For as long as I can remember, the troubles of the world have felt too big for me. I’d find myself depressed from focusing on the injustices surrounding me. I couldn’t see the blessings because I was drowning in sadness. I was angry with God; how could he let all of these awful things happen? I was angry with myself; why couldn’t I do more? One night in a prayer of desperation I begged God to show me one small piece of the world that I could set right. Sucaray is an answer to that prayer.
Sucaray and I met in June 2015. My oldest son had chosen an I Pour Life trip as his graduation gift and I was along for the ride. Sucaray was being launched into the Global Women’s Empowerment Program and was in need of a sponsor. She had chosen to sell charcoal as her business. I thought this was smart since it was something everyone used and needed to replace often. My son and I decided to be her sponsors. Through a translator we gave her the news, hugged her, took a picture, and told her she was now a part of our family. She was gracious, but I could tell she didn’t completely buy in.
My second trip to Ethiopia was in June 2016. Sucaray was happy to see me, but still withdrawn. Her son had had surgery to correct his crossed eyes and he needed corrective lenses. She brought the prescription to me with her head lowered and hands extended. I knew she was shy. I knew she was proud. And I knew she loved her kids with every fiber of her being. Asking for my help was not easy for her, but for her son she would do it. I jumped at the opportunity. I wanted to make this happen for her. I wanted to prove that when I said we were family, I meant it. We were able to order the glasses for a whopping thirty US dollars, but they did not arrive until I was already back in the states. An I Pour Life staffer sent me pictures when they were delivered. I cried like a baby.
A week ago I received a video from one of my teammates of this year’s trip, my third visit to Kore. I have watched it at least 40 times.
This trip Sucaray was different. She was a changed woman. We hosted a donut party for the latest graduates of the Women’s Empowerment Program. Sucaray invited my team to her home the next day to visit. When we arrived she was sweeping her dirt floor; she offered us coffee and kolo, an Ethiopian snack of grains. As I sat on the couch with her, I looked around. She had more belongings and some furniture; she had hung curtains to separate the bedroom from the living area. Her home was immaculate, this is no small feat in a home made of dirt and tin in the middle of a trash dump. She started excitedly speaking in Amharic to our translator and he began to smile. He said she was telling him our story... “Our” story. I started to tear up before he even started translating.
She introduced me to the team as her mom. I jumped in and said, “Sister, maybe? Best Friend?” She laughed and went on to explain that to her this told how close our relationship was. She didn’t have a family before I Pour Life and now she does. “You have done so much for us. You have made promises and you have kept them. You said you’d come back and you did.”
She continued to say that her charcoal business was still going, but she had hired someone to help because she was also working in the city as a cleaning woman. This is a BIG deal. Sucaray has leprosy and is missing several of her fingers. For someone to trust her and let her in their home is not only uncommon, but also is a huge boost to her self esteem. She is used to feeling less than, outcast and cursed by this disease. Many times people are afraid to touch her or even be near her.
She told us that she had won a spot in the governmental housing lottery. To be put on this list she had to show she had a substantial amount in savings and that she is able to make the payments. She went on to say that there are not affordable schools near the apartment, so she is subletting it. She and the children will stay in Kore so that they can continue to attend school. When I met Sucaray neither of her children were in school; she couldn’t afford the supplies and uniforms. Until this point I had been pretty good at keeping myself together, I was just at the eyes watering with an occasional spillover cry, but this did me in. I was in official “ugly cry” mode. She gave me a hug and said she did not like to see me cry. I told her that these are happy tears, some of the happiest tears I’ve ever cried.
The team asked some questions, which she cheerfully answered. One of the team members pointed to a picture on the wall. She grinned big and went to retrieve it. It was she, her kids, and I on my last visit. She started to take the frame apart and I tried to stop her. She waved me off. Behind that picture was every picture I had ever given her. I asked her what had changed about her: when we met she was quiet and shy. She said, “I know that you love me and I love you. We have no secrets because we are family.”
Sucaray’s story makes me emotional, but, more than that, it humbles me. It makes me hopeful, and it fills me with pride for her. She has worked incredibly hard in the three years we’ve known each other. As a result, her and her kids’ lives have been changed. And so has mine. I have loved her, hugged her, & cheered for her. In return she has taught me that anyone can overcome unbelievable odds. She has shown me that a kept promise is more powerful than gold and unconditional love has the ability to transform.
For more information on I Pour Life and their Global Women’s Empowerment Program visit https://ipourlife.org/programs/economicempowerment/