2012: Becoming Clay
A number of recipes for producing clay are readily available. Ingredients vary but the final purpose is rather uniform: a moldable substance that can be used to reflect the vision of an artist (be it a 2 year old with Play-do or a master sculptor.) This past year Africa Water and Life was ‘becoming clay’; finding the right ingredients that, when mixed, would allow us to accomplish our purpose. We’ve had a fair amount of time to watch the progress of our sponsored initiatives and evaluate the relationships we’ve developed with each of our partner organizations.
Our work with Selam Awassa Business Group has expanded, even as we continued to sponsor rural youth in vocational education. In early summer, five women completed the course in National/International Cooking. As of today, each of them is preparing to launch their own small business, including one with her new husband. Our four young men completed their second of three years in the program for electrical and mechanical installation. This coming year holds great possibility as the students are preparing for graduation this summer and beginning their careers.
The West Arsi Self Help Group Program is having a significant impact across the region. Group are now present in four separate districts. Year one in saw 128 groups formed with a total of 2100 members (755 Men/1345 Wom
en). Their total savings amounts to 103, 404 ETB, about 807 Birr per group or 49 Birr per member. Members are saving their capital in local banks, religious tolerance is experienced, and there is healthy competition between the groups. We continue to be impressed with the Kale Hewot Church and Community Development leadership team. They have great attention to detail and a commitment to breaking the cycle of poverty throughout their country. We are privileged to be working with them.
One of our greatest concerns entering 2012 was the potential success or failure of the mobile thresher program we developed with Selam Awassa. The machine itself possessed significant opportunities to improve the lives of rural Ethiopian families and the owners themselves. But it would be short-lived if the ownership groups (3 young men for each thresher chosen by the village leaders) failed to pay their loan back or mature as businessmen. In late October we began to see positives signs. The owner groups have provided their threshing service following 2 harvest seasons and begun repaying their loan. Our partners with the Full Gospel Church have embraced their role collecting the repayment and serving the owners as they grow their ongoing business. The funds that are collected are scheduled to go into a revolving fund that will be used for other initiatives – possibly start-up loans for the cooking school graduates.
After several years of discussion and planning, we partnered with Arsi/Bale Evangelical Churches Fellowship and Horn of Africa Evangelical Missions to sponsor a unique ‘viral’ Church Planting Training. The concept follows the principles of several movements from around the world focused on teaching men and women to begin small groups that experience the love of Christ through discovering the Truth in God’s word and serving one another. This revolutionary approach recognizes these groups as churches and fosters deep and wide growth by empowering untrained lay people who by the nature of their lives have a broad network of relationships. In September, AWL sponsored training of 60 lay leaders from Shashamene and Arsi Negele to plant churches in their community. 20 have begun small group meetings and we are looking to sponsor training in another district in 2013.
Finally, the water project in Kalo which took more twists and turns than a roller coaster came to completion in August. This endeavor tested the community, our partners and us in many ways but ultimately built a foundation of trust. And most importantly, the people have clean, safe water. We anticipate more of God’s mercy and transforming power as we move forward in the coming year. We hope you will continue to stand with us and see new life come to West Arsi and beyond, among the Arsi Oromo people in 2013.