Peg Bavin, Programme Funding Co-ordinator at Send a Cow, was an integral part of the team that secured the recent grant awarded by the Big Lottery Fund to help marginalised groups in Ethiopia.

In August 2014 I visited Ethiopia to conduct what we call a ‘community assessment’ as part of the second stage of an application to the Big Lottery Fund for a grant to support a new project in Wolyaita, which is one of the 14 zones of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region in Ethiopia.

The purpose of the trip was to conduct focus groups with different groups of people to understand their situation since most people of this area suffer from a chronic food shortage, despite having access to land, and to produce a project plan of how to bring positive and lasting change to families living there.

What we found was both unexpected and overwhelming. Aklilu Dogisso, the Ethiopia Country Director who grew up in Wolyaita, talked about how different groups, especially potters, tanners and blacksmiths, are highly marginalised and isolated from the community.

This was something we knew nothing about so, as a team, we asked to visit these communities and met with a group of potters, and then visited them in their homes. Potters spoke of being ignored and excluded from community events and how they have no value, so the sight of our arrival as we pulled up outside their home caused a commotion in this small community.

The family demonstrated how they make large pots and injera platters from clay. We stood and watched them work, amazed at what they produced in mere moments. A crowd gathered around us and the family worked harder in-front of this new audience.

The potters aren’t the only marginalised group in the area. Those that suffer from extreme poverty are also excluded on the basis that they can’t contribute to the community. Those with disabilities suffer stigma, abuse and reduced opportunities and women take the brunt of high workloads and inequality within the home.

Send a Cow promotes the importance of families and communities working together to help support and empower one another and to realise their own potential. The potential in Wolyaita is enormous and the prospect of helping to unleash it is exciting. This is why our proposal to the Big Lottery Fund focused on a new programme to support marginalised groups in the area.

Thankfully the Big Lottery Fund agreed and awarded us a grant to support the programme for three years, commencing April 2015. As Programme Funding Co-ordinator I’ve seen, first hand, the difference self-belief and a sense of value and belonging can make to an individual. Through training and social support we will bring people out of hunger and isolation.