The Savings Group (or Self-Help Group) Program in West Arsi, Ethiopia, sponsored by Discovering Light has produced over 300 groups comprised of nearly 5000 men and women. In April 2013, we were introduced to a group in the Arsi Negele village of Adje. Several of the all-women group graciously shared their story with us. The name they gave their group was “Blessed”. Their demeanor varied from the obvious vocal leader and the quietly confident. Their strength and visible hopefulness did not vary. Faces lit up one by one as we asked them how the group had transformed their life in a short time. Each woman shared a different significant purchase they were able to make with their savings – a goat, chickens, grain, and children’s clothing. Their undaunted view of the future was summed up by the statement: “We have no doubt will be developed men and women.”
Even though about half the women were unable to join us, representatives from each of the major Ethiopian religions, Evangelical, Orthodox, and Muslim were present. When asked whether meeting like this would occur prior the establishment of their group, each emphatically said no. Their meeting place on the grounds of an evangelical church is an unlikely place for some of the group members to ever step foot. Their genuine affection for one another was evident. This coming together is vital for infrastructure projects to last. They provide the motivation and problem-solving capacity to manage challenges that inevitably when maintaining a major plumbing project like a village well serving 400 people daily.
Abdurahman. Graduate, Selam Awassa Technical and Vocational College
In July 2013, Abdurahman Hussen finished the three-year program in metalworking at Selam Awassa Vociatonal Technical and Vocational College. Abdurahman was one of the young men Discovering Light has sponsored under our Work and Vocation emphasis. His training will provide him with highly marketable job skills. His elementary school years were spent helping to support his mother and family after his father died.
As a teenager he came to Christ and was immediately disowned by his Muslim family and community. Because of threats of violence, he was forced to move away. In 2010, he was tested for aptitude for the vocational program at Selam. He passed the test, and after securing a scholarship commitment from Discovering Light, was enrolled in the Vocational College.
During summer break following his second year at Selam, his experience allowed him to help some farmers repair their broken threshers. As scholarship students live at the school in Awassa, Abdurahman learned skills that will secure his economic future, doing so in a nurturing Christian environment.
Pastor Lako Bedasso
Discovering Light believes in the tremendous God-given potential of every community where we work. Sometimes, our belief exceeds that of the leaders we partner with. Pastor Lako Bedasso was introduced to us in 2010. He is a leader among evangelical Christians in the Arsi-Bale Region of Southern Ethiopia and was raised in the village where we began our first safe water project.
Early on in our relationship, we shared a passion with Pastor Lako, to introduce people to the love of Christ. But he didn’t share our belief that rural Ethiopians could save money, use their own resources to solve problems within the community or lead their own new churches without formal training. We built trust with Lako by continuing to visit his region, listening to his concerns, and learning when his opposition to new ideas was rooted in fear of uncertainty or based on experience. We also apologized when we made mistakes.
Today, Pastor Lako is an ardent supporter of the Self-Help Group/Savings Program and the innovative empowerment initiative we’ve sponsored that empowers farmers and shopkeepers to begin churches in their homes or businesses. “You are the first ones who love my people, the Arsi, “ Lako is fond of saying. We may not be the first, but he is right. We love his people with him.