Step by Step
There is a phrase in Amharic that translates to “slowly, slowly the egg learns to walk.” It is a phrase that speaks of perseverance, but also the necessary small steps that need to occur before transformation can occur.
We are seeing this play out for one of the moms in the project. Hiwet has struggled over this past year – trying to sell food in order to make it. She would have a neighbor loan her 50 ETB for which she would buy a bunch of potatoes. She would spend all day cooking those potatoes and then in the evening time take them to a local bar where she would sell them to customers while making very little profit. Somedays she would make 15 ETB, but other days she would not sell enough to pay back the loan. If the potatoes were not sold that evening, they were ruined and could not be sold the next day. It was a stressful environment for her. However, this was a step up from when she used to sell roasted barley to inebriated men who had begged enough during the day to afford a bunch of cheap liquor and a handful of barley.
The real difficult decision came one day when her child was very sick and needed to go to the hospital. However, she had 50 ETB of potatoes cooked that needed to be sold that evening. She needed to pay back her loan the next day and if she did not sell the potatoes, paying back that loan seemed like an impossible task to her that would literally take months to recover from. It was a critical decision for Hiwet who was caught between a rock and a hard place. In the end she was able to find friends to sell the potatoes for her, she took her daughter to the hospital, but her friends needed payment for their services, so away went any profit she had hoped to make.
This situation provided a pivotal moment for things to change for her. She was very willing to try something new as the tears came out.
The next day our staff went with Hiwet to the local market where they purchased a plastic basket, cups, sugar, coffee and a thermos for her. Hiwet would now try her hand at selling coffee on construction sites around the area. She would make the coffee at her home and then take it by thermos out to find customers. She would use her sales to buy coffee and sugar for the next day. All of this for an investment of less than 500 ETB. Hiwet would also learn how to start saving as she had 100 ETB given to her to open a savings account.
So, for the small investment of 600 ETB ($36 USD) a mom was given a great opportunity.
That was 3 weeks ago. Yesterday I got to talk with Hiwet and she told me that she is now making 10 ETB per day profit after paying all of her expenses. She lit up as she said it. And then she went on to say that is from one thermos of coffee – hinting at the fact that if she had another thermos she could be making more – perhaps double.
She is now able to make 300 ETB per month, which doesn’t sound like much, yet it is double what she was making this time last year. And, we see a dignity being restored in her. She has a freedom now as she isn’t dealing with loans and fear anymore. She is showing initiative. She is courageously taking a step out of the cycle that she has known for a long time.
Now, we will dream with her of ways that she can double her income again and move towards increasing business. It will start with the purchase of another thermos, but with some hard work and dedication she’ll be the one making it work.
Slowly, Hiwet is making a step out of poverty…one step at a time…and its beautiful to see.