Each year, HOPE celebrates a client who demonstrates HOPE’s values of perseverance, compassion, character, and creativity with the Thurman Award. Established in honor of HOPE’s first CEO and his wife, the Thurman celebrates clients who have not only experienced change in their own lives but have also extended that transformation to others in their community. Over the previous few weeks, we posted the stories of this year’s winner and four honorable mentions to the blog. Today we celebrate the final honorable mention, Lelah* from Central Asia.
In a cramped, 10-by-16-foot room in Central Asia, Lelah worked tirelessly to provide for not one family but three. After her husband’s two brothers died in wartime conflict, she took in her widowed sisters-in-law and their eight children, caring for them along with her own four children. When her husband’s chronic shaking and loss of muscle control left him unable to work, Lelah found herself the sole provider for 16 people.
Lelah spent her days working as a tailor for the government, making only $15 a week. To help supplement her income and feed her large family, she started a second job, working evenings at a bakery in exchange for bread. When she wasn’t working, Lelah spent time teaching her sisters-in-law to sew so they could begin to earn a small income.
A new life
In September 2009, Lelah received her first HOPE loan of $200. She immediately invested in a share of the bakery and began receiving a portion of the revenue. With a second loan, Lelah started her own bakery where she bakes the dough customers bring her—a service that allows her poor neighbors to pay half the normal cost of buying bread. Ambitious and industrious, Lelah then took out two more loans to further expand her business. Today, she has built up a faithful clientele that values her business as well as her friendship.
With the profits from her bakery, Lelah now successfully supports all three families and can afford to send her children to school. She also paid for her husband to go to the hospital, where doctors diagnosed and treated his illness; today, he is able to hold a steady job. With her husband’s new income and her own, Lelah’s family bought a small home. She dreams of a bright future for her children and of sending her son to college so that he can become a “good man who serves the people.”
Sharing the story
Lelah recently formed a group with new HOPE clients and serves as a wonderful example of life transformation. She is eager to share her story of success and to encourage others to work hard to write their own. Of her experience with HOPE, Lelah is enthusiastic. “The loan changed my life,” she says, “and I will continue to borrow from HOPE to support my business and my family.”
*Name changed for security.
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