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ANERA: Hawazim has opened the first bakery in the rural West Bank village of Sarta

The alluring smell of freshly baked bread and pies hits you long before you step foot inside Hawazim’s bakery in the West Bank village of Sarta. “My bread-making business is still new, but it is on the rise,” she says, enjoying the bread puns. “Life wasn’t always sweet around here,” the 46-year-old mother of five says. Her smile vanishes as if it was never there. For most of her life, Hawazim tells us, her only purpose in the world was to take care of her husband and children. “I cooked, cleaned, and baked for them with passion. And I did it with love,” she says. Hawazim is in constant motion. As she speaks, she hands a seven-year-old customer her purchase of freshly-made flatbread (or taboon, as it is called in Arabic). Then her husband fell ill. “When my husband was diagnosed with a rare disease, doctors told us paralysis was inevitable. Everything happened so fast. In seconds, it seemed, he was left disabled and without work. And we were left without money.” “Little did I know that I was destined to be more than just a Palestinian housewife and mother,” she says while pouring fresh olive oil into a large pan. “With heartache, God never closes a door without opening a window. I knew I had a great skill, yet the idea of making my passion into a profession was so terrifying for my children and me.” But one day Hawazim finally decided to contact the Palestinian Ministry of Social Development. That is when she learned about Anera’s Woman Can program, funded by Islamic Relief USA. She quickly realized her new business proposal could offer a chance to save not only her family, but also be a way to serve her village. And she would do it by doing what she loves. Anera helped Hawazim open the very first bakery in the village of Sarta in Salfit by providing a state-of-the-art taboon oven where she can bake her bread and pies over rocks heated by fire. “Look at me baking away today,” she says. “I’m transforming from a dependent housewife into a business woman!” Twenty-two kilometers southwest of Nablus, Sarta’s population is about 3,400. The villagers were forced to purchase bread from surrounding villages, or from local supermarkets that sell bread that is often more stale than fresh. The absence of a bakery in “our tiny village spelled opportunity,” Hawazim says. News about her bakery is spreading through word of mouth, and her sales are still growing. As the sole breadwinner, forgive our pun, Hawzim only has plans to spend more time with her children and together bake and expand to the restaurant business. “Why quit now when we’re on a roll?”

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