Eric Lesner
Eric Lesner
Ethiopia 2015
Eric Lesner - Finance major, Belmont University class of 2015. Originally from Oswego, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. I am the Chief Financial Officer of Belmont Enactus and will be working with Ellilta Women at Risk, an organization that helps women transition out of prostitution in Ethiopia. Read More About Eric →

To Addis: An Unexpected Journey

Well what a whirlwind these last few days have been. On Saturday, I graduated from Belmont University with a degree in Finance. Today, I stand just six days away from traveling to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to work with Ellilta Women at Risk (EWAR).  EWAR is an organization that provides rehabilitation and job skill training to women in Ethiopia so that they may leave lives of prostitution.

My involvement with this organization dates back about a year. It was May of 2014 that I happened to be in Nashville when a friend of mine, and Enactus teammate, Zoe Dollman, needed a ride to a meeting she was having at African Leadership in Brentwood, TN regarding this organization called Ellilta. This then evolved into getting invited to said meeting to provide a “financial perspective”.

Meeting Cherry Friedmeyer, the founder of EWAR on that fateful morning ignited my passion for this organization and opened my  eyes for their opportunity. We saw enough opportunity for us to make improvements that we ended up taking a trip to Addis in October of 2014.

In the one week that we were there, Zoe worked with EWAR, learning how they rehabilitation process and job skill training side of things worked. I worked with the for profit side of the organization called Ellilta Products (EP). EP hires women as weavers after they complete the rehabilitation/job skill process. These weavers produce beautiful hand made scarves which are then sold. The proceeds of these sales would ideally then go back to sustain the operations of EWAR and allow it to run without the need for donations.

We were able to make some headway on these fronts during our visit, but the week was over before we could even open our jet-lagged eyes.

I am excited for the progress that I can make with this organization over the next three months. I am looking to make the process of producing scarves more efficient, increase sales in Ethiopia so that the organization doesn’t have to rely on exporters or international sales, and finally to assist EWAR in the tracking of their women currently in, and graduated from the program so that the organization can be even more effective.

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