woudneh

In less than two weeks he had made enough money (equivalent to about thirty US dollars) and was able to eat good food and support some of his friends. This was the beginning of a lifetime of entrepreneurship.

At last Woudneh finds a way to enter the city, Addis Ababa. It is here that he is reunited with some of his family, though they don’t believe it, having received word that he is dead. Remarkably he is healthy though very, very thin. Seventy percent of the soldiers who survived this journey, walking to Addis are now unable to walk.

Woudneh is the first Ethiopian soldier to arrive in Addis Ababa after they were abandoned by their military leaders. He had been home two months when the next soldier arrived in a Red Cross vehicle. No other soldier walked the entire way and survived.

His sister gives him a small amount of money to buy new clothes. Feeling that his clothes are sufficient, he begins to purchase used clothes to sell to others.

Motivated by an Indian preacher who had raised himself from poverty by selling peanuts, Woudneh begins a peanut vending business.  And like the preacher that testified that “peanuts were the most important thing in my life”, Woudneh begins to rise above poverty.

Years have passed. He has ventured into various businesses. He has struggled and he has thrived. Childhood dreams took him to Japan where he worked in a leather factory, suffered severe illness, met his Ethiopian wife and started an Ethiopian Restaurant. Now he lives in a newly built home which he has paid cash for. (Ethiopian’s don’t use credit or mortgages.) He has three children and at least three companies named for his children that he manages and operates.

And he is passionate about bringing water to his home town.

So am I.

What is the value of water?

How important is water in Woudneh’s story?

What is the effort that one should make to raise themselves from affliction?

I knew that I would see many new things when I ventured into a third world nation. But nothing could have prepared me for this story, for this man.