He is known as the "Umbrella Man" for his deft skills at keeping ladies' parasols prepared for protection against Ethiopia's endless sun-drenched days and occasional downpours. Business is brisk for Habtamuwale, 38, but life hasn't always been so sunny for the umbrella repairman.
Disabled at 18 from eating a toxic plant that caused permanent nerve damage in his legs, Habtamuwale spent 12 years living on the streets of Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa. He represents thousands of disabled Ethiopians who struggle to survive due to a lack of education and a dearth of support services for the physically challenged.
Through a vocational training program for disabled people provided by IOCC in cooperation with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church-Development and Inter-Church Aid Commission (EOC-DICAC), Ethiopians with disabilities have been able to learn a job skill and make a fresh start. Habtamuwale traded concrete sidewalks for a classroom and learned how to repair umbrellas.
Now the father of three has his small shop on a busy city intersection and makes enough money to pay his rent, living expenses and tuition for his children. Habtamuwale says his life changed for the better because "good people took notice of me and were caring enough to help. I can't say enough thanks to IOCC and blessings on them."