“My empowerment group, Divine Power, drove me to not discriminate because we are all coming from different backgrounds. We are able to come together to share ideas, to unite and to do things all together. It drove me to just see everyone as she is or as he is.”
‒ Welshman, 3rd year participant (Zimbabwe)
Strong feelings of uncertainty, skepticism and doubt filled the mind of Welshman as he arrived at the initial enrollment meeting with Zoe Empowers Zimbabwe. Although he, along with his ill mother and two siblings, were still grieving the loss of his father, the family’s sole provider, his selfless spirit and commitment to serve his family kept him motivated to survive. Their six-month participation with an outside aided program providing food and school fees to impoverished families, has just ended, and Welshman was desperate for help.
After the death of his father, Welshman was the first of his siblings to drop out of school to begin working piece jobs. He regularly washed clothes, tilled farmland and cared for crops, but his $1/day income was not enough to sustain them. They struggled to pay rent, and as a result, they were forced to move frequently. His mother’s illness required attention and resources he couldn’t provide, which added to his stress and responsibilities.
When relatives generously offered to care for his mother outside the home, Welshman and his young siblings, Troudlindsly and Munyaradzi, were left alone. Not knowing who else to turn to for support, the family attended various local meetings hosted by outside relief organizations. Welshman and his siblings found temporary comfort from the promises made in the meetings, only to be letdown when the organization didn’t follow-through.
“That’s why I thought Zoe Empowers was a joke at first, because of all the other organizations who made promises but did not deliver,” Welshman said. “I was tired of attending those types of meetings.” His lack of trust and hope manifested as tears as he described his situation to Zoe Empowers staff upon enrollment. Although he wanted food, clean clothing and all the other common needs desired by incoming children, Welshman expressed “he wanted to be loved” more than anything. His family was accepted into the program and began in April 2017.
Welshman worked with his siblings to create a dream chart almost immediately. The small family detailed their vision for their lives, which included Welshman owning his own business and earning enough income to send his siblings back to school. A small light drawn above a textbook in their dream chart indicated that education was the light for a bright future.
Inspired by a piece job he once had preparing bread dough, Welshman’s dream was to start his own bakery. His empowerment group, named Divine Power, encouraged him to pursue his dream, and they supported him with a micro loan to purchase flour, loaf pans and other supplies to get up and running. His first product was rolls, which he sold by networking with local shop owners in the community.
Within a few months, income from his baking business allowed him to re-enroll his siblings in school and care for his mother by providing funds for medication and nutritious meals. His mother’s noticeable health improvement brought him immense joy and served as motivation to continue working hard. “I know that when I was growing up, my mother fought for me. Now that she is sick, it’s my turn. God opened a way for us to do that through the Zoe Empowers program and it puts a smile on my face,” explained Welshman.
His group’s love and genuine compassion for him and his family began to fill the void for love he’d been missing since his father’s passing. Welshman was elected as the group’s secretary, a leadership role he cherishes.
In the first year of the program, Welshman’s bakery business grew steadily, until a flour shortage throughout the country in 2018 forced him to diversify his income stream, a strategy he wouldn’t have previously known had it not been for the business training Zoe Empowers provided him. Welshman opened up a second business selling second-hand clothing and shoes until he could obtain more flour to continue baking exclusively.
To remain crisis-resistant to any future flour shortages, Welshman registered with the Zimbabwe Bakery Association. As a paying member, he is guaranteed a flour delivery every two weeks. The Zimbabwe Bakery Association includes many of the country’s largest bakeries, making his involvement as a one-person shop even more impressive.
Now, half-way through his third year, the demand for Welshman’s bread is high. He no longer needs to walk through the village to sell his product. Instead, community members come right to his shop, which doubles as his home, to purchase baked goods. He has expanded from rolls to also making loaves and twists.
One bag of flour produces 700 rolls/twists and 120 loaves of bread. His current volume requires 12 bags of flour every other week. He doesn’t have employees, but his group members can often be found helping him unload flour bags or assisting him with his business, as needed. Welshman returns the favor to his friends when he can. He considers Divine Power to be more than a group, but a team and family that continually shares ideas.
Welshman’s dream for the future is to expand his bakery business by opening a small restaurant where he can serve homemade sausage, a skill he acquired while in the program, on his sausage buns. He also trained in perfume making and is, one day, considering starting a fragrance brand called ‘Grace’ or ‘Smile’.
For his siblings, he wishes to be a pillar of support as they achieve academic success and begin their own careers. Troudlindsly aspires to be a doctor, while Munyaradazi’s future plans are less defined. “She’s a dreamer,” Welshman said of Troudlindsly. “I just want to stand by her side and support her in her dreams.”
Outside of his business and group, Welshman can be found mentoring other children as the Vice Chairperson of his church’s youth group. Prior to joining Zoe Empowers, Welshman didn’t attend church because his torn, dirty clothes led to discrimation and isolation. Today, he is an active and effective member of the congregation.
Of all the life improvements Welshman has experienced since joining Zoe, he believes being loved by his friends in the Divine Power group has made the biggest impact and has most helped him overcome the challenges he faced as an orphan living in extreme poverty. To love and be loved has ignited his soul, which is reflected in his contagious smile and uplifting spirit. “Today, I’m just smiling,” he said, when talking about his experience in the program. “That’s all for me. I can’t express it more than just smiling.”
A monthly gift of $8 over three years empowers one orphan out of poverty.
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