Team Learns About Empowerment Visiting the Zoe Project in Kenya
In early February, 2015, twenty members of the Texas Annual Conference both clergy and laity traveled to Kenya on a learning mission. The group was selected from across the conference to visit the Zoe empowerment project. Zoe was adopted as the Advance Special at the 2014 Annual Conference so representatives were sent to learn more and to meet with the Zoe staff and the orphans that are participating in the project.
Some of the group expected to go to an orphanage. But the Zoe Project, isn’t a place, it’s a movement. In the case of Kenya, the Zoe staff meets with the local chief (not a tribal chief but an appointed government employee) who is responsible for economic development among other things. The 3-year process is explained and the chief of the village is asked to invite a group of 20-30 orphans from the village to gather for an information meeting about what Zoe is all about. They are told that if they are interested to meet again with the Zoe staff in a few days.
At the next meeting, the orphans are asked to elect their officers (chairman, secretary, treasurer and a pastor). They have to set a weekly meeting time, determine a plan for where they will meet and open a bank account with their own funds. They are also told that within a month they must visit each and every home of the members.
The most important thing they are told at that first meeting is that they are not orphans - they have a father who is in heaven. God, the father who loves them and who wants them to live abundantly.
Zoe calls this a Working Group. They develop a group project that they all share and they also each submit a business plan to start their own businesses. Some of them become farmers growing their own feed for the animals they buy and some grow crops to sell. Some become barbers and some open small beauty salons, some sell beans or rice, some learn to repair motor bikes and set up repair shops. Whatever plan they develop is vetted by the group and the group decides how much of a start-up grant they will be given. If the plan needs adjusting, the group works with the member to set a realistic plan with the goal being to become self-sufficient and to take care of their siblings/family and beyond.
For more about the TAC team trip see www.txcumc.org/blogs. To learn more about Zoe www.zoehelps.org.