2014: Year in Review
2015 is here! For most you, 2014 is probably becoming a distant memory. For us, it was most memorable. In February we officially become Discovering Light, relaunching our organization with a more creative and accurate way to tell our story. This new identity was rooted in a clear vision for how we could be most effective in helping our friends in Ethiopia become who God intended them to be. In addition, we encountered a number of challenges epitomizing the long road ahead to accomplish our goals working among the Arsi Oromo. Thank you for making 2014 the fantastic year that it was. You followed our transition to Discovering Light and helped us fund a number of key initiatives. In May and December you helped raise close to $15,000 for the Savings Group program. Your faithful investment also helped fund several new micro-loans and second year scholarships for the Selam students.
Early this year, our partners decided to slow the growth of the Savings Group program in West Arsi in order to catch their breath and make sure existing groups were developing a strong foundation. This allowed facilitators to make sure each of the 330+ groups were forming Cluster Level Associations made up of 2 leaders from 10 separate groups. This break from expanding also afforded facilitators and regional staff time to receive much-needed training from national leadership. We’re thrilled with the way the groups have exploded in villages throughout West Arsi and we’re thankful for how our partners are committed to the health of the movement.
Since 2012, we’ve been working with the Full Gospel Believers Church in Shashamene to organize and support small-business development through micro-loans provided to groups of young men. This came in the form of motorized post-harvest threshers that dramatically improve the grain threshing process for families in Arsi Negele district. We heard rumors of success achieved by these new business owners but found it difficult to manage the collection of loan payments and provide them much-needed business development support. We witnessed first hand the benefit of this business last January as we spent the day with one of the owners, Habib, watching him serve his customers and provide work for day laborers in the village. Yet, by August, the groups were still struggling to make repay their loan.and had to give the business owners an ultimatum: pay your loan or return the machines. Just before year’s end, we got a report that necessary payments were made. We look forward to following up on this next week and hopefully begin expanding the program in the coming months.
Four young women from villages in West Arsi are in their second year studying at Selam Awassa Technical and Vocational College studying Hospitality and International Cooking. Beshule, Tadelech, Zieyni, and Alemitu will finish this summer and if all continues as planned, begin their careers. Selam is an excellent academy, known for producing top-notch workers that add value to the growing hospitality industry in Southeast Ethiopia. As these young ladies graduate, we hope to provide even more scholarships for students at Selam.
Finally, in October we reported the consistent growth of Discovery Bible Studies and the impact new Christians were having on their communities. Hundreds of men and women of all ages have been baptized in multiple villages throughout West Arsi and Bale. We appreciate this growth in particular because of the strategy employed by our partners. One of the key elements being leadership development, Horn of Africa Evangelical Mission has hired an Area Manager that will oversee the work of training laypersons to share the gospel and form churches with families supporting one another as Christians committed to knowing Christ and making him known.
Next week, Champ Rhodes heads to visit with our partners in Ethiopia and determine the way forward with some of our programs including expanding Savings Groups in new areas and as mentioned, offering new micro-loans to aspiring entrepreneurs. We thank God for his leading and for the opportunity to serve the Arsi Oromo in 2014. Despite difficulties and the tumultuous process of partnership on their behalf, they continue to discover the light.