The Hope Experience Ethiopia, Day 1: Convoy of Hope empowering women

Editor’s Note: Post written by Robert Henley, general manager of University Plaza Hotel and Convention Center

Nov. 19, 2014

My first encounter with Convoy of Hope was immediately following the devastating tornado that hit Joplin on May 22, 2011. After the compassion I witnessed from Convoy firsthand, I knew this was an organization that was close to my heart and the heart of my CEO, Jacquie Dowdy. I have been able to participate in several events: Restore Fest Joplin, Running with Convoy, and working with my team from University Plaza Hotel to pack food and supplies monthly at Hands of Hope. I also traveled to Haiti for a Hope Experience trip in 2012 and now the Hope Experience Ethiopia.

Our trip to Ethiopia began in Springfield after an overnight stay in Dulles, Va. We set out on our 15-hour flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. There are 22 people on this trip – 13 from Springfield, along with others from Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina – all going to experience firsthand what Convoy of Hope is doing on the ground in Ethiopia with women and children.

Below is a snapshot of what we will see.

Children’s feeding initiatives

Convoy of Hope is currently feeding 400 malnourished, high-risk children every school day through a public school in Addis Ababa. This particular school serves two communities where child hunger is chronic and HIV rates are high.

Women’s empowerment

The women’s empowerment program started in 2010 for the mothers of the children participating in the lunch program. These women have received training and startup capital so they can provide for their families. More than 1,600 women have graduated so far, achieving life-changing results. Last year alone, in the cities of Addis Ababa called Addis Ketema and Kolfe Keranio, 500 women participated in women’s empowerment life skills training, financial/vocational education and small-business startup training.

With the financial and vocational training provided, these women are engaging in income-generating activities in the areas of food processing, restaurants/catering, sewing, dairy production, creating handicrafts, textiles and more. The women are also educated in family health and nutrition, family planning and the prevention of communicable disease, HIV in particular.

In 2014, Convoy of Hope expects to provide at least 500 more Ethiopian women the opportunity to engage in the empowerment programs, in order to build self-esteem, grow small businesses, save money and generate income for their families. Convoy of Hope officials will continue serving the current locations and work to expand their impact into another community called Kora.

Over the next few days, I will be speaking with other Springfield business leaders on this trip about what is happening in Ethiopia.

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