Steve and Kirsten Nelson of Copperopolis will embark on a journey of a lifetime in October to Nazret, Ethiopia. Their mission is to empower those struggling with the devastating effects of poverty including women and children who are, and were, the victims of human trafficking.
The couple is part of an 11-person team from Arukah Global, a Silicon Valley faith-based organization that travels to Nazret yearly to build long-term relationships through “Physical, emotional, spiritual, educational and occupational support.”
“This will be my first trip,” said Steve Nelson.
Nelson is the owner of Calaveras Tactical and a San Jose Fire Department captain.
“Quite frankly, it has been on my heart a lot. Most of my life I’ve felt like I was a consumer. For the longest time I wanted to find ways to give back.”
Leaving America in mid-October, the couple will travel with nine other Arukah Global volunteers on the more than 20-hour flight. They will land in Addis Ababa, the capitol of Ethiopia. The group will then travel an additional two hours to Nazret on Ethiopia’s first toll road, completed in 2014.
Nelson learned about Arukah Global through his wife, who has traveled to many countries on mission trips. Yet after a mission trip to Ethiopia two years ago, “her heart found the place where she wanted to be most; no other country had called to her like Ethiopia,” said Nelson.
More than 30 percent of Ethiopia’s population lives in poverty and approximately 33 percent of the population is infected with the HIV/AIDS virus, according to Nelson.
Nazret has one of the highest rates of HIV in Ethiopia, with 10 percent of the women engaging in prostitution, Nelson added. Though the number of woman infected with a sexually transmitted disease or HIV/AIDS virus in the dark world of human trafficking is of great concern to Arukah Global, the focus is the women’s entire wellbeing.
The mission trip the Nelsons will be participating in will partner with local ministries run by Ethiopian nationals to provide classes on woman’s health including the sensitive topics of post abortion care and sexually transmitted diseases. The focus will be to help create a healthy mind, body and spirit for each woman at risk.
“We will also be working with the children of the at-risk mothers by providing crafts and fun days as well as assisting in other projects throughout the community,” Nelson said.
“I hope to gain long-term relationships with those I work with. The objective is not to get there and create dependency,” Nelson said. “Everything we do we want to give them a sense of ownership, learning the skills to be self-sustaining.”
Partnering with Elilta Center for Women at Risk, the mission members also hope to rescue many women out of prostitution, helping them by getting them off the street and into a one-year program offering classes, mental health services and job training. According to Nelson, some who complete the year-long program may apply for micro loans to start their own businesses.
Nelson also sponsors a child in Nazret and will finally be able to meet him on this trip.
“I sent a care package of school supplies last year with Kirsten when she visited,” Nelson said. “He’s 17 and will graduate from high school in a couple years. His father passed away and his mom is HIV positive.
“He lives with his mother and little brother in a hut made with mud walls, dirt floors and scrap metal roofing. We correspond often. In his last letter, he told me he hoped I married my friend. So we will surprise him when we arrive, because I did, indeed, marry my friend.”
He looks forward to the customary coffee ceremony when he is invited to a home in the community. “Apparently, they roast the beans in an open fire, crush them and place the crushed beans in a pot over a fire. The coffee is then served in a pottery espresso-sized cup.” The ceremony is considered a mark of friendship or respect.
Coffee made up more than 50 percent of Ethiopia’s domestic product and more than 80 percent of its exports in 2014, according to East African Business Week magazine.
Nelson raised funds for his mission trip through email contacts with friends and family, but would like to reach out further. He is offering an in-kind training at Calaveras Tactical for up to six qualified persons who donate to Arukah Global.
To support Steve and Kirsten Nelson or learn more about Arukah Global visit arukahglobal.com.
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