For orphaned youth, life revolves around survival. They quit school to find work. When $1/day doesn’t feed their family, they beg, steal, or starve. Exploited, abused and sick, they suffer in the shadows. Eventually, they lose hope, battling a cycle that is unfixable by relief-based aid or foster care systems that lack resources.
Through a three-year, locally-led program, orphaned youth are organized into groups of 60-100 children and receive micro grants, life skills, and vocational training to become secure, healthy, and connected community members.
Welshman once relied on outside aid programs to feed his family. After Zoe equipped him with skills to open a bakery, he stopped depending on charity—for good.
Youth are immediately taught about nutrition, safe food storage, agriculture, and animal husbandry. Within twelve months, they’re growing and buying food, plus selling or sharing surplus. Participants living on the street or in dilapidated homes receive assistance in acquiring secure housing with business profits and/or small grants to repair, rent, or purchase land and building materials.
Youth learn hygiene and disease prevention, such as hand washing, mosquito net installation, and latrine construction. Many children enter the program suffering from illnesses, so Zoe staff facilitate access to medical care.
Youth are trained about human rights and gender equality. Up until this point, many participants are unaware they have rights and lack the resources to enforce them. With support from Zoe Empowers and their peers, they become advocates for themselves, and in some cases, receive assistance to seek justice.
Youth are forced to drop out of school to find work when they become orphaned. In year one, Zoe Empowers assists them to re-enroll in school. By year three, many of the program participants already have sufficient funds from their business profits to pay for their own, and their sibling’s, school fees and supplies. Some even go on to attend college and beyond.
Youth receive a small grant at the beginning of the program in conjunction with business training. Children develop a business plan and are provided guidance in executing their vision. Subsequent lessons are given on accounting, investing, and how to leverage their funds for long-term success.
Youth are encouraged to pursue individualized training in their vocation of choice using resources from their group. Zoe graduates often become mentors in their community and/or employ other vulnerable youth, amplifying the ripple effect of empowerment.
Sharleen suffered abuse and neglect even before she became pregnant at age 15. Through Zoe, she found meaningful connections and discovered her strength and resiliency as a young mother.
Youth experience a sense of comfort and belonging in their Zoe Empowers peer group, and their customers bear witness their talents and transformation. As their businesses succeed, the children grow increasingly independent and confident. They move from beggars to employers and feel valued in their community.
Youth often reunite with siblings and adult relatives with the agency of income and knowledge of how to enforce their human rights to avoid possible future abuse.
While Zoe Empowers is a religiously non-restrictive program, children experience the gospel in both action and words in ways that are always inviting but never coercive. The majority of participants find joy and meaning in collective prayer and feel confident attending worship.
Travel with us to witness the empowerment model in action and how Zoe Empowers is changing lives socially, economically, and spiritually.
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