Rising Up: How Obald Baked His Community Out of Poverty
“I use to be so angry. I thought God forgot about me,” said Obald. “I know now that God has a plan for me. I am reminded of God’s blessings when I share my bread with all the children… It is my responsibility to help others.”
Living in the U.S., the epicenter of fad diets, it’s nearly impossible to avoid marketing messages surrounding the health reasons to avoid eating bread. One walk through the bakery aisle filled with an array of dietary options makes it easy to lose sight of other parts of the world that don’t view bread as a carb-loaded enemy or the reason their jeans don’t fit.
In fact, it can be quite the opposite.
For Obald, a 2017 Zoe Empowers program graduate in Rwanda, bread completely transformed his quality of life and instilled a sense of hope, pride, and excitement he had never felt before.
Obald began his journey with Zoe Empowers in 2015. Prior to that time, he relied on street begging for money or doing hard labor – where he was often taken advantage of and abused – for food to survive.
Upon entering the Zoe Empowers empowerment program, Obald was placed in a group of roughly 100 of his local peers. The group chose to call themselves Amashimwe, which means “Praising God,” and together they received training on how to start and operate small businesses.
Obald noticed a need for fresh baked goods and bread in his community. With his little working knowledge of baking and support from his empowerment group, he was inspired to take action and start his own bakery.
ZOE helped Obald develop a business plan and his empowerment group provided a micro-loan which enabled Obald to rent a space, buy necessary supplies and materials, and hire one of his empowerment group members, Felicien, along with a member from the community, Ferdinand.
Together, the three managed the measuring, mixing, and hand-rolling of their goods. They used an oven built of clay and heated with logs for baking the bread. The final products were sold in local markets, on the street, and to people passing through town.
Over the course of only a few short months, the bakery saw immense success, often selling out of its daily yield. To maintain the growth of his bakery, Obald hired more of his group and community members proudly paying them a fair wage.
Personally, Obald profits almost $10 a day. When he recalls his days of begging on the streets for $1 to buy food, he is overwhelmed with gratitude. Beyond his expanded network of friends and respect within the community, his bakery and time with Zoe Empowers has forever changed his perspective on life.
Most importantly, he feels more supported than ever by his faith in God. “I use to be so angry. I thought God forgot about me,” said Obald. “I know now that God has a plan for me. I am reminded of God’s blessings when I share my bread with all the children… It is my responsibility to help others.”
Looking ahead, Obald dreams of expanding the bakery so he can employ more of the community’s youth. He also hopes to get married to a girl who has the same qualities he learned in the Zoe Empowers program: Christian, hardworking, loving, accepting of his friends, and beautiful.
Felicien and Ferdinand have also experienced positive community acceptance and personal growth as a result of their involvement with the bakery. “Everyone wants to know me and be my friend,” explained Felicien. Gone are the days of feeling sad and being called “hopeless.”
While monetary earnings are an important measure of Obald’s and the entire Amashimwe Group’s success, the abundance of smiles and laughter heard at the bakery every day are undoubtedly the intangible signs of another victory in the fight against poverty in Rwanda—and a low-key reminder to the U.S. diet-crazed culture that bread is not evil.
380 million children living in extreme poverty will rely on charity forever.
$8 a month can change that.
It only takes $8 a month for three years to bring a child from begging for food as a way to survive to never relying on charity again. How many children’s lives will you change?
Author, Katie Virnig is a Millennial freelance writer who is inspired to influence positive change through meaningful storytelling. She believes the eradication of poverty is possible in her lifetime.