Starting the Race: The Mission of Carry 117 in Korah, Ethiopia
If you happened to grab an Ethiopian/Arab World GO bag last Sunday or the Sunday before at service, you may have noticed a simple handmade bracelet, inscribed with the words ‘Carry 117’ in black leather. Maybe you are even wearing it on your wrist as you read this, or noticing it there as you drive to work, or pull your beach towels from the dryer, or brush your teeth in the mirror at night.
It’s hard to believe that the bracelet traveled over 7,000 miles to land on your wrist. Harder still to believe that it was created in the small Ethiopian village of Korah that was founded in the 1920s strictly due to its proximity to one of the earliest hospitals built to treat those with leprosy, All Africa Leprosy, Tuberculosis and Rehabilitation Training Center (ALERT). Korah is now home to over 200 thousand people, many of whom are carrying the scars of leprosy, battling HIV, or wearing the stigma of being born in a place so rampant with sickness and disease.
Henok Berhanu was born in Asmera, Ethoipia and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia by a 16-year-old uneducated single mother. Despite this, his mother fought hard to give her son a better life. After graduating from Addis Ababa University with a degree in business and economics, Berhanu took a job at an international non-profit serving the poor. When the government was forced to close this non-profit, over 80 women lost their jobs. Berhanu describes it “heartbreaking” to see these women go back to rummaging in the trash just to eat. He avoided Korah for a year afterwards because it was so difficult for him to see the women struggling (Motivation, 2018).
Eventually, Berhanu decided that instead of avoiding the issue, he wanted to do something about it. Using his passion to help disadvantaged women and his education in business, he launched Carry 117 in early 2017. Carry 117 (named for scripture Isaiah 1:17 – Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow) serves to go beyond charity to support income alternatives for the at-risk women of Korah. Women are hired and trained to sew, making a line of handbags and accessories from locally sourced products. These women are paid a monthly salary and deposit a portion of their income into a personal saving account opened for them. Carry 117 then matches this deposit. The line of bags and accessories are sold at bazaars in Ethiopia and also exported for sale abroad by U.S. volunteers like LifePoint’s own Nicole Hunsicker.
The Hunsickers had a front row seat to watching their friend and U.S. Director of Carry 117 Ashley Bohinc fall in love with Ethiopia and the people there. Nicole says, “[Ashley’s] passion for the country, the people, the culture, history, and food was contagious!”
While Nicole desired to experience Ethiopia in person, her children were young and she understood that the timing wasn’t right. However, she also understood that “you can love your neighbors on the other side of the world even by staying on this side of the world.” Nicole began learning about the country and organization, sharing the message, and praying for the Ethiopian people. Her first Carry 117 trip took place in December 2017 when it was the perfect time for both her and her husband to go. Being in the place Nicole had learned to connect with from afar was an incredible experience, and she became the Ethiopian country coordinator for LifePoint not long after returning, working alongside Mayson Lawyer.
Nicole also realized during her trip that “I wanted to deepen our family’s connection with Carry 117 [because] I wanted our experience to far outlast our actual trip.” To this end, she began brainstorming ways to share Carry 117 stateside. The idea of Carry 117 house parties was born.
As a Carry 117 events coordinator, Nicole plans and hosts private events (‘house parties’) in which Carry 117 products are brought to an individual and shared with their social circle. Parties can be planned in person, virtually, or merchandise can be shipped for parties that are not local. 100% of Carry 117 purchases go directly back to the organization’s mission to positively impact the lives of more women in Korah.
Supporting Carry 117 is a family affair for the Hunsickers – Nicole’s husband has served as a designer and writer for the company and their children are experts at boxing and unboxing merchandise as well as sharing the products and praying for the women and their families.
Carry 117 founder Berhanu states that he’s learned: “You think you need money. You think you need wealth. You think you need platforms. You think you need the educational background to make a difference. But you just need to have the right heart. If you have that, you can do anything. Be the person who starts the relay race, or jumps into a race that’s already being run… Don’t just sit in the stands and watch.”
For Nicole, the race is already running. The wheels are in motion and there are great ways to get off the stands and be a part of Carry 117. It might look like wearing a Carry 117 t-shirt. It may look like purchasing a product or hosting a house party. It may look like sharing the organization’s mission with friends when they ask about the new bracelet on your wrist.
Says Nicole “I believe we have the incredible opportunity to love the Carry 117 women and their families from the other side of the ocean. Everyone can love and serve others in some way, regardless of season.”
“What’s His Motivation?” Carry 117. 10 April 2018. https://www.carry117.com/carry-117-1/whats-his-motivation
LifePoint partners with Carry 117 as part of our Global Outreach.
For more information on hosting a Carry 117 house party, contact Nicole Hunsicker at email@example.com.
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