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A smiling woman holds up a bowl showing her harvest A smiling woman holds up a bowl showing her harvest
Zumera and Nasir, and their family

Meet Zumera and Nasir

From ashes to achievement

Ten years ago, Zumera and her husband Nasir lost their home, belongings and cattle in a fire.

"We started life from scratch," she says. "We moved in with my parents for nine months. The local administration gave us a piece of land, where we made a small thatch-roofed house."

Turning adversity into opportunity, Nasir worked tirelessly to farm while Zumera had a small business selling cooking oil, eggs and grain. They invested their earnings in livestock, and now the family shares a four-room house with a corrugated iron roof. Proud of her achievements, Zumera wants other families to succeed too.

"A dream for my villagers is to see the whole community change their thatch-roofed houses to corrugated iron houses, to have a clean water supply for the village, to see all families send their children to school and to have a preschool centre," she says.

Zumera's community spirit extends to her work as treasurer for the local savings and loan group. Through Plan and a partner organization, she trained in record keeping and believes small loans can improve the lives of all villagers. With six cows and two oxen, Zumera has proven skills in husbandry and livestock trading, which she also shares with the other women in the microfinance group.

Having left school to marry when she was 14, Zumera appreciates the value of education and is working hard to ensure her children can complete theirs.

"We are working to provide all we can for our children's education," she says. "I have a dream of sending all my children to university to reach the level they want to be."

A family working together

Meet Hadhasultan

Family strength

When she lost her husband to typhoid six years ago, Hadhasultan, who had never attended school, feared for the future.

"Even I was not sure the family would stick together, and I was unsure how to continue normal life," she says. "It was a desperate time and situation." Her grief was compounded when village tradition required she slaughter her only animal, an ox, to feed the community after her husband's funeral.

But her perseverance helped keep her family together, and she instilled in her three children a strong work ethic and a profound sense of family loyalty.

Rallying to support their mother and each other, her eldest son Awol, 25, now manages the farm work, while Amino, 18, works as a shopkeeper. Daughter Zara, 20, cooks, cleans, fetches water, runs a small market business selling bananas, mangoes and eggs and even saves half her weekly earnings. Zara is interested in learning more about the savings and loan group in her village.

"I am learning more about it and hope to be a member where I can save some money and get a loan to expand my business and buy a cow, so that I can support my family much better," Zara says.

In time, Hadhasultan is confident the family will move from a thatched hut to a corrugated iron house, Zara can expand her business and Amino will finally be able to attend vocational school.

A mother with her children

Meet Mashire and Abanega

Solar empowerment

In this small Ethiopian village, sunshine illuminates the lives of Mashire and Abanega's family and other members of their community. With support from Plan, the local school was equipped with solar panels so that it can be lit for evening classes. This allows children who help with family tasks during the day to go to school afterwards.

Though Mashire, 30, finished grade three before marriage, and her husband never went to school, they've made education a priority for their seven children. All their school-age children attend classes including eldest son, Nasibo, 15, who goes to school in the evenings after helping his father each day with farming and caring for the cattle.

Like other members of the community, their livelihood depends on crops including maize, banana, avocado and gat (a plant stimulant that is chewed). When money for school supplies is scarce, Nasibo and Rashida, 12, help earn extra income selling bananas, oranges and other food items.

"My children make income from this small business and cover their stationery and clothing costs," says Mashire. "They have to sell on a market day and sometimes they miss classes."

The irony of missing school to fund educational necessities is not lost on Mashire, who looks forward to her family earning enough money without the children having to attend market days. She's optimistic that with assistance to purchase more fruit and vegetable seedlings, their lives will improve.

A woman holds up a bowl

Meet Meka and Abajihad

Plan for the future

Meka and Abajihad know only too well the problems that poverty can bring. A few years ago, they lost both their seven-year-old son and five-year-old daughter to malaria.

"Our village is in a malaria zone and many children die every year because of malaria," says Meka. "The nearest health centre is a four-hour walk away, and many malaria-infected children are seriously ill and even die before they can reach it."

Moving forward from that tragic time, Meka , 40, and Abajihad, 47, are trying to create a stable life for their remaining four children, aged 10 to 20. It's a constant struggle with their farm barely producing enough to feed the family.

"Too much rain or too little rainfall both reduce our production," says Meka. "During hard times we sell red peppers or banana to make ends meet and cover school stationery and clothing costs for my children."

Through Community Sponsorship, Meka hopes that she'll learn more about farming techniques and have access to drought-resistant fruit and vegetable strains. As well, increased malaria protection, access to clean water and a water facility that would allow year-round vegetable farming would improve her life and the lives of other villagers.

Zewuyda, Muhadine and family

Meet Zewuyda and Muhadine

Small business, big dreams

Zewuyda Abamecha, a mother five children aged four to 17, has big dreams for the future. "I dream of expanding my business and constructing a shopping centre where I can sell grain and other items, and ensuring a stable life for my children and their education," she says.

A spirited entrepreneur, Zewuyda, 34, has long been aware that hard work has its rewards. When she was 16, her father insisted she leave school to get married. With no dowry, she was determined to support her growing family. She reinvested money earned from selling handmade weavings to buy grain, which she later sold in the market, eventually saving enough to construct a four-room wood and mud house with a corrugated-iron roof. Their old thatch roofed hut now shelters their nine cows.

Given her initiative and success, it's not surprising that Zewuyda leads the 15-member village saving and loan group. Introduced by Plan and a partner organization, it finances small trade and the opportunity to increase assets by buying sheep and chickens. Trained in management and record keeping, the women are upgrading their skills and investing in small businesses.

Despite Zewuyda's business, life remains challenging for her family. The children must fetch water from a small spring one and a half hours away, and the nearest health clinic is a one-hour walk. Two of her children spend hours walking to school, but her youngest doesn't attend at all as there is no preschool in their village. A shortage of land is causing many families to look for alternatives to farming, and Zewuyda and Muhadine are no exception.

"I want all my children to become health professionals," says Zewuyda.

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