Gelaye is a widowed mother of two, living in Ethiopia. A decade ago when her husband died, the loneliness and hardship was crushing. Since her husband was the main breadwinner, she struggled to take care of her two young children, Bethlehem, then 7, and Biniyam, then 5.
“It was difficult to start life and support children alone,” she told us.
Ten years later, she is a successful shopkeeper, and her daughter Bethlehem is confidently standing by her side. When we caught up with them, Gelaye and Bethlehem were busily tending to customers, providing cool drinks and snacks for people on the go. It’s a dream come true for Gelaye, but one she knows she could not have achieved alone.
A few years ago, when Gelaye was struggling with loneliness, she was invited to a community meeting. The facilitator made a suggestion that piqued Gelaye’s interest: “She told us the importance of coming together to discuss our own issues and solving them together instead of struggling alone.”
Soon, Gelaye and the other women had formed a REFLECT group called Welin, in which they supported each other in all aspects of life. REFLECT groups give space for community members to decide their own priorities on food security, livelihoods, education and more. Members can also pool their savings and access credit. Joining the group was the start of a major transformation for Gelaye.
“After I started a discussion with my group members, we started to think of alternative income generating schemes. I decided to boil potatoes and start selling them. My income increased a lot.”
From there, her business has grown into the successful shop she has today. She has been able to comfortably send her children to school and provide for all of their needs.
Bethlehem can follow her dreams
Bethlehem, a sponsored child, is now a 17-year-old Grade 9 student with a passion for biology and plans to become an engineer. She’s learned a lot of vital skills from watching her mother, including managing a shop, the importance of savings, and most importantly, sharing knowledge with others.
“I want to follow in her footsteps, sharing what I know with others and doing business wisely,” she told us.
Gelaye’s story shows how powerful it is to come together to support each other. We are all in this together: CFTC, our local partner EDA, Gelaye and the members of Welin, and of course, our caring donors.