WHERE IT ALL STARTED
In December of 2019 I felt called by God to travel to Ethiopia. I always had an interest in humanitarian work but I had doubts that I wasn't qualified to actually do the work. While preparing for my missions trip, I prayed that I would be used in a way to be a light in other people's lives. While in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for nearly 2 weeks I discovered my purpose of helping women and their families in this third world country. I was so amazed at the level of faith these women had despite the circumstances they live with such as barely having money to feed their babies, no job, and HIV positive. As I traveled through the Cherkos community with the Noah's Ark team and sat on the dirt floor homes of these women, I told myself I would not return back home to the states without putting action behind my words. I've been designing since I was 15 years old and I've never asked myself these 2 simple questions, "Why am I designing?" "Are my designs helping people?" I had an answer to the first question, but not the second. I reached out to Michelle Perry, the founder of the non-profit organization OLCM Africa and told her I would love to design and produce a product that would allow me to donate a portion of my profits to the Cherkos project. I immediately got to work.
Here we are 9 months later in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and I have completed the "New Flower" collection inspired by my missions trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
If you would like to donate or learn more about OLCM Africa x Noah's Ark and their Cherkos project, see below.
WHO IS OLCM AFRICA?
OLCM Africa is a Christ-centered, non-profit organization committed to pursuing healthy community development in African nations confined by poverty.
Africa has often been labeled synonymously with famine, drought, civil war, genocide, HIV/AIDS, various epidemics, poverty and oppression. Colonization and poor development models have caused more harm than help for individuals to realize their full personal and national potential.
Since 2003, OLCM Africa has assisted in empowering local communities to participate in their own development, restoring their sense of dignity, purpose, and freedom. We work alongside local churches, leaders and organizations to activate a unique and holistic approach. This approach combines leadership development, spiritual formation, economic empowerment, quality education, as well as health and wellness to create lasting freedom from poverty.
We believe in a day where the most vulnerable and marginalized in Africa will have life and have it in abundance (John 10:10). A day when people will walk in their God given gifts and talents, a day when people can experience health & wholeness and a day when economic empowerment will create freedom from oppression. A day when the perceptions of Africa will be changed and the beauty and success of her people will be highlighted.
OLCM AFRICA MISSION
We exist to empower people living in poverty and to bring about lasting transformation in Africa’s most vulnerable communities.
PARTNERSHIP WITH NOAH’S ARK AIDS PREVENTION ASSOCIATION
One of the keys to bringing about lasting transformation in Africa is for each project we participate in to be locally designed, driven and sustainable. We at OLCM Africa come along side our friends to create strategic partnerships in a healthy reciprocated way that makes this possible.
One such locally driven initiative is through our 6 year partnership with Doctor Frew Tegene and Noah’s Ark AIDS Prevention Association or Yenoh Merkeb as it’s known locally in Amharic. With over 30 plus years of experience as a medical doctor, he has dedicated his life to the fight against HIV/AIDS and caring for the most destitute in Ethiopia. He is passionate about bringing to light the growing rate of commercial sex work in Ethiopia and the desperate need to mitigate its strong hold in the battle to curb HIV/AIDS. Together we are working on a project in the Cherkos slums of Addis Ababa called Love Never Fails.
Cherkos is known as one of the capital city’s notorious red light districts where women living in extreme poverty have been forced into prostitution for generations as a means of survival. During the Italian Occupation of Addis Ababa from 1936-1941, the Italians established a military camp in Cherkos. Women living in the surrounding areas were taken as wives by the Italian military officers as well as forced to provide commercial sex services. After the departure of the Italian military, these women, who were mostly uneducated or from rural areas were ashamed to go back to their homes. They continued living in Cherkos thereby perpetuating the vicious cycle that has now passed on from grandmother to daughter to granddaughter. Due to poverty this vicious pattern still thrives with women coming from rural areas in hopes of finding employment and a better life in the capital city, but instead their vulnerability makes them prey to brokers in bus stations recruiting them into commercial sex work. Cherkos being one of the poorest and poverty stricken slums of Addis Ababa has made the life of every poor woman; a life at-risk. Women and girls working in commercial sex work feel trapped. They fear is they stop working as prostitutes; they will have no other financial means to provide food, shelter, care for their families or to survive. Women working in red light districts such as Cherkos make less than $1 for one sexual act; forcing them to work sometimes 24-hour a day cycles. Many sleep and work in the same rented room made of rusted metal walls and dirt floors that are not much bigger than 6 feet by 8 feet in length. Often these women have children and are forced to work while their children are still in the room.
With the rate of poverty and unemployment growing, so is the rate of forced sex work and HIV/AIDS. 74% of the women currently working in the red light districts of Addis Ababa are estimated to be HIV positive.
It is our hope through Love Never Fails to decrease the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS in this highly vulnerable community and to economically empower at-risk women living in Cherkos. Our team provides economic empowerment through our hand up rather than a hand out philosophy. We empower women through various opportunities in other income generation activities, money management and basic business skills. They are then assisted to open a savings account; given a small start-up capital and can begin a small business. Many have used their own innovation and creativity to make and sell food to day laborers, sell other items in the marketplace, bake and sell the staple local bread injera, and others sew and sell handmade items. These sustainable jobs and skills, allow them to to provide for themselves and their families. We are also committed to educating young girls so that they will not follow their mother’s footsteps into the generational cycle of prostitution. Love Never Fails also provides HIV prevention education in the community and at the local schools. We provide care to those living with HIV or who may be unable to care for themselves. Our team provides educational scholarships, tuition assistance and school supplies twice a year so that each child is assured of a better future.
We believe that every woman who is given a chance to hope, to dream or to have meaningful employment will leave prostitution forever and with it a future away from shame and humiliation. We believe that we can curb the spread of HIV/AIDS and provide a different and brighter future for at-risk women and children living in poverty in Cherkos. It is friends like you who turn yesterday’s long night into tomorrow’s break of dawn through your hand of partnership (African Proverb).