In November of 2014, as Diaconia – CRD’s Public Relations Coordinator, I had the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia. In the brief time that I was there, I was able to become a little more acquainted with the country. I was also afforded the privilege of meeting some of the women and children in Bahir Dar, who we have been working with in our micro-lending and micro-savings project. The project’s purpose is to provide basic business training and start-up capital to impoverished women, with the goal that they will be, after a few years, able to support themselves and their families from their own earnings. However, the trip also afforded me the opportunity to meet not only the women and children we support, but also to meet face-to-face with the women and men who work for our partner organization ECCMY-DASSC. Who are the people behind that long, complicated name?
The director of the micro-lending project in Bahir Dar is Mr. Teshome T. My initial impression of him was that he was strict and cold. However, after a few hours, I came to see him as a passionate, kind-hearted man, whose work is not organized on a typical 9-to-5 schedule. He, along with his colleagues, are people who are motivated to help those in need. They realize that monetary assistance alone cannot beget success–understanding, empathy, time, and encouraging words go a long way in building confidence and helping the women get back on their feet.
One evening Teshome invited me to his humble apartment. He wanted me to share dinner with his wife and three daughters. The youngest still attends elementary school, while the two oldest daughters, both twins, are already at university–one studies medicine, while the other has chosen pharmacology. All of his children are extremely bright and intelligent, and Teshome, rightfully so, is proud. We feasted together on Ethiopian injera, along with beans, various kinds of vegetables, and tasteful sauces. To conclude, we drank three small, but very strong mugs of Ethiopian coffee. It was excellent.
After my visit with Teshome, I was able to meet Meseret, a social worker and nurse. Much like Teshome, her work at DASSC is much more than just a job. It’s a passion and a calling. Meseret’s responsibilities consist of regularly visiting the women and caring for their many health problems. Meseret, in a moment of openness, admitted that it is hard for her to not take personally the difficult life stories she hears on a daily basis: “Sometimes I can’t do anything but cry. If I could do more, I would.” she lamented.
Meseret is married and has one young son. Aside from her social and medical work at DASSC and caring for her family, she is also working towards her Masters Degree. She began her degree last September, so she has two more years of studying to complete the course work. She is the embodiment of overcoming long odds!
My third and final guide around Bahir Dar was a young man named Yaregale. He works as DASSC’s driver, and, much like Meseret, is also completing his education. Although, at DASSC, Yaregale has one more very important function: he is the treasurer of the DASSC-employee collection. Yaregale explained to me that every month DASSC employees hold a collection in the office. They then use this money to support the project’s most-needy families. The money is usually dispersed in situations where health concerns or illness negatively affect the monthly income of the family. Through this act, the staffs at DASSC believe in their own cause. They invest not only their time and expertise, but their own limited resources to ensure the success of the project. If only all of us could be so generous!
Our team in Bahir Dar showed me, through their loving and caring manner, that together our work has an impact for everyoneinvolved!