Why Take Storytellers to Ethiopia?
I wanted to take a moment and chat through why an organization like Help One Now is taking a trip to Ethiopia to share stories. The only way to do that, is to understand the backstory.
Another nonprofit, who has been doing amazing work in Gunchire (gun-CHEER-ee), Ethiopia for years, asked us to join them to help serve this community. Kidmia’s mission is to help Ethiopian families adopt Ethiopian orphans. After working in the community for a season, they realized that they needed to find a way to STOP kids from being orphaned in the first place. The question: How do we keep these kids with their families?
This is the root of the conversation and the passion behind our trip. Before we decided to do this trip, Help One Now took a vision trip to spend time in the community and learn from the local leaders this past January. We quickly realized that we had a crisis on our hands… this community needed short-term help connected to a long-term plan… or else, many of the kids in this community would be orphaned due to poverty.
Follow The Leader
The key to all of our work is the local leader. We don’t force our model on the community, rather, we ask questions, and we listen, because we believe that every community has its own story, and its own assets. In each community, we have a key mission:
1) Empower and resource local leaders.
2) Care for orphans & vulnerable kids
3) See the community transformed through development work: education, job creation, access to healthcare and spiritual development.
Our hope is that in time, this community will flourish, and they won’t need outside help and they won’t see an outside organization from another part of the world. Rather, they would see leaders in their community making key decisions and doing the necessary work to end cycles of poverty. Help One Now strives to stay as invisible as possible and follow our leaders.
Dignity & Hope
We’ve spent enough time in communities facing issues of extreme poverty that we know this to be true: some of the most brilliant people in the world live in some of the most materially impoverished areas. These folks are human. They are amazing, passionate, caring and generous. They suffer and go through pain and heartache as well. They are the true heroes. That said, even heroes need help.
We are fully committed to sharing their story with dignity and respect. We’re not fools. We know that we can’t see these communities transformed overnight, or even in a few years. We are committed to working in these communities long-term, which means we are working with true friends, not strangers. We eat meals together, we laugh together, we cry together and we celebrate together.
Therefore, when we share their story, we’re walking on holy ground. We want to tell it well.
Inspire People to Do Good
Stories inspire people to have compassion and take action. A story helps us feel the reality of those suffering… The storytellers joining us on this trip are brilliant. They know how to activate people to get involved and take action. Action creates change and change is what is needed. As a leader of a nonprofit, I know it’s vital to share stories; of course, that creates tension and adds complexities, and if we are not careful we could exploit people.
This is why we’re intentional about the stories we tell, we ask for permission before we share the story and our local leader is usually the one who decides what story to tell and how to tell it. Our goal is not to pop in and pop out, rather we are committed to journey with the communities we serve!
We want to share stories that will inspire the world around us and also make the world better so we can all do good and do it well.
Build A Bridge
I think we would all agree that child sponsorship has many pros and cons. Truthfully, everything has pros and cons. We have not figured out the perfect way to help the poor… but we have seen some amazing progress since we launched in 2009. That said, our child sponsorship model is the backbone of the long-term work that we are passionate about.
Sponsorship builds a bridge to community development.
Benefits of Child Sponsorsorship:
— It empowers the local leader to focus on bigger/deeper issues. They no longer have to spend most of their time trying to keep kids alive.
— It allows moms and dads to focus on work and earning money while their kids are in school.
— It helps pay for teacher salaries, thus creating jobs and allowing kids to be educated…and education fosters lasting change (remember, most communities don’t have a tax structure to pay for education).
— It provides children with proper nutrition, access to clean water and healthcare, along with clothing, school supplies, and more!
Here’s what we’ve learned: most of us want the exact same things in life – a loving family, a vibrant community, access to food, water and a good school… and if our kids get sick, we want to make sure they can see a doctor and get help. And moms and dads do not want to sit in some aid line waiting for handouts, they want to work and earn money to provide for their families.
Our sponsorship program helps us move closer to seeing families achieve these dreams.
Marketing Through Human Stories
As a nonprofit, we know we must also be marketers. Believe it or not, most folks don’t just do good on their own. We all need pathways and organizations that can help us get involved and use our time, talent and resources to make a difference. Marketing can be a dirty word or it can be something beautiful. It all depends on the heart of those who are marketing.
This trip is a way for us to invite others into our story, to meet the local Ethiopian leader we partner with, to learn about this community we care for, and to sponsor a child and help keep his or her family together!