Browsing Category: Program Updates

Empowerment for women, hope for the future — Sitota’s story

When Sitota found out she was pregnant, her whole world changed. Her boyfriend was adamant that they not keep the baby, but Sitota wanted her child and refused to get an abortion. This lead to her and her son living on the streets.  

“Usually during the nighttime I’d stay with a stick since some drunks or some people come and pee on us,” Sitota says of her time on the streets. “Some, they try to rape me. My child didn’t get proper food for one year and it hampered his growth.”

Though life was hard, Sitota saw her son as a source of strength, living each day with the hope of a better future for the two of them.

Soon Sitota was introduced to Convoy of Hope, where she entered into the Women’s Empowerment program in Ethiopia. Through this program, Sitota received training — how to prepare food, how to start a business, how to calculate profit and loss — and received startup capital to open her own business. Thanks to the Women’s Empowerment program, Sitota was able to open her own shop selling coffee and tea.

“Because of my business, I was able to start saving money for a new house. It has two bedrooms,” Sitota says. “Now I’m very happy with my life. I can support myself and my child.”

Since the beginning of Convoy of Hope’s Women’s Empowerment in 2010, nearly 17,000 women around the world have been empowered through the program! Starting in Ethiopia, Women’s Empowerment is now in nine countries, including Nepal and Lebanon which were added in 2018.

Just like Sitota, Convoy of Hope believes every woman deserves the opportunity to thrive and be successful. Learn more about how you can support the empowerment of women like Sitota at convoy.org/women.

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope / Women's Empowerment

Four Hurricanes that changed Convoy of Hope

On August 13, 2004, Hurricane Charley barreled into Florida’s western coast as a Category 4 storm. Convoy of Hope was ahead of the storm, sending its one and only Disaster Response team. They were on the ground the same day the storm made landfall — setting up a point of distribution (POD), assisting those affected by the storm.

Eleven days later, another storm started brewing in the Atlantic Ocean — one that would become Hurricane Frances. It struck the eastern side of Florida as a Category 2 storm on September 5. Convoy called for reinforcements and began sending supplies to assist survivors on the other side of the state.

A couple weeks later, on September 16, Hurricane Ivan struck the Pensacola area of northwestern Florida.

And ten days after that, Hurricane Jeanne made landfall on Florida’s east coast where Hurricane Frances had struck less than two months before.

Four hurricanes in six weeks.

Randy Rich is a 25-year Convoy veteran and currently serves as our Vice President of Administration. He was sent with the reinforcement teams who responded to both Hurricanes Charley and Jeanne. “It was like Groundhog Day,” he says. “During our response to Hurricane Jeanne, we set up a POD in the exact same parking lot as we did during Frances.”

At the time, Convoy would arrive as quickly as possible after the disaster, set up a POD, and serve for about a week. The 2004 hurricane season demanded that the team be in full-on disaster relief mode for nearly two months straight. To provide some context, in 2003 Convoy distributed approximately 300 tractor-trailer loads altogether. In that period of 53 days in 2004, the response teams distributed 169 loads. The response even warranted a site visit from then President George W. Bush.

To say the team was stretched thin would be an understatement. But Convoy has never been afraid to lean into the difficulties surrounding a disaster response. Everyone on staff stepped up and did what they could, regardless of whether or not it was part of their job description. Supply Chain workers traveled to Florida to assist in relief work, Community Events personnel helped with distribution, and they depended on the incredible generosity and kindness of local volunteers in Florida to make our PODs flow smoothly.

“That hurricane season really helped us develop the POD concept,” says Randy. “Working through the concept of setting up a distribution hub that could service other neighborhoods and communities … all of that was developed further during those four hurricanes.”

Randy also remembers the human toll such an intense hurricane season had on the residents of Florida. He recalls seeing an elderly couple pulled up to the POD he was working at. With tears in his eyes, he recounts how desperate they looked — “They were probably going to sleep in their car that night.”

Convoy of Hope understands that hurricanes, like all natural disasters, affect everyone in their paths. It doesn’t matter who someone is, what job they have, or where they live — everyone needs to be told there’s hope and that they’re loved during those dark moments.

That’s what Convoy has been doing for 25 years, and with the help of friends like you, that’s what we’ll continue to do for decades to come.

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope / Disaster Services