Bringing food and then…

Our food program in Ethiopia came to an end last week. For just over 8 months, Berdien and Aberash traveled weekly to the Senbete Shalla area to provide food to the people. The goal was to feed at least 200 people, but because of the many donations we were able to feed 1270 women (i.e. families) every month! First a few nice statements from women about the food project: ‘We always expected you as a family. So many organizations have thrown the food for us (figuratively), but you have given us love. You are like a mother to us’.‘Just before you came, one of my children had died of malnutrition. And then you came. I still had two children malnourished. After receiving food for a while, people advised me to sell the food and buy clothes. But I told them I didn’t want to lose any more children. It saved my children’s lives.” We have seen great results on the program. Visible results of women and children emerging from their state of malnutrition. But there is still need and the problems are not over yet. There are still people who don’t have enough food. We had hoped that people would have enough food after this rainy season, but this year too there has not been as much rain as we had hoped. We have been thinking about what else we can do for these people. The question is: how do you ensure lasting food supply in this area? Continuing to bring food endlessly is a short-term solution, but it will not make any difference for the future. This has made us decide to invest in aid that makes them self-sufficient. One of the major problems in the area is the lack of water. We are looking at what we can do in this regard. Another investment is training. The level of education is very low in the area. Most women are not educated and cannot read and write. We have made a first start by reserving a budget to offer 90 women a 3-day training course.Women Empowerment Program The training is almost over and it has really been a success and good investment. All selected women came to the city of Shashemene where we rented a training setting. We have chosen to remove the women from their environment completely, so that they have no disruptive factors and to offer them a relaxed environment, in order to achieve optimal learning results. They all came in clean clothes as we told them to (also part of the training). And they were so happy when they got out of the van. And they enjoy! One woman commented:‘I have never had such a beautiful day, not even my wedding day’ . Or:‘No one has ever taken such good care of us, you take care of us like we are a queen’ . How beautiful it is to express Christian charity in this way. For us it is normal to eat in a good hotel, but for these women it is a first trip in their lives. I wondered if they finished it all as they filled the plate to a full plate. But most of them got it all! The hotel management was a bit worried whether they would like the food. But that concern turned out to be for nothing. They literally tasted everything from the rich buffet. One woman commented: ‘Now I have to eat for a month’ . They probably haven’t eaten meat for months either. So it is understandable. It is nice to give the women a relaxing day in this sense too. The location is also very beautiful. During breaks they can sit on the terrace next to the swimming pool. Some women wanted to go into the pool. It is a beautiful sight to see these women, dressed in their traditional clothing, enjoying a juice drink under the parasol. It also creates space to talk to the women, also to be a witness! It all requires some extra coordination. For example, they did not know how to use the toilet, so this all had to be demonstrated. The food aid area is a strictly Muslim area, but people strictly observe daily prayers. The prayer that had to take place before lunch was still an organization. All women had to wash their feet for this. So the (dusty) feet went into the clean sink of the Haile Hotel. Impressive to see all those women praying at the front of the conference hall. Was reminded of Paul in Areopagus when they prayed to an unknown God. Very religious, but no knowledge of Jesus.Content The training itself was about ‘Life Skills’. You have to assume that actually none of these women have ever received any form of education. They got married young and started living their lives. Most have many children. And all this is often under the dominance of their husband (who often has several wives) and who decides everything. Most cannot read or write. Life Skills that we received during our upbringing, were taught from kindergarten and later learned more and more in further education… These women have never heard of it. A whole new world opened up for them; literally and figuratively! They were taught six skills: communication, decision making, problem solving, interpersonal, analytical and critical skills. What all skills had in common was: teaching the women how to manage their own lives. Without being dependent on anyone else. Show that they are primarily responsible for solving problems themselves and that they also have that skill! In this sense we are different from animals: we have been given a mind to use. There were reactions like: ‘Yes, sometimes we talk about our problem, but not with the right person ‘. Or a graphic statement: ‘If you hide your pain, you won’t get the right treatment ‘. The women learned a lot and the interaction got going well. The women were able to share their challenges and problems and were given tools to deal with them. At the end of the session the women stated: ‘If you use your mind (and they literally pointed their finger at their brain) then there are no more challenges .’ They were surprised that they can think for themselves. They always thought that others should think for them. A very nice reaction that came from a woman:‘We were given food for 8 months, we ate it and it came out again. Nothing was left behind. But what we have now wants to stay in our heads forever’ . Or another response: ‘I lived in darkness, but this training opened my eyes ‘. It was nice to see how it made the women happy with everything they learned. The training exceeds all our expectations. From a group of women we only know who ‘fight’ to get food, to the point of begging, we now see women who have capacity within them. We have managed to tap into a strength in them and challenge them that they have the skills to work on the many problems in their lives. Not to get stuck in passive negativity and only depend on others. But to get started yourself. ‘Changing the world starts with yourself!’. We would like to thank all sponsors, prayers and encouragers for your help. You made this food project possible and provided this life-changing training to these women! Berdien and Aberash

About Martin Koornstra

Getrouwd met Karin, 2 mooie dochters, passie voor Jezus, spreker, schrijver, trainer en een beetje gek!

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