What happens when you invest in the talents of a widowed mother in Ethiopia? Something beautiful happens. What changes when you teach a group of Guatemalan women a new, profitable skill? Everything changes. Who is impacted when a collection of mothers routinely sit down together to share their struggles, learn how to save money, and challenge each other in their business ventures? Entire families, communities, and towns are impacted. 

group of women in ethiopia with three men

"Economic empowerment isn’t just about numbers and ledgers. It’s about people. It’s about relief. It’s about hope. It’s about opportunity. [ . . . ] When you look in the faces of these women, you can see the harsh realities of life for the poorest of the poor in the developing world, but look closer, and you can see joy, and you see courage, resilience, and determination. [ . . . ] The dedicated members of our World Orphans Ethiopia [team], the church pastors, and the Home Based Care coordinators are training, equipping, and caring for these women, and it’s working. [ . . . ] The results have been phenomenal." 

-World Orphans Economic Empowerment Director Nate Livesay

We love the numbers—how much people have been able to save, how much women are now able to earn, how much money is available for emergencies—but ultimately, we're captivated and inspired by the strong, determined women that have persevered to change their families' stories. These are the stories of brave, determined, and talented women whose lives and families have been forever changed through economic and family empowerment programs. 


I have traveled to 37 countries and led approximately 60 mission trips, and in all honesty, meeting with these widowed mothers in Ethiopia and listening to their stories about how microloans have resurrected their lives—physically, emotionally, and spiritually—was one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had. Story after story was told about how they went from surviving day by day work in the fields—simply trying to get by—to, all of a sudden, through the microloan and savings programs, thriving. [They finally had] businesses they created on their own that allowed them to work in an area of passion, save money, and—for the first time in their [lives]—dream about their future.
— World Orphans Global Church Partnership Director Kevin Squires speaking about his most recent trip to Ethiopia

Tigist used her World Orphans microloan to establish and grow her business of selling vegetables, and she is currently participating in two savings groups. When her family faced a house fire—a circumstance that could have ruined the rest of their lives—Tigist was able to begin replacing items in their home through the profits she earned through her business.

She has successfully taken out and repaid one loan and is currently repaying her second loan. Tigist and her family benefit greatly from the increased cash flow, as she is able to save money several times a month by paying in cash instead of buying items for her business at a higher price on credit. She is delighted that her business has given her financial independence, relieving the daily pressure of providing for her children.

ethiopian woman making jewelry


We've shared Alemitu's story with you before. She is one of the most successful entrepreneurs we have seen participate in our program. She started a jewelry business and has now expanded her business to make bread as well. She sells her jewelry in bulk to shop owners and is training other women on jewelry making. She plans to use her third loan to diversify her business again and make kolo, an Ethiopian snack. She has been able to save nearly $400* since taking out her first loan.

[Read the original story]


*The average income in Ethiopia is $550/year.


Worknesh has taken out two loans through the World Orphans program. The benefits of this loan for her family are evident in the better home they have moved into, the clothing they have been able to purchase, and the variety of healthier foods that they now find accessible. Worknesh is also a member of two savings groups, through which she has been able to save $100. This savings is especially important to Worknesh because the region she lives in has been greatly impacted by the political unrest that has gripped Ethiopia over the last year. For both Worknesh and other members of her savings group, this emergency fund is a lifeline.


two women in Ethiopia with sewing machine

Alemzewd, one of the youngest in our economic and family empowerment programs, is 18 years old. A woman wise beyond her years, Alemzewd used the financial support she received to pay for tuition at a local sewing school. With her creativity and education, she has already crafted a beautiful variety of items. To keep her motivated and offer support, a World Orphans Ethiopian team member gifted Alemzewd with a sewing machine as a graduation gift. Alemzewed has established herself well to be self-sufficient and capable of teaching others.


As the primary caregiver for her disabled grandson, Debritu faces a lot of challenges, but her life has been reenergized by the opportunities provided through a microloan and additional training she has received through her local church and World Orphans. She used her loan to develop a business selling vegetables and cooking oil.

Debritu carries herself with confidence, excited to be able to work and provide for her family. And despite the underlying challenges she finds both in entrepreneurship and in caring for her grandson, she finds a sense of purpose in both of these responsibilities. She now looks forward with hope to the future. 

ethiopian woman on stairs holding book


Hopeless to Successful

 [Read the story]


Refugio is one of the artisans from Mujeres Con Vision (MCV), an artisan cooperative established in Guatemala in partnership with Artisans Thrive, a Women's Partnership Market project. Refugio is one of the most dedicated and determined artisans in MCV.

When Refugio joined the cooperative—a group dedicated to learning how to craft handmade items to sell—she was eager to sew again. Though she learned to sew at a young age, she had not been able to pursue this passion for a long time. Artisans Thrive watched her grow increasingly confident and joyful as she spent time at the sewing machine. Refugio is excited to continue learning with this group of women, and she is eager to have consistent income for her family. 

Well, this has totally changed the routine of my life. Maybe at the beginning it was difficult, but now over time, my emotional security changed knowing that I can do something, because before everything was different in every way. It has helped me to be here.
— Aura, an MCV artisan, reflecting on how the Artisans Thrive training impacted her


Lillian, a mother of four, had a dream. She wanted to have a job, a dignified way of providing for her family and having daily purpose.

As one of the MCV artisans in Guatemala, Lillian was trained by Artisans Thrive and now works in partnership with other women to create handcrafted items to sell. This work not only provides income for Lillian, but it has taught her life skills that enable her to make wise decisions for her family. Today, we see a beautiful confidence in Lillian that she did not possess prior to training. 

These advancements [in Guatemala] have been hard fought, but the success stories are mounting. From our little group of seven members, we now have 43 members actively saving, making/taking loans, generating interest, and pooling their money for health or family emergencies that could arise at a moment’s notice! [ . . . ] Week after week, these people gather together to create a better future for themselves and their families. Imagine: some of these participants are amongst the poorest families in the community, and they have found a way to begin saving the equivalent of $1.30 at every meeting! We are watching lasting change happen in their lives at a remarkable rate.
— World Orphans Guatemala Economic Empowerment Coordinator Chris Turpaud

Economic and family empowerment has transformed the way we, at World Orphans, support vulnerable families and orphaned children. While we hoped these programs would positively impact the families and communities we serve, we could not have fathomed the depth of hope, the breadth of joy, or the width of dignity that has resulted. We stand in awe of these brave mothers, determined families, and resilient children whose stories we continue to watch unfold as we walk alongside them.



If you want to learn more, we recommend picking up one of these books. For additional questions about World Orphans Economic and Family Empowerment, please contact: nate@worldorphans.org.