There’s an old Chinese proverb that goes: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” The following story — from an Ethiopian ministry we support in Addis Ababa — shows the wisdom of this principle in action:
When the staff at the Medical Missionaries of Mary’s handicapped support program (CBR) met Asheber, he was a 17-year-old with big dreams but no opportunities.
Life isn’t easy for a teen with a handicap like his — Asheber was born with Cerebral Palsy. In Ethiopia, as in other developing countries where misinformation and primitive beliefs about disease persist, most people consider handicaps a curse from God. People with handicaps are shunned by their communities and often even rejected or hidden by their families.
Though he faced constant ridicule from the people around him, Asheber didn’t give up. He began teaching himself the piano. The staff at CBR encouraged his affinity for music, and gave him money to attend business skills training classes. Then they bought him a brand-new keyboard so he could start a music business.
Within a few years, Asheber made enough money to pay CBR back for his first keyboard and buy a second keyboard to expand his business. Now 20, Asheber has four students who come for an hour piano lesson each week and pay 50 birr (about $5 USD) each per month for lessons. He also is hired often to play at weddings and restaurants. The money is enough to pay his rent and buy food and necessities, with enough left over for “fun stuff,” he says, things like posters for his wall and new music.
“There are no words to explain,” he says, a wide smile creeping across his face. “I love music very much. I’m so glad I am able to do what I do and so thankful that the people at the handicapped support program didn’t turn away like everyone else.”