Local mission attacks African poverty at the root

From the time she was a child, Michelle Outman has been serving others. From helping neighbors to youth-group service projects to adopting twins from Ethiopia, she has looked for ways to improve people's lives.

As the founder and executive director of h.o.w? Ministry, she has continued to be of service, raising funds as well as awareness of obstacles facing Africans. The three-part mission of h.o.w? (which stands for Helping Orphans and Widows) is "empowering women, saving children, fighting poverty."

The ministry accomplishes this mission through several means. It has purchased seven acres in Kenya with the vision of training widows and older orphans in life and vocational skills so that they may be gainfully employed and contributing to society. Outman said they will use the land to grow crops, build a church and guesthouse for mission teams, and build spaces designated for creating jewelry, baskets and other products. Outman said the women are empowered in their own well-being through their crafting of items that can be sold.

"All jewelry, baskets and crafts are paid for up front," Outman told Flourish magazine, "so each woman earns money for the work she does."

One woman was provided with a sewing machine by h.o.w? and is now well known in her community for her designs. "... Many women in the community are requesting she make their dresses," Outman said.

The ministry makes regular trips to Africa, but there are ways to help here in the U.S., as well. The For the Least of These 5k run/walk raises awareness and funds; donations may be made and items may be purchased via the organization's website, howministry.org.

The women and children served by h.o.w? are living in extreme conditions most of us would struggle to imagine. They endure poverty, disease and malnutrition. These are great obstacles that cannot be overcome all at once, but every little bit helps. And by attacking them at the root, missions such as Outman's bring hope to corners of the world where it is badly needed.