A Steady and Satisfying 2015
Steady can sound like a negative word when you’re talking about working with people who still have grave challenges accessing basic necessities like clean water and electricity. But we’ve learned enough to know that rapid change has many unwelcome effects, whether initiated from within or outside a community. Meaningful, lasting change in the right direction requires time and foundational change. 2015 did not bring any earth-shattering developments for Discovering Light, but we’ve seen a steady evolution taking place in Southeast Ethiopia. Families’ livelihoods are improving, opportunities for business and education are opening up, and many have found their spiritual home in relationship with Jesus.
At year’s end, we are rejoicing with the progress made in the Self-Help (Savings) Group movement in West Arsi. There are now 385 groups in the program with 5,955 total members (2,060 male and 3,895 female). These members have saved approximately $64,000 USD together that is used for essential and productive purposes. The major activity during this period of the program has been the formation of Cluster Level Associations. (CLA). Savings Groups formed into CLAs based on their geographic area, and two members of each group are elected to be CLA Representatives. One CLA represents about six to eight SHGs. The purpose of the CLA is to provide support, resources, and decision-making power to the groups, contributing to their strength and independence. The CLA is an important piece of the sustainability of the overall program, and a key part of successful graduation. CLAs are meant to be very active in considering the needs of the SHGs, and leveraging resources to take action (economically, politically, legally) on behalf of the SHGs and for their benefit. All 385 of the groups have now been formed into CLAs, with a total of 44 CLAs in the area.
What a blessing it is to know this foundation of life has been established in families like that of Lotu Dube. This 40 year old mother of 4 previously struggled to provide three meals for her family every day. Now, after saving consistently and using her funds to advance her farming capacity, Lotu and her husband provide sufficient food for their family and even purchased a corrugated iron roof for their home in Shashamene. We’re thankful for the continuing partnership with Water is Life International who helped compile this report on the SHG movmement.
Several opportunities Discovering Light has invested in through your generous giving are just getting going as we head into 2016. As we shared a few months back, Berhanu and Adane are in their first of three years at Selam Awassa Technical and Vocational College. We look forward to see their progress in the new year. Often, the first thing the students gain is confidence that comes from seeing what they can do with their hands.
Also, our second round of post-harvest threshing businesses are establishing themselves in and around Shashamene and Arsi Negele. The nine young men who’ve taken on this business are eager to serve their community and provide for their families. They are learning how to use their machines effectively and adapting their business plans to the local harvest conditions. We look forward to seeing how their business takes root and expands in the coming year.
Finally, many of you participated in our Advance the Light campaign the past two months as we looked to further our partnership with Horn of Africa Evangelical Mission Engagers. The trainees in their Disciple Making Movement program have shared the love of God with hundreds of Arsi families in 2015. They are often found praying with the hurting and ministering to those with addictions and illnesses. In 2016, we anticipate training to take place in several cities throughout West Arsi, preparing men and women to take the hope of Jesus to the neighbors and families within their community.
These incremental changes are for generations to come. We see glimpses of life, health, hope, and healing that will become pervasive in the coming decades. For now we find inspiration in one child, one man or woman, one village that is experiencing the abundant life God has intended for them.
Thank you for making this a fantastic 2015. We look forward to sharing another great year with you in 2016.