FROM STRUGGLING STREET
|Volume 15, No. 3
VENDORS TO VALUED SHOEMAKERS
Without the money to pay for an advanced education, Mesafent, 21, could only dream about attending college as he eked out a living shining shoes for a few dollars a day. Working in cooperation with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church-Development and Inter-Church Aid Commission (EOC-DICAC), IOCC recruited Mesafent and five other street vendors into a training program that took them off the streets and into a workshop making sturdy custom leather boots for thousands of impoverished Ethiopians recovering from podoconiosis, a debilitating and disfiguring disease that affects the feet.
The current staff of six shoemakers, ages 21-35, cut, stitch and sole a dozen pairs of boots a day, and are earning enough to support themselves and their families. "I am twice blessed," says Mesafent. He explains that his new shoemaking skills not only help podoconiosis sufferers realize their dreams of pain-free walking, but also provides him with sufficient income to pursue his own dream of earning a college degree.