When Life Gives You Lemons, You Make A Skirt

Back in 2012, our first graduating class was overjoyed to learn new skills, so much so that they had to share them. There was no other option. They believed that women all over Zambia needed to get some of what they were getting: hope, knowledge, community, purpose. On their own they sought out a remote village three hours outside Lusaka, in an area where ox-drawn carts are the primary mode of transportation and the closest government school is over an hour’s walk. This village is called Muchochoma Village, and ever since 2012, they have been part of our Clothed in Hope family. 

These twelve women in the Muchochoma Village training group have endured hardships many of us cannot even imagine. When we first started coming to the village, Muchochoma villagers were known to other villages as the “beggars.” They couldn’t even afford food or soap. Yet these women weren’t (and still aren’t) bound by their circumstances. They are capable, determined, and bright. 

When our once-every-two-month visits turned into twice-monthly visits due to the drive and passion of the village ladies, we needed a facility. A place to learn sewing, business management, health education and personal development skills. A place to gather together and build a community of encouragers and doers. Rather than ask for an elaborate structure, the twelve women came together to make bricks by hand. Mud bricks, hand crafted, did you catch that? They built a structure, and we provided the roofing and support poles. We traded the mango tree shade for this building, and everyone loved it. 

 The original structure at Muchochoma Village, with HANDMADE bricks.

The original structure at Muchochoma Village, with HANDMADE bricks.

Until just a few months ago, during rainy season, when a terrible storm ripped through the village, tearing off our roofing sheets, damaging them, and destroying the handmade bricks. The building was leveled to the ground with materials scattered. Our home of HOPE in Muchochoma Village, destroyed. 

Everyone was devastated. But the sorrow didn’t last too long. The storm that destroyed the facility couldn’t destroy the passion and determination of the Muchochoma Village ladies and our training staff. When life gave them lemons, they made skirts. They made skirts sitting on maize sacks on the ground in the sunshine. The most beautiful skirts from the most inspiring determination. 

 Iledi with her beautiful skirt. 

Iledi with her beautiful skirt. 

We’ve decided that it’s time to ramp up our partnership in Muchochoma Village. These ladies express such a hunger for learning, for change, for empowering others in surrounding villages, and we want to be a part of that. So we’re currently in the final weeks of building a permanent concrete structure where the old facility stood. 

A new Chikondi Community Center. A new home of HOPE for Muchochoma Village women and their families. And it’s not just a center for CiH programs. The Chikondi Community Center: Muchochoma Village will also serve as a primary school building for village children to learn, some attending school for the first time in their lives since they were previously unable to afford school fees or make the trek to the government school. This is truly a community center, a gathering place, a safe haven, a school, a beacon of hope to this community and countless others. 

The Muchochoma women are the artisans of our Village Twist Bracelets, and have utilized their business training to invest their bracelet income into purchasing farming fertilizer. For the first year in this village, they had a profitable harvest. From training to bracelets to a harvest and a sustainable income source for this village, we continue to be blown away by what is happening in Muchchoma Village. 

Nothing can stop these women from working hard for their families and their community. The once “beggar village” is now a generous village, handing out crops and goods to surrounding villages in need because of their empowerment, their opportunity, and their new business. The headman of Muchochoma Village (similar position to a Mayor for Americans) approached us recently to share, “this is exactly the type of project I want for my village.” Not a handout but an opportunity through empowerment and education. A truly lasting impact for the community. A dignifying path for women and their families. He invites us to continue, to keep on, and is as excited as we are for our permanent facility to be completed in the next few weeks. 

 The oldest woman of the village, who the ladies refer to as "Sweet Sixteen," hard at work using the manual hand sewing machine.

The oldest woman of the village, who the ladies refer to as "Sweet Sixteen," hard at work using the manual hand sewing machine.

All of this because our first class of students in 2012 wanted to pay it forward and give others the skills they have. Zambians bettering Zambia from the inside out. A true inspiration to all of us, and a joy to our always-expanding CiH family. 

Thank you for making this incredible empowerment and sustainability possible. We can’t wait to show you photos of the new Chikondi Community Center, where many more beautiful skirts will be made for years to come. 

With Chikondi (Love),
Amy 

 

----

If you would like to donate towards the cost of this Chikondi Community Center in Muchochoma Village (around $6,000), click “Donate” below. All donations are 100% tax-deductible and greatly appreciated. 

Donate