While traveling to Ethiopia, Africa, as part of a college summer program, Iowan Josiah Carter’s world collided with the heart of the mission of Hope for Children in Ethiopia (HCE). While he says he was prepared for the poverty he would experience in the country’s capital, Addis Ababa, what he wasn’t expecting was to come face to face with human trafficking and sex slavery.
“My heart broke in a way that I don’t think I’d ever had my heart break for something before,” he says.
Carter recalls hearing a fellow student share their experience of visiting the Mercato, the largest open air market in Ethiopia with a prostitution district that spans city blocks. He was shocked to hear that most of the girls forced to work there were only in their mid to late teens.
“I just thought of my nieces and what I would do if it were them,” Carter says. “I would literally do anything in my power to rescue them. So why wouldn’t I do that for these girls, too?”
Back in Iowa, Carter, then a senior accounting and finance major at Drake University, couldn’t get the issue off his mind. A year passed before Carter and his wife, Megan, returned to Ethiopia with the goal of connecting with HCE and finding a way to help.
On that first trip back, Carter brought $1,000 with him to purchase scarves made by participants in HCE’s programs. Carter planned to resell the scarves in the U.S. and donate the proceeds back to the nonprofit. Those initial 175 scarves sold out almost immediately.
It was then that the Carters knew they were on to something. Shortly after, Beza Threads was born.
Carter says the name Beza comes from one of the program’s first participants who became pregnant while on the street and had a baby that the entire group of New Life Girls helped raise. That baby’s name was Beza, which in Ethiopian means redemption.
“Redemption, in this case, isn’t fixing the problem,” Carter says. “Redemption is making something better than it was in the first place. Even if these girls wouldn’t have been in sex slavery, it’s putting them on a better path than they would have been on in the first place.” Since that initial trip in 2010, Beza Threads has expanded its offering to scarves as well as the leather products made by participants in HCE’s programs. In that time the organization has helped HCE rescue and provide fair wages for about 200 people. “We always talk about how that’s both a big and a small number,” Carter says. “But for those people who we’ve helped, their lives have been changed forever, and the generational impact that has is incredible.”
Read more about the impact Beza Threads has made on a small non-profit based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in the Summer issue! Participants in Hope for Children in Ethiopia’s (HCE) programs receive vocational training in trades like weaving and leather production.
To learn more about the organization or shop Beza Threads products, visit their website.