As we approached Amsale’s home, Dakota and I both began feeling nervous. We felt like we knew her despite never meeting her before. G.O. had met her on a previous trip, but was still very excited as well. We felt like fans waiting to meet their favorite music artist. We parked the van on a dirt road in Korah and stepped out. As Dakota mentioned how excited he was, I looked down the road and saw Amsale walking out to greet us.

We each greeted her with a long hug. We followed her as she led us into her home. As our eyes adjusted from the light to dark, she pointed to the wooden platform where she slept and a small footstool for us to sit on. Our group and our translator Elias squeezed into the small room. We were placed in a circle, knees touching. Amsale sat with her back against a large wooden chest. Through its glass panes, we could see beautiful plates and bowls she had collected.

Amsale began preparing coffee for us while we spoke to her through Elias. Amsale was proud to tell us about her three businesses; scarves, necklaces, and a corner store that she opened up the road. With this income, she is saving up to move into a condominium, something unheard of for women of Korah.

It was nearly two years ago when Amsale began I Pour Life’s Empowerment Program. Before, she had been a beggar, living on the streets. One of the first successes for her was beginning to rent the home we now sat in. She told us that when she moved in, there was no furniture at all in the room. She had nearly nothing then. Now she had beautiful furniture and even a small television in her home.

“First I convince myself I can complete the task, then I set out to do it.”

This confidence and work ethic is a big reason for her success. She remains humble, though.

“I am grateful to God and thank Him every day. Sometimes I wonder how all this happened.”

We told Amsale that while we biked across America, we told many people about her hard work and success. Because of her example, many people gave to help other women in Korah.

Amsale smiled and bowed her head.

“Thank you”

Once the coffee was ready, we stepped out into the sun to sit and drink it. She served traditional Ethiopian coffee to us in beautiful tea cups. It was bold and sweet, a delicious midday treat for us.

Amsale asked Dakota, who is a barista by trade,

“Is my coffee better than yours?”

Dakota misunderstood the question and exclaimed, “No!”

We all laughed together as the translator explained that he meant to say hers was better.

Amsale’s hospitality and warmth was an incredible encouragement to us. She is the perfect picture of the potential so many individuals in this community have. Though dozens of woman have gone through the program since she did, and certainly many more will, Amsale continues to lead the way as an example of what the Women’s Economic Empowerment Program graduates can achieve.

Photos by Joseph Bulger and Dakota Graff.

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