My name is Mintamir Desalegn Werku. I reside in Piazza, in the center of Hawassa (formerly Awassa) – my birth place. This is a brief story of my life and the unexpected turm of events that brought YESSERA and its supporters into my life.
I come from a large family. I am the fourth of seven children – 5 girls and 2 boys. When I was old enough to go to school, my parents enrolled me in public school. I was a very good student and was able to move through the grades rather quickly. Knowing the size of our family and the meager income of my parents, I realized early on that the only way to get out of poverty and help my parents is to get a university education. My dream of going to university was shattered when I had to interrupt my education to respond to the pressing needs of my family. To help out I started a hair dressing (Shuruba) business. Juggling work and family needs had a significant impact on my education. As a result, I scored low on national examination, and was unable to enroll in university. The irony was that those students who were well-off and whom I have once tutored were able to enroll in private schools and were able to attend university. I was morally devastated. I felt that I am stuck in h vicious circle of poverty for the rest of my life. We lived on my father’s pension of 63 Birr (approx $12 US). My mother made every effort to supplement our income by making injera for neighbors whenever possible. My siblings also tried helping by working for food or for few cents.
Three years later, in 1994 (E.C.), our Kebele made an announcement about an organization called YESSERA from United States that was working with Spotlight Services Organization of Ethiopia to provide vocational training opportunities for hardworking young Ethiopians who were unable to finish high school due to poverty. The announcement indicated that all costs associaated with the training and funding to start business will be covered by YESSERA.
I jumped on the opportunity and applied. I passed the stringent screening and was qualiÂfied, along with 11 others, for one-year of vocaÂtional training. The training was offered at Opportunity Industrialization Center- Ethiopia (OICE). Even though my mother and siblings were very happy for me, I was saddened and intimidated by the thought of leaving my famÂily under the current circumstances and going to a strange place. Thanks to the coaching and mentoring provided by Ato Solomon Retta and Weizero Aselef, both of Spotlight Services Organization, we were able to adapt to our new place and focus on our training.
After graduation we returned to Hawassa and started a cinder block manufacturing factory in 1997 (EC) with the funding and business consulting provided by YESSERA and Spotlight Services Organization. Additional help came from the Kebele officials under the leadership of Ato Legesse Lankamo. With dedication and hard work , the Hawassa YESSERA Association has become very successful and has been recognized for its quality products. Today, we provide free training for young people and employ over 30 people on full time basis. I have been serving as the General Manager* of the Association. We are grateful for the support we have received from everyone who has supported YESSERA to make a difference in our lives. My family no longer has to worry about food to put on the table or roof over our heads. YESSERA Hawassa is planning for future growth. I am saving a portion of my earnings to pursue my life long dream – to become a Medical Doctor and help my people.
In conclusion, my story is a success story that is made possible by the generosity and support of all who were determined to make a difference in the life of struggling young people like me. YESSERA has given us the fishing hook and has taught us how to fish. Now it is up to us to fish.
* Editor’s Note: Since this story was written, Mintamir has completed her term as the GM position so that others may get a chance to run the Association. As one of the principal founders of YESSERA Hawassa, she is still a part of the leadership group, and focuses on coaching, mentoring, and as public relations officer.