Back in 2010, I was a rising junior at the University of South Carolina, studying Fashion Merchandising. I went on this little 6-week trip to Zambia with 21 other college students to experience life in Zambia and invest in existing projects at universities and an orphanage in the Ng’ombe compound. To me, it was just another life experience- something to do before I graduated while I still “had the time” and while I was “still young.” Little did I know, that trip would open my eyes and create a stirring in my heart that has yet to cease. I met some amazing people who impacted my worldview and my faith.
On the weekends we went to an orphanage. The little kids we played games with were adorable. They were joyful, they were full of life, they were curious, just like any other little tot is. But their eyes told a deeper story- a story of pain, neglect, rejection that no child should have to endure.
These children were orphans. Some of them had to endure the death of their mothers and fathers. Some of them were removed from their homes due to abusive situations. But most of them and many of the orphans in Zambia became orphans simply because their mothers and fathers could not afford to feed them. Can you imagine the pain? I’m not even a parent, but the thought of what a mother must feel when she’s forced to give up her child, her baby who she carried and loves so deeply, because of poverty, injustices and systems greater than she can conquer, seems unbearable. The moms of these children long to rock their babies to sleep. These moms want to make their kids laugh, feel safe, be provided for, just like every other mom. But due to financial hardship, the evil and confusing thing called poverty, she has to give up her baby. She has to release her own child to someone else who is able to feed him, to clothe him, to care for him when he’s sick, to provide for him.
As a 20-year-old seeing these babes run around cared for, able to laugh and have fun, was a thrilling thing. But as I looked in the distance, other mamas were watching. Maybe the baby I was holding was hers. Maybe the child who was getting his boo-boo attended to by an orphanage director belonged to another woman watching from afar.
Can you imagine?
Mothers of orphans like these, social orphans, have the same intense desire to mother their child that every other mother possesses. She was not abusive to her child. Her home environment was stable. But she could not feed her child. She could not provide him with the medicine he needed to fight his TB, HIV, meningitis, malaria, etc. So she did the most courageous, selfless, excruciating, painful, loving thing- she gave her baby to someone who could care for him in a way that she was not able to due to poverty, and poverty alone.
Can you imagine?
My heart in 2010 was rocked by the orphan crisis in Zambia. It simply shouldn’t be. Loving, stable, caring mothers shouldn’t have to give up their babies to be raised in a home without them. But they do, because this world is broken and hurting, and poverty is much bigger than a handout or a band-aid.
That writhing pain deep down in my soul, the intense sympathy for women I had yet to meet, kept me up at night. It wrecked me. It wrecked my plans. And it created in me a responsibility in my soul that I couldn’t ignore. It was time for someone to stand up for the mamas who want to keep their families together, but financially can’t. It was time for someone to tell that mama that she is worth it. That she is enough. That she is loveable. That she is loved.
And with a lot of thinking, praying, a huge leap, and a big dose of crazy, Clothed in Hope was formed. Equipping and empowering mothers to care for their families, to keep families together, to approach the orphan crisis from a preventative measure.
For years since, I dreamed of a local partnership with an orphanage to make this impact even deeper, even wider-reaching. But how? When I’m just one person, how could this be possible?
And then I got a phone call on an average day in October. One that came about 5 years earlier than I ever expected. From the House of Moses orphanage run by the Christian Alliance for Children in Zambia (CACZ). This orphanage is incredible, y’all. They care for babies and toddlers who have been identified as vulnerable children by the social welfare offices in Zambia. But their mission isn’t just to take children and get them adopted. Their heart is to preserve families in Zambia. They have identified the biggest cause of the orphan crisis in Zambia: child abandonment due to poverty. The solution? Poverty reduction- Women’s empowerment.
CACZ is already taking steps to intervene before mothers have their babies taken away. They run the Milk and Medicine program, offering emergency assistance to provide food to babies whose mothers cannot afford to feed them. But they recognize that these handouts are neither sustainable nor beneficial in the long-term.
Enter: Clothed in Hope! CACZ recognizes that independence and empowerment are the keys to preventing social orphans in Zambia. And they chose to partner with us to train the mothers in this vulnerable place.
Without such assistance and educational programming, mothers would have to give up their babies. Staying in an incredibly impoverished home environment would mean that babies would suffer from malnutrition, stunting, and disease, even death.
We are getting to play a vital role partnering with House of Moses orphanage. We are combatting the orphan crisis from a preventative angle. We are empowering mothers with a profitable skill so that their families don’t have to be separated, so that the child they adore can stay at home, be fed, and receive quality schooling.
This is HUGE, friends. The 5-10-20 year plan was to get to be involved directly in orphan prevention in Zambia through a local partnership. And bam! We have been hit with a tidal wave of grace to be blessed with this partnership with an organization that we respect and admire.
Fifteen ladies from House of Moses’ Milk & Medicine program, identified as the most vulnerable women in their communities, at risk of having their babies taken away, are joining our program in two short weeks. We are so excited! We are so humbled. We are so honored. And we are beyond grateful to get to play a role in the worldwide orphan crisis through our women’s empowerment program.
Thank you for joining this journey with us! Rejoice with us, celebrate with us! Huge things are happening, all thanks to each one of you who are partnering with us financially. Y’all are truly breaking the cycle of poverty, one stitch at a time, for the benefit of mamas, their dearest little ones, and entire families.
With Love, Amy Founder & Executive Director