This American summer (Zambian winter) it's been so fun to have some Stateside volunteers, interns and supporters meet up with us here in Zambia to see what their contributions are doing in the lives of 33 Zambian women. We'd love to introduce you to one of those former interns who has chosen to come on full support staff with us as the Stateside Coordinator based out of Columbia, SC. We are so excited to have her as a part of our organization, and we're looking forward to sharing all the awesome stuff she'll be up to over the next couple of years! She's great and we know you'll think so too. So without further ado, here's a blog post from CiH's newest staff member, Dendy Steddenbenz:
For the past year I have volunteered with a nonprofit called Clothed in Hope. We believe that by teaching sewing, business training, and health education classes to vulnerable women in Zambia that we will ignite a change. These women have lost hope in this society and feel powerless and inferior to do anything that would make a difference in their lives and the lives of the people around them. Imagine being trapped in a spider's web (might be a little difficult but bear with me). You try to take a step forward, to escape, to do something for yourself, but you end up more tangled than before. Then maybe you build up enough courage to try again, and you try another step. Now, you're even more stuck. So, you think well maybe it's just better if I lie here and do nothing, than if I keep trying and instead get further and further from where I want to be. Well, this might be just how Zambian women feel. They have no drive. They are filled with fear and hopelessness. Clothed in Hope's mission is to break this cycle! We want to bring empowerment to these women who actually believe they are nothing. We want to free them from the people who shame them and instill inferiority in their minds.
So after that year of fundraising and hearing the life changing stories from the women of Clothed in Hope, I finally made it! And where might you be asking did I make it to?? ...AFRICA! I am here in Lusaka, Zambia getting to work face to face with these wonderful women. How crazy! It's truly a blessing to be here. I never really grasped the entirety of this organization until I saw these women working and learning and engaging in our program. It has been an incredible experience! One of my favorite days was actually this past Tuesday. I got to have the most amazing conversation with one of the women! Tresa had called me in to take my measurements for a suit (a dress made of chitenge worn to weddings or parties). I wasn't aware that I needed a suit to add to my wardrobe, especially since I was to be leaving in just a week and I didn't see myself wearing it back in the states. However, I wasn't about to say no when she offered to make me one! So, she began taking my measurements and we got to talking. She asked me questions about my family and my life back home. Then, we started to talk about her life and how much her life had changed in the past year. The men in her life had walked away and left her as a single mother of two. Her friends no longer wanted to associate with her, and instead pointed their fingers at her. She had barely any money and considered herself to be worthless. She said she began to pray that someone would come. Then she looked at me and said that we were the ones she had been praying for. In that moment she rejoiced for this community of women. She said that with the love of these women and Clothed in Hope she had found hope. Hope in life. Hope in her community. Hope in herself. She was no longer trapped on a web, lying in stillness. She was set free. She no longer felt like she couldn't be a part of something. It was truly both inspiring and encouraging!
This trip was the highlight of my summer! Getting to actually work in the Chikondi Community Center with the women I have heard so much about was incredible. While witnessing this organization bring hope to these women, they have in turn brought hope to me. I am looking forward to working fulltime for Clothed in Hope when I return to South Carolina as their Stateside Coordinator. I have such passion for this organization and I cannot wait to see it grow!