Education is an important piece of our economic empowerment efforts at World Orphans. Whether it is artisan training, savings groups in Guatemala, or our micro loan programs in Ethiopia and Haiti, it all starts with education. Participants meet with experienced trainers and receive ongoing education to help them make the most of the the opportunities provided in their program.
Mujeres con Vision, our cooperative of women artisans in partnership with Artisans Thrive, in Guatemala, completed a three month training program that included personal goal setting, business training, production techniques, and culminated with the production of a product to sell in Guatemala and in the United States. This wholistic approach to education paid big dividends as the women were able to organize their businesses and successfully produce and sell products that have allowed them to earn a good income for their families.
All of our savings groups in Guatemala work through a weekly curriculum from the Chalmers Center that focuses on our relationship with God and money, as well as the nuts and bolts of personal finance and how to be a successful savings group. Each year, our number of groups in Guatemala increases as the participants share their successes with other members of their churches and communities.
Before they receive a new micro loan, each of our Ethiopian caregivers attends a business training session where they are provided with education on business practices that will help them successfully start or manage their business to make the most of their loan. Additionally, they meet regularly with the other members of their savings groups and are able to share knowledge and experiences in that setting. Caregivers, like Zeritu and Alemitu, who have successfully used a loan to transform the lives of their families, are eager to share what they have learned with the other members of the groups and they often celebrate successes together and are able to band together when times are tough. In 2019, we hope to make over 100 loans to caregivers in our program.
In Haiti last year, our initial group of loan recipients met weekly and were trained by an experienced businessman and microfinance professional for 8 weeks before ever receiving a loan. The education is ongoing as they meet weekly with someone who continues to mentor them and monitor their progress throughout the duration of the loan term. We are still in the early stages of this initial program, but we hope to expand to more locations in Haiti in the years to come.
Empowerment is about building a bridge from where people are to where they want to go and we believe that the foundation of that bridge of hope must be built on education.
When we talk with participants in our empowerment program they almost always talk about the improvements in their confidence and their more hopeful outlook of life. They share how the training or the loans have impacted their lives and allowed them to do things they dreamed about being able to do. They are also excited share how proud it makes them feel to pass on the things they are learning to their children - the education on budgeting, business practices, and how to overcome obstacles do not just stop with them. Those lessons are being passed down in families from mother to child or from grandmother to grandchild and that is creating the potential for a generational cycle of success instead of continuing the cycle of generational poverty. However, they do not just share what they learn with their family - they also pass the education along to others in the community. Other mothers in the church are educated as well and the whole community is able to benefit from the knowledge and experience caregivers in the program receive.
Hope for the future is contagious. Our empowerment programs not only provide education for the caregivers and children in the program, they create an opportunity for the students to become teachers. As they share the knowledge and experience they gain with others their confidence grows, their dignity and value is affirmed, and they find joy in their ability not only to meet the needs of their own family, but to be a beacon of hope and an agent of change in their communities.