Our Story

We empower orphaned children and youth-led, vulnerable families to overcome poverty, move beyond charity, and experience meaningful lives.

Through a global network of local organizations, Zoe Empowers provides a scalable and sustainable framework in which vulnerable youth-led families are equipped to become safe and healthy, skilled for long-term success, and supported within their community to overcome the orphan crisis.

Our history

Zoe Empowers began in 2004, as a response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Zimbabwe.  Initially, our work consisted of feeding programs, medical services, and other relief activities for vulnerable children through schools and churches.

In 2007, Zoe was introduced to a radically new way of empowering orphaned kids and youth-led families to become self-sufficient.  This approach was designed by Epiphanie Mujawimana with a group of Rwandan social workers responding to the 800,000 orphaned children created over 100 days during the 1994 genocide. Epiphanie and her colleagues had grown frustrated with the endless cycles of relief and dependency upon that financial support. Instead of asking “what can we do to serve children?”  Epiphanie and her team asked, “What would these young people need in order to help themselves?”  And with that question in mind, they designed a three-year, community-based, indigenous-led empowerment program, where the participants take the lead in their own journey out of poverty and provide their basic needs themselves. And it worked beyond belief!

Seeing the effectiveness of Epiphanie’s program, Zoe transitioned out of relief work, and supported Epiphanie in bringing this approach to Kenya in addition to Rwanda, and then to Zimbabwe.   

Since 2007, Zoe Empowers has translated the empowerment model across cultures and contexts, impacting over 188,000 vulnerable children, across nine countries: Kenya, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Liberia, Tanzania, Mozambique, India, and South Sudan. Each program within the Zoe network is locally owned and operated, with support from a nimble U.S.-based team.

The Zoe Empowers model is distinctive and effective because of its focus on self-sufficiency to serve children to have stronger families. The goal is to not do anything for program participants that they could otherwise do for themselves. Our approach has proven that orphans have the necessary gifts and abilities to overcome extreme poverty; they lack only opportunity and support. Once on the path toward self-sufficiency, every child becomes increasingly independent, quickly moving beyond the need for charity, both in the present and future.

The future is empowerment.

Zoe Empowers is leading the growing movement toward participant-centric empowerment solutions. We are actively growing Zoe’s network and are excited to share this approach with other organizations who serve children looking for proven, sustainable solutions to an ongoing orphan humanitarian crisis.