HOPE+ Sisterhood

Clothes, Shoes & Smiles with Hope+Sisterhood Ethiopia

“How has the Hope+Sisterhood impacted  your life?” Nancy and Debbie asked that question to each of the women who were interviewed while we were in Ethiopia. I expected to hear most women talk of the financial side of the program.  It seemed like the obvious answer.  These women had been struggling to be able to feed their children every day before they entered the program and now all of them had bank savings account books to show us. That kind of dramatic financial improvement seemed like it would have to be the first things out of these women’s mouths when asked about the program’s impact. Over and over again, their answer surprised me. All of the women talked first of the nutrition and hygiene training the program provided.  With animated faces they told us how they’ve learned that lentils and eggs are inexpensive ways to add protein to their diet and boost their CD4 counts.  Many also mentioned learning that washing vegetables with clean water before preparing a salad can also be an important part of keeping them strong and healthy. These women understood that start up capitol for a business would take their lives nowhere without the knowledge and skill to stay healthy.

To take this educational component a step farther, Debbie wanted to give the ladies a dental seminar. My dentist is a personal friend and someone with whom I have worked on past missions trips, so we decided that my sister and I would be the ones to spearhead this.  Our goal was to help the women understand that good dental hygiene could have as much impact on keeping a healthy CD4 count as the knowledge about protein they were now using daily. […]

Women at the Top of a Mountain

Our next day visiting women was an absolute blast.  We visited three women who embody everything that the Sisterhood is about.  Two of the three are illiterate, two had been victims of human trafficking, all were given HIV by men who mistreated and abandoned them and all of them entered the program with the odds stacked against them.  Instead of despair, all three of these women welcomed us into well cared for homes and were excited to show us evidence of their health, happiness and successful businesses.

After a steep climb up the backside of Mt. Entoto we were welcomed into Nunu’s home by her 18 year old daughter.  Nunu was on her way back from the clinic where she had gone to get a copy of her most recent CD4 count so that we could see proof of her progress.  She entered the program with a CD4 count of 250 and now is at 356 even though she has been sick recently.

Before the program Nunu earned a small amount of money by gathering firewood at the top of the mountain and carrying it down on her back.  The program has let her become a business woman who now buys the firewood and resells it along with coal and Eucalyptus leaves.  She is making a good living that has given her the resources her to buy a bed and no longer have to sleep on the floor.  She was excited to show us her kitchen area with a large basket full of vegetables.  She pointed it out to show us the drastic improvement in her life. She said, “Never before in my life have I been able to buy and eat such quality food.”  She […]

HOPE+ Sisterhood Stories!

Each morning after breakfast, we set off with our trusted driver, Danny, to the neighborhood of the sisters who are expecting us.  We visited four sisters today who all live near to each other and seem to have developed a special bond since being in the program together.  Four sisters stories might take a while, so grab a cup of buna and come on back!

Our morning started at the home of Melkamnesh.  Instead of the normal routine of the Ethiopian sister answering questions asked to her by the Project Hopeful staff, this visit felt like we had walked into a prepared report.  Melkanmnesh was ready for us and excited to tell us many things.  She is now living with her parents in a multi-room home and is running her own business that allows her to help support her parents – but just a short while ago things were very different.

Her family is large and poor. Her parents arranged a marriage for her when she was a young teenager as a way to keep her fed.  When she became pregnant she also found out that she had contracted the HIV virus.  She felt that her life was at an end because of the virus. Her baby was born. Her marriage ended. She remarried as a way to pool resources and survive but then when she was pregnant she was abandoned again.  Her second son was born early because she was so sick and had to stay in the hospital for two months.  She tried to support her two sons by selling vegetables by the roadside and then weaving cloth for an employer but describes their existence as hand to mouth which gave her no hope for […]

Ethiopia Hope+Sisterhood Needs You!



There is no Momma who dreams about her child crying from hunger.  No momma hopes that someday she will die before her children become adults.  I’ve never heard a mother whisper prayers over her children asking God to help them find their way into slavery.

No. A Momma’s heart beats out a single note for her children – life.  She wants to watch them thrive in new opportunities that come from education.  She wants to touch muscles in their shoulders strong enough to work and play. She wants to kiss them each night and assure them that they aren’t alone.

Many women raising their children in Ethiopia must feel like these dreams require a treacherous walk across a mine field.  Children living in poverty suffer long lasting effects of malnutrition.  They are often too weak to go to school and fall behind.  28% of children who die in Ethiopia die simply for a lack of adequate nutrition.  Families struggling to feed their children often decide that having another worker is better than starvation and pull their children out of school for the sake of survival.  Others let their children fall prey to human trafficking believing the fake promises about a job and a better life they are being told by the traffickers.  Young teenage girls are given in marriage to older men who offer to support them. The problems of poverty are horrifyingly magnified in women with a positive HIV diagnosis. Stigma, fear and precarious health stack the odds against these women’s families ever being able to break the chain of poverty.

Project HOPEFUL’s Hope+Sisterhood’s dream is healthy, confident Mommas who can start new lives for their families.  With a fresh start and targeted support, these women […]

Sponsorship Opportunity with the HOPE+Sisterhood Ethiopia

Imagine being a young, uneducated mother, widowed, in Ethiopia, a third world country struggling to modernize. You now know that the illness your husband died of was AIDS, and you are HIV+. The medicine helps the illness, but what do you do to support yourself and your children? People who know of your HIV status avoid you, even your own family! How do you earn a living and help your children have enough to eat and a roof over their heads? You may decide that the best thing for the children is to take them to an orphanage and give them up for adoption. You reason that at least they will have food and shelter, something you may not be able to provide them with. It breaks your heart, but what else is there? Prostitution? Theft? Some women are reduced to those choices.

Project Hopeful is working to change that. The Hope+ Sisterhood Ethiopia is a program that reaches out to HIV+ widows and their children, and gives them hope for a better future. We want these families to stay intact. This is done by educating the ladies about their HIV status, helping them to get and remain healthy, and helping each lady to begin a small, sustainable business to support themselves. They learn from professionals the importance of correct medicine management, the nutritional needs of an HIV+ person, hygiene, sanitation, money management, and business training. They receive business counseling to help them choose a business by which they can learn to support themselves. Each lady is given a small amount of capital to begin their business. These businesses start out very small, but can grow exponentially when these ladies are given a chance. We’ve […]

It works!

I love Uganda.  I have two children from the gorgeous country and have traveled there many times.  When Dawn asked me – just 18 months ago – if we could start a Hope + Sisterhood in Uganda, it was pretty much a no brainer for me and for Project Hopeful.  We wanted to expand our programs in Uganda and this was the perfect opportunity.

Since we launched the Uganda Sisterhood, I have supported a sister and advocated for others to do so.  “I believe in this program,” I told people.  And I meant it.

This trip is the first time I have seen with my own eyes what God has done in the Uganda Sisterhood and I want to shout from the rooftops:  This program works.  It really works!!!

Perhaps that conclusion is a bit anti-climactic.  You may be left wondering why I’m so surprised and excited.  But here’s the thing:  I knew from being told that it was working and that women were rising up out of poverty, finding hope, and becoming independent.  Seeing it with your own eyes, however, is something quite different.  It is working!!!!

Women who were lost have found hope.  Women who never knew Jesus raise their hands in worship and praise to the One True God.  Women who could not afford to care for their children are parenting children who are thriving.  Women who lacked a regular income are running businesses that are thriving and successful.  Across.the.board.  All of them.  The testimonies I heard at the graduation were incredible.  Sisters are succeeding because of your short-term (12 month) “hand up.”  And so I say again, it is working.

We at Project Hopeful are praying about whether to expand our sisterhood to other countries […]

Bringing Hope Uganda: Zaina

There is so much I can say about Zaina.  This woman is amazing.  The first time I met her, ther was a distrust in her eyes.  You could see that she couldn’t possibly understand why we wanted to help her.  She was also Muslim.

Fast forward 9 months.  We are driving through Mukono town and we park on the street.  As we got out of the car, I could see the the excitement in her eyes.  As we crossed the street, she literally wrapped her arms around me and picked me up off the ground!

She was so proud to share with us all her projects.  She is selling roasted corn, roasted plantains and rearing goats.  She as so excite to tell us hat she is making a profit and is saving money.

She shared with us that she has accepted Christ and “loves Him with her whole heart”.

Then she told us about Veronica.  One day she found this precious 13 year old girl sleeping on the roof of a house.  She had been abandoned and would sleep there to keep herself safe from animals.  She proudly told us that she is her foster mom and raced in the house to show us the “official” paperwork.

We are so proud of Zaina!  From a place of despair to opening her home to an abandoned child….Gods redemption is a beautiful thing.

We want to help Zaina help Veronica so if you If would be interested in sponsoring Veronica, please email dawn@projecthopeful.org.  Sponsorship is $35 per month and covers school fees, iniforms and school supplies.

In Christ,

Bringing Hope Uganda: Nakubuli

It’s Wednesday night and your pastor calls you at home. He tells you that there will be out of town visitors to the church on Sunday and that he wanted to make certain the guests would feel welcome. Naturally, you agree to help. Then the pastor asks you for something extraordinary: He asks you to bring to church one day of your salary. All of it. If you earn $45,000 a year, that’s about $180. If you earn $100,000 as a household, that’s $400. You don’t really have time to question the pastor before he thanks you and hangs up to call the next congregant. And so, Sunday rolls around and you oblige – even though it’s hard.
Some variety of that is what happened to us in Uganda this week. We went to attend church in Nakibule (where many of our Hope + Sisters attend church) and toward the end of a lovely service, the pastor asked the congregation to come forward for the offering. As the offering came to a close, the pastor asked his people to rise again and bring gifts to the alter for their guests. Us. And in that place, with tears streaming down my face, I watched as a village full of people who earn on average $1 per day brought a literal mountain of food to the front and placed it at our feet. When they were done, it was announced that not only was the fruit for us, but they were going to pack up the money offering to give to us as well – to use to purchase water […]

Bring Hope Uganda: Jesca

We met Jesca the first time in January 2013.   She was just 23 years old and a mother of 2, with her 3rd on the way.  She wasn’t sure whether or not she could trust us and you could see the hurt and anger in her eyes.
As we spoke with Jesca, we began to understand her hurt.  She was born with HIV. Then, when she was a child…both her parents died of AIDS.  She felt so much hurt and anger that her parents gave her a disease and as she put it “left her”.  Her life was extremely difficult and those who were supposed to take care of her….hurt her and she conceived her first child at just 17 years old.
She met a man and married.  She was forced to send her son to the village because her new husband did not want him.  After they conceived their first child together, he became abusive.  By the time we met Jesca, she was pregnant with their second child and just broken.  She feared for her life.
In January 2014, we saw Jesca again.  She came running to me with the biggest smile on her face.  There was a joy in her eyes that wasn’t there before.  With funds from the HOPE+ sisterhood, she opened a store.  She shared that every week, she would try to save 1000 to 2000 (30 to 90 cents) per week so she could take care of her children.  She said she was still with her husband but now that she was making money, it had gotten a little better.
We visited Jesca this week.  This young woman is amazing.  She is determined and strong.  She has opened a saving account at the bank.  She shared with us that she tithes to the church.  She shared with us that she […]

Bring Hope Uganda: Hajara

January 2014

Age 11.  When I was 11 my mother began pursuing her dream of becoming a college graduate.  She dropped out the first time to have me.  My baby brother was just one year old and her studies required much of her time.  I was so excited for her that I didn’t hesitate to learn how to cook and swooped up my brother each night from his crib to sleep in my bed.  In fact, today my brother would say I am his second mom.

This is why Hajara’s story struck me and pierced my heart.  At 11, she was having her first baby.  The first of 7.  She was cooking and coddling at the same tender age but in a much different role and in a much different environment.  As her family grew, so did her responsibility.  And at the age I was able to let go of family responsibilities to pursue my own college degree with never ending tests, she was taking a test of her own.  One that said she was HIV+.  While my whole life was ahead of me, hers was looking more and more bleak.  And not only was SHE given this diagnosis, so was her husband and infant son, her seventh child.

Her story broke me.  As I wrestle with stateside comments about how on earth I get through my days being the mother of three boys, she is just trying to live.  Trying to feed her family and stay healthy despite HIV and TB.  God had me on the best collision course I could have ever asked for.  This woman, my HOPE + sister, has changed my life despite living an ocean away.  I could tell you that I […]

Blessed by JOY

Recently, something pretty amazing happened.  Something that surpassed any expectation I ever had for any of our HOPE+ sisters.  Meet Gertrude.

I met Gertrude the first time in March 2012.  She was an HIV+ widow whose life was hard….very hard.  She often didn’t have enough to feed herself and her son and she struggled to pay school fees.

In January 2013, we launched the Uganda HOPE+ sisterhood and Gertrude was one of the first women that entered our program.  She stood out to me because when we visited her, she prayed for me.  She prayed for God to bless the program and to help me find sisters for all of the sisters.  She was so excited to be part of this program.


I have literally watched hope grow inside Gertrude over the past 2 years.  Her eyes speak a joy I could only dream of having.

She has been blessed with Joy.  And I mean that literally.  Gertrude has become our first foster mom to a precious young girl named Joy who was desperately in need of a mother to love her.

I often find myself stepping back and saying “is this really happening?  Did an HIV+ widow who was destitute just 2 years ago open her home to a broken little girl?”  The answer is YES….and she did it with delight.

Gertrude’s faith and YES is truly and inspiration and a personal challenge for me.  Am I trusting that God will provide for my every need.  Am I taking Him for His word?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Matthew 6:26

It was […]

Please, Take My Baby

Dawn Patterson, our Director of the Hope + Sisterhood — Uganda, continues to write about her trip to Uganda:

As we visited one sister in her hair salon, a young mother sat with her baby while having her hair braided by another young girl.  Her daughter was beautiful and of course, we couldn’t help but smile and entertain the child.  The  mother did not speak English but the girl braiding her hair did.  The mother spoke and the girl translated:  “She wants you to take her  baby.”  I would love to say this is the first time I’ve heard these words spoken in Uganda, but that is not the case.  Even after we left and moved to another shop to purchase fabric, the girl followed us and continued to say, “She wants you to take her baby.”
I can’t presume to know what was stirring in that mother’s heart.  I don’t know the hardships she faces in her life or the obstacles she will have to overcome.  But I do know that a myth is being perpetuated in the minds of mothers here that their babies are better off in another country….in another family.   This can not be the answer.  This is  not the solution to poverty or desperation.
We have to work to change their mindset and ours.  We must empower these women.  The financial commitment it takes to literally change a life here costs just 4 percent of an average Ugandan adoption.  FOUR PERCENT.  If you are a mother, ask yourself what it would take for you to give up your child.  Can you feel the ache in your heart?  I know I can.  As you feel that ache, if you knew that for $45 per month for […]