Fridah Turned Her Dream Into Reality
“When I look at my dream chart and think about when I first made it to now, it gives me a lot of happiness, a lot of peace and a lot of hope. It helps me remember that if I’m working hard, I can go really far.” ‒ Fridah, 2nd year ZOE member (Kenya)
Social media allows our culture to daydream more than ever before. Scrolling through a Facebook feed often sparks feelings of jealousy or inadequacy, as it appears others are living a seemingly more exciting life. The idea of escaping our reality can be tempting, but does our reality really warrant escaping?
When Fridah was fourteen she lost her mother to illness. Since her father passed away when she was very young, the tragic loss of her only living parent left her the head of her household, responsible for three younger siblings ages 11, 9 and 7 at the time.
This is a situation worthy of fantasizing an escape plan.
The years that followed were the hardest of the young Kenyan girl’s life. To earn an income for her family, she dropped out of school to begin doing odd jobs in the community. Usually, her day consisted of cultivating a local farmer’s land: plowing, planting and harvesting fields by hand.
The labor was physically exhausting, especially on an empty stomach. Farmers would promise to pay Fridah in the form of a $1 or a meal at the end of the day, but, sometimes, they would choose to not deliver on their word. Those were the nights she begged for food in the village.
Eventually, her siblings also dropped out of school. Fridah couldn’t afford the school fees and uniforms, and she needed their help earning income to keep the family alive.
“Playing the role of both mother and father to my siblings was challenging and something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I remember feeling so alone, like no one else was suffering the way we were suffering. We didn’t have anyone to turn to. One time, I went to a relative’s home to ask for help, and they chased us away,” recalled Fridah.
Fridah and her family endured this way of life for three years before she was introduced to a ZOE empowerment group in 2017.
Soon after, her group created “dream charts”, or individualized plans for the future. Dreams, to Fridah, had always been just that, a dream—never anything that could be realized because her days were spent surviving. Dreams were for rich people who had parents, or so she thought, but that didn’t stop her from drawing a hair salon in the box signifying what she wanted to become through ZOE.
Even though she didn’t know what her future held, that little piece of paper told her that she had a dream. For the first time since her parents passed away, her dream chart made her feel hopeful. From that day forward, Fridah has kept her dream chart in a place where it can be easily seen.
Today, that place is on the mirror—in her hair salon.
Now, two years into the ZOE program, Fridah is experiencing great success with the hair salon business she was able to start with a micro-loan from her ZOE group. Her consistent income has enabled her to repay the business loan with interest to the group as well as pay back the money they loaned her to re-enroll her siblings in school.
Fridah’s ZOE group members also constructed a new home for her and her family, an act that is common among empowerment groups but only done for members who are most in need of adequate shelter. The recipient is not expected to pay back to the group for this gift.
“I could have never done this alone,” admits Fridah. “ZOE has given me and my family the opportunity for a better life. Everything I’ve learned through the program I always make sure to teach all my siblings.” Fridah’s younger sister (now 16) works with her in the hair salon.
Beyond influencing her family, Fridah’s impact can be felt by many young girls in her community whom she mentors at her salon. “I want to teach other children to have skills. I want to teach others how to do hair and have their own salon business, too,” she said.
While some of the girls want to learn hair styling, some just need a person to trust, to confide in. Fridah can identify with their pain and suffering and offers them support by providing them with basic jobs in her salon, like washing or drying a client’s hair.
Like many ZOE children, Fridah’s vivid remembrance of her past is what drives her to work hard in her business and give back to the organization that set her on the path to self-sufficiency. At the Thanksgiving in Tharaka event in September, Fridah donated $8 to ZOE.
“When I started to count up all the things that ZOE has done for me, there’s no way I could ever repay them,” explained Fridah. “Donating money to ZOE so other children can be helped the way I was helped is my way of giving back.”
With one year of the ZOE program left, Fridah is excited about what the future holds because it includes everything she and her family once went without: regular income, healthy meals, adequate shelter, clean clothing, access to healthcare, ability to pay for schooling, and most importantly, a strong sense of worthiness and a network of support.
Fridah is no longer dreaming of a better life because with the help of ZOE, she realized she had the ability to create it for herself, right where she was. A valuable perspective we can all keep in mind.
380 million children living in extreme poverty will rely on charity forever.
A monthly gift of $38 over 3 years empowers 5 orphans out of poverty to never need charity again. How many children can you give lasting sustainable change?