts her first 50 years as nothing short of humbling. She lost her husband when her four children were young and raised them on no income in one of the hardest slums of Addis Ababa. She says most of the time she would feed them by begging and taking any odd job she could find.

Now, with her children grown, she’s graduated Convoy of Hope’s Women’s Empowerment Program and started her own business selling food with cooking skills and equipment she received through the program. She makes enough to support herself and put money away in a savings account she recently set up.

“Before I used to beg and now I eat what I want and I’m counting money,” she says. “Now I am a real human being.”

It took 50 years for Fanye to say those words but according to her, it’s better late than never to make a life for herself. Thanks to Convoy of Hope’s programs in Ethiopia, she’s finally counting money – and you can take that all the way to the bank.


Stories and photography from the field by Adam McMullin and Austin Elliott.

MARCH 4, 2014 | 2:30 PM

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — After barely escaping a late winter snowstorm at our headquarters in Springfield, Mo., our Communications team arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, today to spend the week documenting our growing Women’s Empowerment Program and Children’s Feeding Initiative here. We’re now feeding 400 children here from two different schools. Follow along as we adventure through Addis Ababa telling the stories of women and children who’s lives have been completely transformed by healthy food and an environment where women empower each other.

Arriving at Addis Ababa

Arriving at Addis Ababa

International Women's Day

This woman has just started our Women’s Empowerment Program in Ethiopia and says she is excited about her future.

Stories and photography from the field by Adam McMullin and Austin Elliott.

MARCH 4, 2014 | 11:30 AM

Springfield, Missouri — Today, Convoy of Hope reporter and photographer/videographer, Adam McMullin and Austin Elliott, will begin posting stories and images from our Women’s Empowerment and Children’s Feeding Programs in and around Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. March is women’s history month and this Saturday, March 8th, is International Women’s Day. We’re celebrating by telling the stories of women who have moved from survival to thriving as a result of training and seed capital.

Teronesh, is a participant in our Women's Empowerment program who our team met with a few months back. She had been in business for 15 days when this photo was taken.

Teronesh, is a participant in our Women’s Empowerment program who our team met with a few months back. She had been in business for 15 days when this photo was taken.

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