Team Learns About Empowerment Visiting the Zoe Project in Kenya

Date Posted: 2/26/2015

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.

Earlier in that meeting they had all recited the Lord’s Prayer but it was clear that they hadn’t really accepted the idea of “Our father who are in heaven.” They heard those words in a new way when the Zoe leader pointed them out. The team could see a visible change in the group. They sat up straighter, they looked directly at the speaker, when asked questions they responded with a stronger voice. The team learned that orphans in Kenya experience a great sense of shame and hatred from others in their community so claiming a father in heaven who loved them was a powerful moment.

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.

The TAC team had the privilege of meeting Zoe orphans in all stages of the program: a graduate, a 3rd year, 2nd year, 1st year and a Working Group at the first organizational meeting. The progress was amazing. The team came home with a sense of determination to share the Zoe story and to encourage their home churches to support at least one Working Group. To provide for a Working Group’s entire 3 year process is only $7,500 for each of those 3 years.  The return on investment is huge. The impact is not only on the 20-30 orphans in the group but on their siblings, on the other orphans that they often bring into their families and on their communities who witness the transformation of their lives.

For more about the TAC team trip see To learn more about Zoe