Transforming Communities

"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden."

Matthew 5:14 NIV

Tearfund Ireland is part of the expression of Christianity on the island of Ireland. We are compelled by the belief that the message of Christianity has a contribution to make to ending poverty and injustice.  Our vision is to see ‘flourishing communities, free from poverty and injustice’ and to achieve this we to stand together with faith based partners in the Global South and Global North to help transform the lives of the most marginalised. We believe that all people are made in the image of God and have the potential to live lives free from poverty.

We believe in partnership and relationship and that the best way to help someone in need is to stand with them in their place of need. We work holistically with local churches and local faith based partners in poor communities to do that. One of the greatest strengths of this grass roots approach is that it leads to trust, community ownership and ultimately sustainability. This faith based approach working through the local church has enormous potential to positively influence attitudes values and behaviours and provide leadership at times of crisis and in the ongoing fight against poverty.

We have seen communities transformed, empowered and changed. Through church and community mobilisation- rates of HIV/AIDS  have been halved in poor communities in Malawi, children living without parents are being fostered and given a new home and a new hope in Zimbabwe, and hundreds of thousands of people are being lifted out of poverty in Uganda.

Woynishet’s Story

Woynishet’s story-a member of an Ethiopian Self Help Group, who has changed not only the fate of her family and her marriage but also her community.

Woynishet has a remarkable story, a story of restoration and redemption, of a journey from isolation to partnership. Woynishet did not work, she raised her children and used the small amount of money her husband gave her to feed their family. Her children had never had breakfast before she joined herself help group. But joining the group required more than just turning up to meetings. Her husband was completely against it and Woynishet had no confidence or self-esteem. She felt powerless and useless but she knew she needed to do something to provide for her family. Ethiopia is a patriarchal society, gender inequality is widespread and domestic abuse can be common. So she and two other members began to meet in secret. All three of them had to hide what they were doing, one of them also experienced ongoing domestic violence and so they had to be particularly careful.

However as time passed and their income grew as a result of saving with their self help group so too did their confidence. They became stronger and more assertive, they realised their own potential and strengths. But they did not want to continue in this journey alone and separate to their husbands so they told them about the self help group and what they had been doing. All three of their husbands were furious and barred them from going to their group. However, the women courageously carried on. And as time went by their husbands began to notice that their economic situation was improving, they noticed that there was now more food for the family, that the children were able to attend school. That there was a difference in their wives. They each individually asked how this had happened and so the women explained that it was a result of their self-help group.

Woynishet said that from that moment, their lives and relationships changed. Her husband began to look at her in a whole new light, he saw, for the first time her value and worth. That she could be an equal partner in their relationship and home. Each husband then insisted on the women always attending their self-help group and often took care of the children so the women could attend their meetings. They completely transformed, Woynishet went from being a woman, completely alone in her marriage, undervalued and powerless to being an equal, with a partner who respects her and consults her about everything in their life together. This is not a conventional love story but it is a story of how transformation can happen, of how love can grow from the most unusual and difficult of beginnings.

Woynishet and her self help group went on to hold a big ceremony in their community where they advertised the benefits of joining a self help group, using their own personal testimonies to encourage others to join. But she said that the most powerful testimony of all was when their three husbands stood up and with tears streaming down their faces, they told their community, their friends, their government representatives how they used to disrespect their wives, how they used to beat them and hurt them but how now they love and respect them. They spoke of how now they honour and support their wives, how their wives lifted their family out of poverty. How they love them, how they are partners in life and for life. Theirs is a story of true transformation, of the power of healing and forgiveness. And it is a story of hope, hope that change is possible, that all circumstances can be turned around for good.  That love can in fact, win.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13

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