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Aregesh Ayele, a 47-year-old resident who lives near the facility, purchased a new energy-efficient stove with a loan obtained through the program. With the stove, she bakes injera, an Ethiopian staple, which she then sells to local businesses. Recently, Mrs. Ayele signed a two-year contract with a hotel. Steady profits have enabled her to repay her loan in full and now supplement the $50 her husband earns per month as a line worker at a nearby shoe factory. The couple’s combined income has paid for a new telephone line at their home and the tuition fees for all seven of their children.

“Poverty means vulnerability and low status. But if you can get a woman independent and working for her family, there’s a ray of hope, there’s energy,” said Sister Myriam.

“And if you get their children engaged in the educational system, then you’re opening doors to a brighter future.”

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Peter Lemieux is a documentary photographer and writer based in San Francisco.

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Tags: Ethiopia Education Ethiopian Orthodox Church Women (rights/issues) Socioreligious programs