Day 6: World Vision Micro / Leadercast Trip - Angolola
The ride today is peaceful, there is a calm that has settled over our group and we are all at relative peace with where we are and what we are trying to do. It is difficult to tell a story in words and pictures. For my family we are still feeling overwhelmed at the attention that we are being given. We know that we are part of something awesome, both in what we are doing here in Ethiopia but also as a family with a small business committed to ‘changing the world’. We try to come to terms with just how much of a difference these micro loans make to people’s lives. I have a lot of fodder for future posts but for now I’ll try to stick to the ‘journal’ format of the last few days. Hiking up to our destination we are amazed at how steep and dangerous a climb it is. I can’t imagine having to do this with a 50 pound five gallon jug of water, yet they do it at least once a day! When we get to the top, I immediately see a plastic tarp covered in hot chili peppers drying in the sun. The berbere (Ethiopian brown pepper) is a pretty large pepper with a very thin wall. It is fruity but hot. The “Scoville Scale” has the pepper listed at 30,000 - 50,000 units putting it at the same heat level as the cayenne and tabasco varieties. I have been looking forward to seeing the peppers growing but seeing them drying in the sun is very cool.
We have met our fourth incredible family today, and our fourth strong woman! Kelemua and her husband’s story is similar to Neguse and his wife’s story. Married young, and with a young child, the family fell on hard times. When you see what a life of ‘abundance’ is, I can barely fathom what she means when she tells us that times were hard. Her husband sits by her and lets her tell her story of how difficult life was. She has an audience today of about 15 people, nine of us white Americans. I wonder what she is thinking as she walks us through her story. Kelemua tells us that her cattle had died and she had no source for milk. Her neighbor encouraged her to reach out to the World Vision Micro office and apply for a loan. She was nervous but the staff assisted her with the application process and checked in with her after she received the loan to ensure that she was using the money and planning for the future.
I ask her what it was like to receive the loan and her face, serious until now, brightens. "It saved us” she tells us, “without the loan our lives would have been over.”
Until now, her husband, quietly rocking their grandchild, breaks in for the first time. “We were young, with child and poor” he tells us, “we were starving. We had no hope.” He tells a story eerily similar to Neguse’s. He spoke to his wife and told her that they should divorce so she could go back to live with her parents and have a chance at life. “It was World Vision” he articulates in Ahmaric, “that saved our lives. World Vision and God.” Some words don’t translate and it is easy to pick out World Vision as he speaks. You can tell by not just his words but also the way he looks at his wife and holds his grandchild, that he both loves and respects his wife.
As Kelemua continues, she brightens as she tells us what her relationship with World Vision Micro has meant. “We have had a number of loans but the first allowed us to by a heifer. When we got her,” she smiled, “she was pregnant.” The cow gave birth to a cow and an ox that have meant so much to us.” With each successive loan she increased her business, not just with the milk products of cheese, butter and yogurt, but by buying seeds and fertilizer, increasing the yield of hay, wheat, peas, beans and other grains. She slides back a drape to expose her ‘bedroom’ - a twin sized bed that they share and easily 20 large sacks of dried grains that she will use to get through until the next planting season. She will only sell her surplus when she is sure there is surplus - but she is confident that they will have enough to feed her extended family.
Her children, except the youngest, are in school but he is eager to join his older siblings. One of the daughters comes home and we get to meet her. She wants to be a teacher she tells us and smiles. As we walk around their home to go see the cattle we pass the drying berbere, Tamiru, our guide, translator and liaison tells them that I love spice and hot peppers. The group of men with us starts to laugh. “We don’t believe you.” Tamiru translates. “White men don’t like spice.” “No, no” Tamiru insists, “he really does like spicy food.” Tamiru is wearing one of the Hot Sauce 4 Good t-shirts and he translates it for them. They nod but I can tell that they are skeptical.
We head down to the cattle and meet the 8 cattle as they graze. They are in a communal pen but she knows exactly where they are and drives them over to us to ‘meet’ them. We do our meet and greet with the six oxen and two cows and take our pictures. If we didn’t seem like crazy Americans before we certainly do now.
As we leave Nathan takes the opportunity to teach Kelemua’s husband how to YoYo. Nathan is a pro - he shows off with “around the world” and “walk the dog”. He is patient and rejoices when the YoYo makes it way back up. We have officially made him the ‘coolest’ dad in the Angolola province.
The last thing I do is present the family with a small set of photos of our family back in New Jersey including our garden and a nice photo of our hot peppers. When we get to that photo the men laugh and I get a clap on the back and smiles all around. “Berbere, berbere” I hear them mumble. When we grasp hands to say our good byes the smiles are bigger and the grasps are firmer. Today is our last day meeting entrepreneurs and I am going to miss it. I have learned so much from each of the families we visited that it will take some time to sink in. I know that this is a life changing experience for me, my wife and son and I will be doing my best to incorporate what I have learned into my life as we head back to the states in a couple of days. Tomorrow we leave very early to head to northern Africa to visit a historical site. I look forward to continuing the journey.
After hearing the stories of the past few days I could think of no better scripture than this:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13: 1-13