How a beekeeper’s dignity sold me on honey

The inspiring blog post below came from my colleague, Gretchen Jewell.
She recently told me in a hallway conversation that her first trip to Africa
transformed her life. I thought you would enjoy her story.

Gretchen and group in Ethiopia

Gretchen (next to the blue barrels) listens as Sultan (far right)tells his story of transformation with dignity.

I’m not usually a big fan of honey. I rarely buy it. But recently, I bought honey because I wanted to purchase a product that had transformed a man’s life.

I was among a group of about 20 Food for the Hungry (FH) staff and members of the Board of Directors. We traveled to Ethiopia in early March to FH program areas, where we met the individuals who are being impacted by the work of FH.

One program we saw was an income-generating enterprise that involved beekeeping. Members of the community are trained and supported to run their own beekeeping business. They sell the honey they produce and can reinvest the profit generated back into their businesses.

I walked into an immaculate storefront and met a man named Sultan. Sultan was beaming, full of energy and eager to talk to our group. We asked him questions about his product and listened as he shared more details about honey than I ever thought I would learn. Finally, I asked Sultan which of the different honey varieties was best and which I should buy. He held the bottle of honey that he described as the sweetest and said, “This is the one.”  So I bought it. I paid for the product with cash and Sultan took the money with dignity, believing the honey he gave me was worth every penny. I was so happy to be a part of what he was doing.

Ethiopian child by Peter Mogan

FH income-generating programs help children like this thrive and find dignity. Photo courtesy Peter Mogan.

My experience with Sultan was so markedly different because of what existed in his eyes. Leading up to this point, we saw many people begging in the street with shame in their eyes. I don’t know if Sultan was ever a beggar himself, but on this day, his eyes were alert and proud. He was dignified. And I couldn’t stop thinking about how a man who finds dignity by using his God-given gifts could impact the world.

This was a big moment for me.

Before I came to work for FH, I had always advocated giving to anyone who asked me for pocket change on the street. It seemed like the right thing to do. But when I gave money to people in need, I never felt that their dignity was protected and intact through that transaction.  I’m not saying there isn’t a place for that kind of giving, but I am saying that I personally want to invest much more into the work of overcoming poverty in a sustainable way. I want to invest in helping people live up to their God-given potential—and overcoming roadblocks that may stand in their path.

I’m investing in long-term, strategic, sometimes laborious, but crucial work that results in lives, families and communities being transformed from the inside out.

Watch Gretchen tell her story below.

About Karen Randau

A native of the southwestern U.S., Karen uses her blog posts to put into action her passion for helping people be all that God intended them to be. She is able to do this through her role in the Food for the Hungry communications department of the Global Service Center in Phoenix in two ways. First, she helps people understand the plight faced by impoverished people in developing nations. Second, she brings light to the successful ways Food for the Hungry is helping people.

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