A Tea Shop in Ethiopia

25 days to 50.

Some things have came up for me based on my post from several days ago- Stop Waiting to be Rescued.

microloans

Four years ago I started a small non-profit in Africa. My partners and I have been doing work with schools in the Northern regions of Ethiopia. This photo is from our last trip there 2 years ago. We received a nice donation and decided to try to start a pilot micro-loan program in the region where we have been doing the most work.

Here’s an abbreviated section of my journal for that day-

Thursday March 24, 2011

We went to the village around the school to meet with some of the villagers to try to arrange a few micro-loans for our pilot micro-finance program. First we met with a priest and his family who needed a motorized pump to get water to their crops, then we met with a farmer and his wife who were tilling their soil by hand with sickles, the wife was doing this barefoot. They asked for help with a hand dug well for irrigation and a motorized pump or a foot pedal pump. When our liaison took us to see a third family I started to get antsy and quietly asked him- “We want to help women! WHERE are the women?” He kept shushing me until we climbed a hill to find a little grove of trees with women waiting for us.

All of these women are the heads of their households. Their husbands are gone or dead. They were really nervous and scared when we first started talking to them. There is no credit in this area, most of them would never have imagined that someone might help them to buy something to make their lives or their business better. Once they got over the shock they started to get excited.

One of them simply needed a rubber hose to get the water from the stream to her water pump. They wear out over time and she couldn’t afford to replace it. It’s a US $50 part. Another asked for a modest investment so she could buy more salts and spices for her trading business.  A very confident woman asked for money so she could buy 2 oxen to plow her fields and 5 sheep and 5 goats. I looked at our guide and made sure he translated to her that this would be a lot of money and she needed to be sure she would be able to repay it. Maybe she wanted to simplify her request? She thought about it and firmly said she needed 2 oxen, 5 sheep, and 5 goats. We agreed. A young mother with a small baby on her hip kept getting flustered, she hadn’t really thought about what it would take to change her situation. The oldest woman there wanted to open a tea shop by the school. Again, I looked at our guide. Was this possible? He said, “Oh, yes, she just needs a corrugated roof and some cups and saucers.

The day itself was exhilarating and exhausting but the story that stayed with me was the one of the older woman who wanted to open a tea shop.

Whenever my life gets difficult or frustrating I have this fantasy that I will move to Montana and open a pie shop. My mother makes the best pies in the world. Montana has always had this romantic pull for me. I was born there but it’s more than that. There is something wild and exciting and beautiful about Montana. I may never have that pie shop in Montana, but now I’m invested in a tea shop in Ethiopia.

I realized under that grove of trees with those women that I had been waiting all my life to be rescued. Waiting for a man to rescue me. Waiting for someone with more authority to rescue me. Really, waiting for almost ANYONE to rescue me. Yet under that grove of trees in the middle of Africa I didn’t need to be rescued, I was finally fully in a position to help people who truly needed it. I felt the mindset I had of myself as a victim shift to that of a person with power. Power to make positive changes in this world. Power to facilitate the small loans that will empower these women to change not only their lives for the better, but to bring opportunity and a brighter future to their children and their children’s children.

To directly quote the last line from my journal on that day-

Hands down, this was the best day of my life.

 

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