By Nancy Porter

The HOPE+ ET program seeks to alleviate the need for HIV+ mothers to relinquish their children and was born out of a desire to honor the birth mothers of Project HOPEFUL children. The goal of the Project HOPEFUL HOPE+Sisterhood program is to Help Others Perform Excellently through a determination to provide HOLISTIC care for infected mothers and their families in order to prevent unnecessary loss. These goals will be achieved by emotionally, spiritually and physically supporting families with HIV+ persons (primarily mothers) by providing them access to vital medical care, helping them obtain self –sustainability, and linking mothers to “sisters” in the US who will develop relationships for support and friendship.

Our goal is that Mothers won’t have to place their children in orphanages because of inability to provide for her family. Women will NOT be vilified because of their HIV status. We want these women to know that THEY MATTER! Project HOPEFUL wishes to provide HOPE to mothers in Ethiopia and connect them to women in the U.S.

The Program is broken down into 3 phases:

Phase one: Rehabilitation program in the recovery center. This “in-house” phase includes counseling, nutritional education, sanitation education, as well as medical evaluation and treatment for the women and their children. It lasts approximately 2 months. While in phase one, the women also identify possible job skill training opportunities. A home visit is performed to assess whether or not the occupation they choose is appropriate for their living situation. We also provide 3 meals a day as well as a snack for the mothers and their children during their time in the program in additional to covering transportation charges and any needed clothing.

Phase two: Economic empowerment program (job skills training according to each woman’s interest). During this phase, the women move back into their individual homes (but still meet weekly with the other women in the program). They undergo training in an occupation of their choosing. They also choose a “group income producing project” which they partake in with other members of their group. This project will continue to tie the women together long after they leave the program. “To educate a man is to educate his family; to educate a woman is to educate the world”

Phase three: Monitoring, Evaluation and documentation program (follow-up care). A micro-financing loan is also provided in order to launch her small business.

Recently one of our sponsors had the opportunity to meet the sisters in the the rehab center. She writes:

I had the wonderful opportunity of visiting the Project HOPEFUL Bete-Se’ida program in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia a few weeks ago. I was welcomed by Yafalem, the program director, who took me into the room where the sisters were focused and happy learning how to cross stitch a beautiful sitting mat. A graduate from the 2 month program was teaching the other women. The energy in the room was happy and filled with children’s laughter with babies running around, some hiding behind their mothers’ dresses and others curiously coming up to me and playfully pushing their little hands out to share a high 5.

The women were anxious to share their work with me. I then had the opportunity to interview the women and ask questions such as how the program had changed their lives. One woman said that the program had given her a new confidence on life and while she was very depressed before she joined the program, she now feels good about herself and confident that she can go out and begin a business, help support her family and keep her family. They asked me to stay for lunch and we sat in a small circle and had a beautiful meal of beef stew and of course, injera. It was magical watching the women roll the injera up filled with stew and feeding their hungry children. After lunch, coffee was served, of course, and I participated…as always.

Afterwards, I went to visit the orphanage right next door. I always enjoy this visit. I held the babies, played with the school children and talked with the helpers to find out what extra things needed for their daily care, thinking about how we could help them.

The highlight of the visit was visiting Tsion, a graduate of the 2 month program for women. Yafalem drove me to her place of work and as we walked in I saw 4 women with chef hats on with HUGE smiles selling lentils and spices. They also had a coffee ceremony going on continuously for anyone who wanted to partake. The market was bustling for the coming of the Christmas holiday, which is January 7th in Ethiopia. Tsion joined the program as a very desperate women: depressed, unstable, sick and unable to take good care of her children. You would never know that this was the same Tsion when I was introduced to her that day. Her smile was infectious and she was so proud, rightfully so, of her business. She and I and Yafalem then drove to her home and visited her family. They are building a new beautiful home and I met her darling daughter.

It seems that in this day and age, many think that HIV and AIDS equal to not having a life filled with any productivity or happiness. Project Hopeful however has not given up on these women and the project is truly changing women’s’ lives…a few at a time. And isn’t this how the world is changed….caring, loving, helping, friendship..no matter what color, what sickness, no matter how rich or poor. Girlfriends helping girlfriends…Tsion took my hand as we walked back to the car and my life, once again, was changed forever.

-Marla

We are currently in need of 15 more US Sisters to sponsor our Ethiopian Sisters. If you would like more information, please contact me at nancy@projecthopeful.org