Small Investment: Huge Returns

IGA participants in EthiopiaBy: Heather McGugan, TFC Board member “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime” (Chinese Proverb) Therefore, rather than giving handouts, the Forsaken Children and Onesimus work hard to teach children and families in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia how to fish.

During my December 2010 journey to Ethiopia, I researched and experienced Onesimus’ new program – a program exemplifying this well known proverb beautifully.

Although the new program is still in its trial and infancy stage, Income Generation Activity (IGA) has already blessed and transformed five families. IGA’s vision and goal includes helping reduce a family’s dependency on the support of others and creating an atmosphere in which families can help themselves.

The program:

  1. Provides a financial gift to the parents or guardians of Onesimus beneficiaries who are the poorest of the poor,
  2. Transforms the family’s dependency on others (i.e. begging), and
  3. Empowers them to provide for themselves through their own business.

The financial gift of about $60, an amount relatively small in the American terms, is a substantial amount for the IGA families and gives them the jump start they need to start a new life.

While in Ethiopia, my husband and I went with Nega, the director of Onesimus, Seble and Mesfin, both social workers for Onesimus, to visit the homes and businesses of four of the current five IGA participants. Each woman beamed with excitement and pride as they showed us their fruits – the result of the gift from Onesimus, their hard labor and ultimately God’s blessing and provision.

The moments spent with those women are unforgettable moments of God’s work.

Although each story communicated God’s hand in this project, one woman in particular stands out to me. I believe her story puts into perspective that even our small financial contributions can produce large results in Ethiopia. This participant is the grandmother of one of the beneficiaries. Prior to IGA, she lived with another family and sold charcoal and small amounts of produce in order to make a meager living for her family.

Tragically, the government confiscated the land where she lived to build condominiums. This left her family homeless.

Through IGA, this woman received the money for three months rent (55 USD or 18 USD per month) toward a new home. This home provided security for her whole family: her daughter and two grandchildren, keeping them off of the streets. In addition, this money enabled this woman to use what little money she had for her business.

After three months, this woman proudly stood on her own – free of handouts - thanks to IGA. Her business is doing well and continues to provide monthly for her family. She learned to “fish” because someone took the time to teach her how.

I experienced first hand that a small financial contribution produces large results when placed in God’s hands.

This is an IGA success story – a God moment of provision and transformation.