Meet Elina. She’s our In-Country Director. She was a member of our first graduating class in 2014. She’s a mom of 6, grandmother of 2. She gained valuable skills from our program, and now works passionately to see other women in her community receive the same life-changing opportunity. Sounds like her full-time job would be enough to contribute to the community, right? We thought so too, but we’re quite wrong.
Elina has always been a giver, a selflessly compassionate woman who wants the best, if not better, for others. And that sacrifice, that joy, that dedication to others is what inspired us way back in 2010 when CiH was only a dream.
When you see Elina in action at our Chikondi Community Center connecting with women who seem distant, giving encouragement to those who have doubts, making a way for those who are struggling, it changes you. We’ve always known that this generosity and compassion stretches far past her job, as we’ve witnessed her bring orphans into her home and claim them as her own children, as she’s invited others for a meal in seasons when she’s been struggling herself.
But we heard a story this past week that inspired us even more than we thought possible.
Elina runs a business in her free time after work and on the weekends with the entrepreneurial skills and mentoring she received at our Chikondi Community Center. Specifically, she purchases goods at wholesale (blankets, fabric, dry goods, etc.) to re-sell to customers in her community and even in other neighboring countries. Talk about impressive, right? She’s making a good amount of money with a new understanding of profit and business management.
What would one typically do with the extra earnings? Maybe buy some new clothes? Treat oneself to a new hairdo? Splurge on some specialty foods? Enjoy an evening out? Admittedly, that’s what I would probably do.
But Elina’s different. Not because anyone is watching her, or because she wants the recognition of being generous and amazingly caring. But because she feels it’s her responsibility and her joy to be a part of others’ stories, to expand her family to include the vulnerable, the orphan, the widow, because she’s overcome many struggles in her life as a widow herself.
Elina recently returned from a trip to Zimbabwe to take care of some family matters. She sold a good chunk of fabric to earn a really high profit from her goods. She didn’t use it on herself. She invested part in her business to buy more goods, but only after she invested in the community. She heard of the need of a primary school building in our partner village, Muchochoma Village, and rather than come to us for help or ask for money, she saw her ability and used it. Elina raised enough money to buy plastic chairs for kids and building bricks to build a primary school in a village.
One woman. In a compound community of over 100,000. Who has overcome extraordinary pain and hardship. Giving up her own money to provide an educational facility for village children.
She told me this story in passing, as if it was no big deal. Not looking for a pat on the back or a fancy blog post about her. She was telling me as if to say, “I’m in this too. I’m doing what I can with what I have for the betterment of others.”
Because of Elina, hundreds of village children will have a shelter from heat and rain, a safe environment to gain an education- a privilege of very few in rural villages. All because one woman saw the need, saw her potential to make a difference, and gave generously.
I know I can learn a lot from Elina, and rather than turn from this story with a short-lived good feeling, I want it to permeate my soul, to change the way I see my potential impact in the community that’s right in front of me and her community 6,000 miles away. Together we’re a force for good. Together we are breaking the cycle of poverty, one stitch at a time. And that’s a beautiful, beautiful thing, friends.
With Chikondi (Love),
CiH Founder & Executive Director