Last week, I wrote about how my time in The Middle East broke my heart.

But eight days in Ethiopia reminded me that the work we do is succeeding beyond our hopes and dreams. My heart is full, because I was able to see so many lives transformed while in Ethiopia.

When we talk about change, what does that actually mean?

Change starts from within. The foundation of change is dignity. All humans need to feel a responsibility for their future. They need a community to help them chase their dreams, but they don’t need a handout. They don’t need outsiders to solve their problems. They have the capacity and the will to lift themselves up, but those trapped in poverty need a kick-start to ignite hope and opportunity!

Our Family Empowerment Program (FEP) is soaked in Ethiopian wisdom, passion and hard work. Our Ethiopian leaders birthed the idea, developed the plan, hired the local staff, and now they execute the work each and every day. Hundreds of families have graduated from the program, and hundreds more are enrolled and ready to begin. We are so proud of this work!

Trusting the Process

In 2014, Jen and Brandon Hatmaker, Korie Robertson, and a few others joined me on a trip to Ethiopia. While there, we began to have this family empowerment conversation with our local leaders. We started a pilot program to see if this could work. To be clear, in the nonprofit world where the donor’s main concern is how much of their donation will go to direct impact work, this is a massive risk. Most nonprofits don’t have time to innovate because they don’t have the flexibility to do research and development. Therefore, it is easy to play it safe… bute playing it safe will not overcome the snares of extreme poverty. I’m thankful that the Help One Now tribe offered us grace and trusted us to try something new.

So, we returned in 2016 with Jen, Rachel Hollis, JD Scott, and Jamie Ivey. We raised over $300,000 to help build out a full prototype of the program, hire the proper staff, build out the infrastructure and take time to do research and development. Needless to say, the success has been phenomenal and the impact is BIG.

The Return

A few weeks ago, I returned to Ethiopia. I walked through their neighborhoods, drank coffee in their homes, visited their businesses, listened to their stories and saw their successes…it was simply beautiful. Families lives have been transformed, businesses have been launched, kids are going to school without support from sponsors, and churches are being funded through the creation of wealth. For the first time ever, these families can take their kids to the clinic, save money for rainy days, fix up their houses, eat three square meals a day, and even be a good neighbor to those in need.

The FEP has helped kickstart their dreams and that’s enough! These families are the ones who OWN their dreams. They are thankful for the help, but they have the dignity of knowing that they are in fact the ones who have made their dreams become real and tangible. Our generosity was the hope they needed to spark an opportunity to change their future.

Who Are They?

Wait and see. Next week, I will share two amazing stories so you can meet some of our friends and see the Family Empowerment Program at work.