Every September, parents in Ethiopia must spend money on school materials for their children. And this leaves a huge burden for those who don’t have enough income to cover extra costs.

A young mother to 7-year-old Nathanael, Mame feels that financial strain of these school fees. When she was 6 months pregnant, her husband left. She was lonely, supporting her son by herself and living in a desperate situation.

Mame shared her story after she joined the “Lemlem Tabia” Women Empowered (WE) group in Addis Ababa, a decision that brought her both hope and happiness.

WE is a PCI global initiative designed to promote the economic and social advancement of women, unlocking their potential as leaders within their families and their communities. Through the initiative, PCI and partners form savings groups with women that integrate social, human, and financial capital development over a period of roughly 18 months, after which groups are able to function on their own without outside support. Globally, the WE Initiative has formed more than 32,000 savings groups with over 438,000 members who have saved $3.5 million.

Along with Mame, many WE members were struggling to buy school materials for their children. During a weekly WE meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, seven WE groups gathered to discuss ways to address the problem.

“We cannot tolerate seeing any of us suffer. We don’t need any assistance from outside, we knew that we can help each other,” the seven WE groups said collectively.

Hamlet, a WE community facilitator, initiated the meeting and the group members worked together to find a solution. She played a significant role in organizing representatives from all seven of these groups to set a day to distribute the materials to the students.

Group members expressing their unity said, “We have a strong bond of love. We are now like sisters, so we continue to support each other.”

Based on the criteria the groups set together, they provided 16 children, including Nathanael, with school materials: exercise books, pens, pencils and erasers they needed for the school year.

“I had never recognized how much giving generates more happiness than receiving,” said Amete, a WE member who helped distribute school materials to students. And as for Mame, she is happy to have found a deep and profound connection with her new WE family: “I didn’t expect that my group members deeply know my problem. I feel no more isolated, they are my sisters.”