Among rows and rows of shanty homes made of plastic tarps and bamboo, Biniam, 5, kicks a small blue ball down narrow dirt passages leading to his closet-sized home. The shack sits in one of the most dangerous, poverty-stricken slums of Addis Ababa, where crime is rampant and life is a daily struggle.
“I need a pump to air up my ball,” Biniam says to his mother, Genet. “Please, Mama.”
The 22-year-old mother’s face is pained as she explains to her son she can’t afford such a luxury. But that could change for the single mother and her son, thanks to your support of Convoy of Hope’s Women’s Empowerment Initiative and Children’s Feeding Initiative (CFI). With your support, Genet graduated from the Women’s Empowerment Initiative just weeks ago and has begun the path to start her own tea and coffee business, which will provide an income and much more for herself and Biniam.
As she stands in her plastic hut, Genet pulls out a small identification card with a picture of Biniam and shows it to Genet Abay, Women’s Empowerment Initiative coordinator in Ethiopia.
“It’s hard to live here in these conditions; 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 will change my life. My transformation has begun for my son.”
“Ah, I have some more good news for you,” Abay responds quickly. “Biniam 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, her eyes watery as a bright smile appears.
“He comes home from school in tears because he has nothing to eat at lunch,” the young mother says. “I have nothing to send with him. Now, he will be so happy.”
The women in our program are thriving, thanks to so many people who support the work of Convoy of Hope in Africa and around the world.
Genet accompanies staff to Biniam’s school and brims with excitement to see him eat a healthy meal there for the first time. She sits with him as he scoops up spoonfuls of pasta.
“This is why Convoy of Hope is here,” says Abay, watching them closely. “Today, their future is brighter than it’s ever been.”
Abay says there are 400 children in the feeding initiative in Ethiopia and that the initiative continues to grow. She also oversees the Women’s Empowerment Initiative, recognized by the Ethiopian government as a successful model for non-governmental organizations.
“We’re providing 2,000 women here with theoretical and practical training, as well as start-up capital to engage in small businesses,” she says. “The women in our program are thriving, thanks to so many people who support the work of Convoy of Hope in Africa and around the world.”
One particular small business the program helped create is now a popular restaurant in Addis Ababa. Two women who graduated from the program run the eatery, and they say they are the happiest they’ve ever been. Moving about a crowded kitchen in their restaurant, located on one of the city’s bustling main thoroughfares, Yeshigetneh and Zinbwa laugh and chat as they give direction to women preparing food for the coming lunch patrons.
“We are very good, and we are working hard,” says Yeshigetneh, 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 from 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.
“We are very proud of this,” Zinbwa says. “Because now we have this capacity to hire others and give them help.”