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For 51 weeks of the year, the front lobby of Willowdale Chapel’s Kennett Square campus is an airy space with cozy chairs and a café. But one Sunday each December, the room transforms into the HOPE Market—a vibrant, bustling marketplace operated by the church’s youngest entrepreneurs.

The wooden tables where people usually chat over coffee instead display greeting cards and candles, wooden clocks and mini-marshmallow shooters, all handcrafted by the children at Willowdale. With each sale, the kids work toward paying back the small loan they received from the church to make their item. Once that’s done, they give their profits to HOPE International. Last year, all their work totaled up to being a significant gift of $5,000.

“Part of our church’s vision is to love the world that Jesus is working to restore, and we wanted our youth to really learn what that means and to be a part of it,” says Jodi Byrne, who serves as a children’s ministry pastor at Willowdale Chapel, a church network in southeastern Pennsylvania that partners with HOPE.

The kids are invited to explore the role they play in that restoration during the three months leading up to the HOPE Market.

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Nestled in the mountains of western Ukraine, the small town of Khust boasts some of the country’s greatest mountain biking trails. Tourists from all over the world come to experience the region’s beauty. For Lesya Login, a native of Khust, biking is a deep passion—something she and her husband, Nicholai, dreamed of sharing with others.

Early in their marriage, Lesya worked as a coach at a school while Nicholai worked as a bike repairman. They dreamed of one day starting their own business selling bikes. After Lesya purchased and sold several bikes to test out their idea, she was convinced that the business would work—but the Logins lacked the capital needed to get it off the ground.

As Lesya sought a solution, commercial banks repeatedly denied her loan applications, doubtful that someone so young—just 22 years old at the time—and with no business experience would be able to repay. Determined, Lesya continued to search for a bank that would give her a loan. That’s when their neighbor, Michael, told Lesya and Nicholai about the organization he worked for: HOPE Ukraine.

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HOPE is thrilled to announce that we are deepening our long-standing partnership to serve the people of Rwanda through Urwego Bank. Read more in the press release below:

 

Each year, we celebrate clients who demonstrate HOPE’s values of perseverance, compassion, character, and creativity by announcing Thurman Award winners. Established in honor of HOPE’s first CEO and his wife, the Thurman Award celebrates clients who have not only experienced change in their own lives but have also extended that transformation to others in their community. We’re excited to share the story of this year’s honorable mention from Latin America: Eduviges Cruz.

Before Eduviges Cruz opened her business, there were no convenience stores in her neighborhood. Seeing the opportunity to develop a business that would meet her community’s everyday needs, Eduviges used loans from HOPE’s partner in the Dominican Republic, Esperanza International, to start her convenience store, which has grown to include a wide variety of groceries and household items.

With the store’s profits, she and her husband bought a piece of land and built their own home. She relishes that she now has the means to buy shoes and school supplies for her children. “Everything changes … when you start to work,” Eduviges says. This is a statement she firmly believes, and she’s encouraging others to join Esperanza and start their own businesses.

And it’s not just the access to capital and training that Eduviges appreciates. Through Esperanza’s group repayment meetings, she also heard the Gospel, accepting Christ’s love for the first time. Later, through her witness, her husband also came to know the Lord, beginning a new season of healing and reconciliation in their marriage. Eduviges testifies that God “has turned my wailing into dancing. He’s clothed me with joy. I know what I’m talking about, because I went through some pretty difficult situations. And that’s why I say that God’s turned my wailing into dancing.”

Today, thousands will mark their hands with a bright red “X,” demonstrating their commitment to ending modern slavery. Since 2013, the END IT movement, a coalition of leading organizations committed to shining a light on slavery, which can include sex trafficking, bonded labor, and forced labor.

In many countries throughout the HOPE network, we serve a population that is vulnerable to human trafficking and forced labor. Traffickers prey on those living in poverty, and several of the countries in which we work have some of the most prominent human trafficking industries in the world. While HOPE does not work directly with anti-trafficking agencies, our work in poverty alleviation addresses many of the root causes of modern slavery. Our approach is to move upstream from the problem in an attempt to prevent the conditions and vulnerability that traffickers prey on. Here’s how:

1. Jobs create opportunities.
With few options to provide for their families, many people living in poverty willingly enter bonded labor. Or, they are baited with the promise of a job in another country, realizing upon arrival that they’ve been lied to. Even more tragically, families in destitute financial situations are often forced to give up one child to feed the rest of their family.* When families have meaningful work to support themselves, they are spared from making these kinds of decisions.

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Bustling with customers, Mamola’s house is a center of activity in her Dominican community. Neighbors gather to purchase household staples from her colmado, a small convenience store she operates from her front room. Every other week, members of Mamola’s community bank meet in her home to fellowship, study Scripture, and repay their loans.

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Mamola has been involved in business since she was young, learning the importance of hard work from her father. Widowed with five children and 12 grandchildren of her own, Mamola hopes to pass on this legacy of industry and ingenuity.

In 2008, Mamola took out a $177 loan from Esperanza International, HOPE’s local partner in the Dominican Republic, to expand her business buying and reselling dishes. Realizing her community would benefit more from groceries, Mamola used subsequent loans to open and expand her colmado. “I started with everything,” she remembers. “Just a tiny bit, but a little of everything.” As her store has grown, she stocks her shelves with larger quantities of rice, coffee, fruit, sugar, and other staples.

Giving back

Mamola appreciates Esperanza’s biblical teachings, especially the opportunity to pray together. She says she has learned more about her faith through her community bank’s time in the Word:

The Lord is my God; He is my everything, because He is the one that helps me.

Several years ago, Mamola’s husband got sick and eventually passed away. In addition to grieving his loss, Mamola faced overwhelming medical fees that left her in debt. She shares that she overcame this challenge with the help of Esperanza, the extra income from her colmado, and her five children.

A well-respected matriarch in her community, Mamola has connected several women with Esperanza. With her income, Mamola helps care for her grandchildren and has made improvements to her home, replacing the walls with sturdier concrete. Hardworking, humble, and thankful, Mamola dreams of expanding her business and passing it on to the next generation—along with her legacy of faith and hard work.