The day before our 3-year anniversary since the founding of our organization, we began our third cycle of women to take part in our sewing and business skills training program. For the first time ever, we had to use an application process due to the overwhelming demand to be a part of what’s happening at the Chikondi Community Center. Word is spreading, and we are so grateful. Our in-country director reviewed each application to select women with the greatest need and also the greatest desire to learn the skills taught at our center for their benefit and the benefit of their families. And after quite the process, we excitedly called each of the 15 women in our newest training class to let them know of their acceptance into our program.
I, too, looked over each application to learn a little more about each story: how many children she has, why she wants to learn, what hardships she’s currently facing, etc. One woman is a widow and a mother of 9 children. She wants to learn sewing, tailoring and fashion design to start a business to support her growing children. Another woman is eager to learn so that she can impact her community. Yet another woman recognizes the all-too-real possibility of her husband someday becoming unemployed, and wants to be prepared with a trade of her own should that happen.
The desires of these women are powerful. They have great goals and big dreams. And every dream reaches beyond them to impact the lives of family members, friends and entire communities. We gladly open our arms a bit wider and our doors for hours more to educate and empower these women to be able to achieve these dreams. Women recognize the power of education in the ability to change stories and change lives, and have chosen to train with us at the Chikondi Community Center.
As I read over every application, I jotted down the ages and number of children to share with y’all to get a better idea of who the women are in our training classes:
The average number of children each woman has is 4 (and you’ll see quite a few of them on the backs of their Mamas if you come to our center). The number of children ranges from 1 to 9. The average age of women in this newest class is 36 years old. The ages range from 21 to 54 years old.
The last part is what strikes me most, what encourages me, what inspires me. With the average life expectancy hovering around 50 years old, the oldest woman in our class has already beat the odds. She’s thriving and she doesn’t stop there. Rather than remaining idle in her house, she’s chosen, after half-a-century, to get the education and training she’s desired her entire life. She’s interrupting her well-engrained life routine to receive the life skills training that will change her story.
And she’s not alone. Other women, one 43 years old with 5 children, or one 47 years old with 6 children, have realized the beauty of chasing their dreams for the benefit of others. They’re choosing this year, 2014, to push away the things that hold them back and to step out to begin a new chapter. They recognize that there is no better time than now, and we are so very blessed to be a part of this journey with them.
We look forward to sharing the stories of these ladies in the coming months, and how education really does change lives, no matter what age or chapter of life you’re in.
What’s your dream? Chase it. Reach out for it. Work hard for it. It’s never too late.
With Chikondi, Amy
P.S. In order to keep writing new stories in the lives of women in Zambia, helping them achieve their dreams, we urgently need you to be a part of it all, joining us as a faithful monthly supporter. Sign up HERE to be a part of HOPE in Zambia and know your gift is truly changing lives.