Earlier this year, the Ethiopian government passed a law banning international adoption. It broke our heart because we know how full the orphanages are in Ethiopia. As an organization whose heartbeat is orphan prevention, we realize this new law has elevated the importance of what we do. Empower women with a skill and provide them with a job, which in turn gives them a way to provide for their own children and preserves the family.
With this change, we saw an opportunity to reimagine what kind of impact and influence our organization could have in our city. After all, the best way we can serve our community is to adapt to the needs in the community, right?
What if we provided a hand-up before teenage girls get married, become moms, drop out of school, or resort to everything and anything to survive? Finding a job for teenage girls who are still in school is difficult, because they need to go to school during work hours… and there are only certain kinds of jobs, if any, that are flexible with their school schedule.
One of the orphanages we have a solid partnership with is Kidane Mehret Orphanage. In January when this new law passed, we met with Sister Lutgarda and asked how we could help her and the kids we all love. The first words out of her mouth were, “Help the girls who turn 17 and age out of the orphanage. Help them find a job and make sure they stay in school.”
- 130 million girls between the age of 6 and 17 are out of school — half of them in sub-Saharan Africa— will never enter a classroom. (UNESCO)
- Girls with 8 years of education are 4 times less likely to marry as children. (National Academic Press)
- Educated moms are more than twice as likely to send their kids to school. (Unicef)
- In the developing world, a girl with one extra year of education can earn 20% more income as an adult. (The World Bank)
So that’s what we are doing.
We are excited to share we have hired two 18-year-old girls, Lem Lem and Himanot. These two rock star teenagers aged out of Kidane Orphanage at 17 years old, and are living together with four other teenage girls who have a similar story. They have a foreigner who sponsors the group of six girls, which was set up by Kidane before the girls transitioned out. The sponsorship covers rent, groceries, and school fees. They are still attending school, and Lem Lem will graduate high school in one month, and Himanot has one more full year to go until graduation.
They called Henok (because he has been serving at Kidane Orphanage since they were 9 years old) and told him they were both looking for a job that would work with their school schedule. This is what Lem Lem said on the phone:
“It’s frustrating to be dependent on someone else. I want to be able to support myself and make decisions about what I do with my money. I want to do more. Learning a skill and having a job will be good for me so I can stand up on my own feet.”
We affirmed their desire to stand up on their own feet, and encouraged them the best thing they can do for their future is to work hard and learn as much as they can so they don’t have to depend on someone else to provide.
Then we hired them. And told them as long as they stay in school and finish school, they have a job with us.
The Carry 117 ladies are training them to make our new leather earrings, and our leather snap bracelets. They are learning to measure, trace, cut, and stamp leather.
We’re excited to see what God will do through this new step we have taken as an organization, and we are praying the ladies of Carry 117 become influential role models to these teenage girls, who may not have ever had a mother figure in their life.
We may not be able to help every single girl as she ages out of the orphanage, but we can help one.
And because we know we can be proactive in supporting these girls, we also believe that this is an investment worth making, and an opportunity worth providing.
Remember, when you carry our product, you carry our story, and the stories of each of these girls. Thank you.