Partnership With CMO Empowers Zoe Participants


Stanley, from the Tamandani Chakhaza Empowerment Group in Malawi, has a farm and tailoring business. He had finished harvesting his soybean crop before the government imposed a COVID-19 lockdown. Stanley was able to temporarily hire two neighbors to help on the farm.

Redirecting funds toward COVID-19 recovery allows new businesses to restart

In 2019, the North Texas Conference Center for Missional Outreach joined with four local churches partnering with Zoe empowerment groups to enable over 350 orphaned and vulnerable children living in extreme poverty across Africa and India to join Zoe Empowers indigenous-led empowerment program. After three years in the program, these young people will graduate sustainably self-sufficient across every area of life and should never need charity again.

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns affected Zoe participants differently. The young people in their second and third years of the program had the business agility, resilience and savings to not only survive this period, but also organized to help others in their communities who are now more vulnerable than they are.

However, those young people in their first 12 months of the program were more-severely affected, often using their resources for food. The CMO re-directed funds previously approved to partner with churches supporting new Zoe empowerment groups toward Zoe’s COVID-19 recovery efforts, providing a top-up business grant for each of the first-year Zoe participants to re-start their business.

Guided by the core belief of not doing anything for these young people that they can learn to do for themselves, Zoe had already begun the process of equipping these children across eight areas of life that hold a person in poverty: food security, housing, health, education, income generation, child rights, spiritual formation and community connections.

At the beginning of this crisis, many Zoe youth had already established farms, collected harvests, started businesses and/or completed vocational training, learned and implemented basic health and hygiene practices, and formed connections across their communities. All of these tools assisted them to survive shelter-in-place restrictions. With the top-up grants these young people will be able to rebound quickly and continue lifting themselves and their communities with the work they do.

An example of a youth who is thriving is Stanley from the Tamandani Chakhaza Empowerment Group in Malawi. Stanley started a farming project and tailoring business after joining Zoe Empowers in 2019. He had just finished harvesting his soybean crop when the government in Malawi made a declaration for the COVID-19 lockdown.

This was bad news for two of his neighbors who could no longer work. Stanley, on the other hand, has been busy processing his soybeans for storage so he hired both neighbors as temporary workers to assist him. He is able to pay them a fair wage that will provide for their family during the COVID-19 crisis.

However, others – like Vincent in Rwanda – had to shut down businesses. Vincent joined Zoe Empowers in 2019 and received a business grant to begin making and selling donuts and samosas. Vincent, 19, became head of household for his younger brother Venuste (18) and sister Florence (16) after his parents died due to illness.

After struggling in extreme poverty for many years, Vincent was overjoyed to finally have the opportunity to achieve his dream of supporting his siblings and buying a cow. Vincent had established a regular clientele through his hard work, delicious food and excellent customer-service skills. He earned enough income to meet his family’s basic needs and was on his way to establishing security for his future.

Vincent feels certain he can rebound once the pandemic is over, but he has used up the small savings. Through Zoe’s COVID recovery fund, Vincent will be able to restart his donut and samosa business post-pandemic. 

These are two examples demonstrating how empowerment creates crisis resilient young leaders who are simply unstoppable.

Published: Monday, July 6, 2020