Day 3: WV Micro / Leadercast Vision Trip - Tiya
Incredible. Today we met an incredible business woman, entrepreneur, mother, role model and hero. Her name is Firehiwot. The name in her dialect means 'fruit of life' but the English is not bad either. She is full of fire. I can't wait to tell you a little about her but I am jumping ahead sort me start at the beginning.
1:00AM, we are supposed to be asleep but Luke, Laurie and I are awake. Luckily we fall back to sleep - if not the day would be miserable. When we make our way down to breakfast we find out that we were not alone. Everyone else in our group was up at that time as well. It must be the witching hour.
Breakfast was nice - if anyone stays in the Kaleb Hotel in Addis Ababa I recommend the donuts. Jace Robertson would approve - nothing beats a hot donut!
Our trip out to the world Vision Tiya ADP (Area Development Program) was nothing unusual for our drivers but was certainly an experience for us. When you think of 'street sweepers' you are probably like me - a big machine with rotating brushes. In Addis, they are literally people sweeping the street. Roads are a blessing and they are taken care of. Highways through the city are traversed by many people on foot as there are in cars. I felt like I was in a life sized game of 'Frogger'; luckily there were no lost lives!
I've noticed that while people may not have much, what they do have they care for. It may be just a cinder block structure but it's a home, a business.
When we first pull into the ADP in Leman we are outside the World Vision Micro office. It's still early - before 9:00AM and people are lined up to make their installment payments. The town comes out to meet us - we feel extremely humbled. The faces of the children are beautiful.
Tripp and I spend some time 'on camera' and I do my best not to be self conscious. It's good to have Tripp there as a calming influence. There are about a hundred interested and interesting faces gathered around us as we discuss our expectations for the day. As a child sponsor and a supporter of entrepreneurs through World Vision Micro it's hard not to have built up the expectations of what it means to be here to see what it means to have World Vision operating in a community.
We have a short ride to meet Firehiwot and we are all excited. As we pull into the little town of Adadi, the first shop we see on the right is a well cared for small boutique with an awning, shoes racked for easy browsing, scarves, children's clothes and women's skirts proudly displayed. We are introduced to the proprietor who turns out to be Firehiwot. Upon meeting her we are all immediate struck by her personality but we quickly learn, through our translator, guide, donor relations expert, Tamiru, her incredible story.
Married at 15, divorced and a single mother of a young child, she decided to go back to school to complete high school and get her diploma. I can pick up a few words as she speaks. As she explains it, before World Vision came into her life she was hopeless and in despair. Through her first loan, however, her life was transformed. She was introduced to a new life, took advantage of the education that World Vision provides and has made a profound spiritual commitment to Jesus. She credits what she refers to as her new life to her relationship with Jesus and to the three (soon to be four) loans from World Vision Micro.
Firewat is a powerhouse. I think she would be comfortable in any startup business. She saw a need in her community and decided to fill it. Her business is thriving - she goes to the capital for stock twice a month, manages inventory, gears up for the three important holidays - New Years (in September), Christmas and Easter and is looking to expand. She wants to expand her product line to include women's cosmetics and open a branch in the bigger town of Leman about 12 kilometers down the road but she will never leave her village. 'They need me here." she says with humility.
Kalkidan, her daughter, is now 10 years old. Her name means 'covenant' and she has been named well. Firehiwot has made a commitment to her schooling and to raising her to be a role model for her peers. She was shy when asked if she wanted to take over the retail business from her mom. "No" she said, "I want to be a doctor." The smile, big to begin with, took over Firehiwot's face.
Our last order of business was to distribute about a hundred Rainbow Loom bracelets made by 5th and 6th graders at Auten Road Intermediate School in Hillsborough, NJ and by some of our friends (thanks Riley, Veronica and Sadie). The entire town wanted a bracelet - boys, girls, adults and even a sweet elderly and dignified woman.
We visited the Coptic Christian Church of St. Mary's of Adadi Mariam (Miriam Adadi) - a 13th century rock hewn church excavated out of solid rock. It is believed to be constructed the famous King Lalibela. The pastor gave us a personal tour and then we snacked on fruit, cookies and Haribu Big Cherries and Gummi Bears. Tamiru our guide brought us a Panettone cake which we are still excited to enjoy.
While on our way out of Tiya we stopped at one of Ethiopia's most incredible historical sites - the Tiya Stelae - carved grave markers from 1 - 5 meters in size; their age is undetermined but our guide estimated between 700 - 900 years old.
That evening we celebrated Nathan's 30th birthday with a nice dinner, coffee and cupcakes. It was a long day but one of the best days I can remember. To say we have been blessed is an understatement. The team from World Vision Micro - both traveling with us and local have been nothing short of marvelous as have been Tripp and Brooke from Leadercast.
Next up, the village of Wonchi. Today will be hard to beat on the inspirational scale but I certainly look forward to our next adventure.
Bits & Pieces
- I typed this on my iPhone so please forgive any typos or grammatical inconsistencies.
"Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Matthew 19: 26