At First United Methodist Church in Cary, NC (FUMCC), Zoe Empowers supporters invited congregation members support orphaned and vulnerable children in Zimbabwe by participating in a grant-based fundraiser called “Hope Grows.” Just like Zoe Empowers children start with a micro-grant and grow it into a thriving small business, FUMCC challenged congregants to receive an initial grant of $150 to initiate an Income Generating Projects (IGP) project to double, triple or quadruple it into a much greater gift to ZOE.
Zoe Empowers supporter Jeff Briggs, who was inspired by his trip to Zimbabwe to initiate IGPs at FUMCC, explained it this way:
“When I was in Zimbabwe last summer listening to the orphans talk about their income generating projects, something sounded familiar. After the orphans go through training, they are given grant money which allows them to start their own IGP. Some of the IGPs we saw were buying items to start a hair cutting business, raising livestock, and buying seeds to start a garden. Also, some used the funds to buy sheet metal and make buckets to sell, and one group had even purchased a machine to make peanut butter. It was so inspiring to see these kids take the opportunity that has been given them and turn it into something that can transform their life and give them hope and stability that they have not had in their lives.”
“I was reminded of a story my mom had told me that happened at her church. She said one of the members had given their senior pastor a monetary gift and told him to grow it. He took the money and laid it out on the altar rail $100 bill after $100 bill and asked members of the congregation to step out in faith, come forward, take the money and see what they could turn it into. It caused a great deal of excitement in their small farming community especially as they multiplied the money and did some wonderful things with it.”
At FUMCC, they created large posters of baobab trees (a tree of life) located around the church campus. Individuals or families signed out an envelope that has $150 seed money, FAQs and a list of ideas. They were given 90 days to complete their project,and return the seed money and their profits.
Initially when this idea was introduced, Helen Papageorgiou, Zoe Empowers Advocate, said the reaction was like “a deer in the headlights.” There was this feeling that “I can’t do an IGP. I don’t have any skills or services I can sell.” But after throwing around a few ideas, things got rolling. One team member made specialty granola and BBQ. Another is raffled off a custom oil painting of the winner’s pet. Others are organizing a neighborhood yard sale.When asked about his project, Joe Morrocco responded,
“I’m an avid bike rider which necessitates that I clean my own bike, so I’m offering a complete bike cleaning for $20.”
Two supporters who have elementary aged children, Stephanie Purdy and Stephanie Hanes, asked to let their children do an IGP. This evolved into a joint effort between the Zoe Empowers supporters and Vacation Bible School children. From this partnership, a number of 3rd – 6th graders sponsored their own beach boardwalk activities. All VBS attendees could pay a small price to participate in these fun games or buy a treat, with all proceeds going to Zoe Empowers.
Five-year-old Caroline Cassell heard about the IGP opportunity, and started her own project selling bracelets. Recently, FUMCC interviewed her about her very successful project.
Caroline, how did you learn about Zoe Empowers?
“Last year at church I got a little prayer doll named Washington to remind me that there is an orphan boy in Africa who needs help. I put him on a shell in my room and we pray for him.”
How did you decide to make bracelets and sell them?
“Mom was reading the VBS papers to me, and it said we are raising money for Zoe Empowers. Mommy asked me if I wanted to help the kids and I said I wanted to make jewelry.”
Were you already making bracelets?
“Yes, I make a lot of them for my friends, teachers, mom and cousin. I like wearing jewelry too.”
We see that you advertised your bracelets on FB for $5 each. How are your orders going so far?
“Great! I’ve sold about 40 so far. I sit down at my table and get out my bead kit and I start beading. And when I get tired I sing ‘just keep beading just keep beading, beading, beading’. People who live in different places have ordered them so we are mailing them to Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia and Texas.”
Are you surprised about the number of orders you’ve gotten?
“Yes! And I am excited.”