“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. […]