There are 2 days when I most wish I could teleport every single one of you over here to Zambia to experience for yourself: the first day of training class and graduation. Today was the first day of training class for our new partnership group from House of Moses/Christian Alliance for Children in Zambia, and it was quite possibly the most moving yet.
I hear a little tap on our big black gate, and the door opens as each woman timidly steps through the gate door. Led by their contact from CACZ, they huddle behind her unsure of what they’ve just stepped into. These ladies are all different ages. Each woman carries a different story in her eyes and a different weight on her shoulders.
But for all, the reality is that they are struggling to provide for their families. They have been identified as vulnerable people by CACZ, and are part of a temporary handout program to provide food for their children so they won’t have them taken away. Times are tough, tougher than I, or most likely any of you, could ever imagine.
The ladies file in one by one and sit on the benches inside the Chikondi Community Center. Our lead instructor, Mrs. Mulenga, encourages them as she has every other student who has gone before them. She tells them that they can do it. And sitting amongst the women is a man. A man who we assumed to be a worker from CACZ, but is actually a new student.
Our first male student, named Francis. Words can’t express the kindness and vulnerability written on his face. He’s an older gentleman with the softest soul. He’s come to learn a skill to provide for his family. In a group of 10 women, he’s made the choice to step out, perhaps the most risky choice of all. And right in the middle of Mrs. Mulenga’s encouragement talk, she speaks to Francis directly and says, “Look around this compound. Every other man is out there drinking beer and being destructive, and here you are. Because you care about your family. We are proud of you.”
Yes and yes a million times over. What started as a day of routine turned into a day of a brilliant surprise. A man who doesn’t want to beat his wife but wants her to feel led and provided for. A father who loves his kids so much that he travels over an hour each way to attend class at our Chikondi Community Center. A man so brave that he’s stepped onto a path that very few men dare walk on here- a path of dignity, integrity, selflessness, leadership, and self-respect.
What an incredible symbol this man is and will be to this group of women, to all of us at the center, and to entire communities. A man who refuses to cave from all of life’s pressures, and a man who rises up alongside some pretty mighty women.
Brave. These women and this man exude this word in every possible way. One woman has come all the way from a village outside of town, a commute 2 hours each way and a monetary sacrifice bigger than her weekly food budget. She comes because she is expectant. She comes because she is brave.
CiH is bigger than just the Ng’ombe Compound now. We can’t stop the wildfire of HOPE spreading rapidly throughout this community, this city, and now this nation. I stand against the classroom wall during the orientation being led by our local staff, and I am just in awe. In pure amazement that the people of Zambia are empowering each other, are encouraging each other, are supporting each other, and have taken ownership of a program that is truly life changing.
As we wrap up our first class, women from past and current classes take turns sharing their experiences in front of the group.
Rodah shows off a dress she made and our top-secret new kids product, and stops mid-story to say quietly yet confidently, “I am so proud.”
My heart explodes.
Mirriam rushes in screaming, “Praise God!” as she waves a pair of trousers high in the air, trousers that are her last part of her final exams for graduation next weekend. She tells of how her life has changed. Of how being brave has truly impacted her family.
My heart explodes.
Catherine walks in holding up a custom dress, and tells a heavier story, the story of when she almost quit. The story of how she stopped attending class for 2 months, but the CiH women cared about her so much that they didn’t let her quit. They made her come back, they encouraged her to press on no matter how hard, and now she will graduate with a diploma in tailoring. She cheers, she bursts with joy, she dances.
My heart explodes.
And lastly Elina shares about the beginning of CiH, how I came to Zambia to start this program. How I didn’t choose the wealthy or equipped, but I came to this very compound, to these very people. She gave me recognition that I don’t come close to deserving. Because if you ask me, these women and this man who I met today, they are the brave ones.
They are the one putting everything on the line to rescue and preserve their families. They are stepping out in a society that says give up. They are choosing education in a cycle that says you’ll never succeed. They are choosing HOPE.
They are the brave ones. So wherever you are today, whatever risk you feel is too big to take, just take it. Because you have over 60 sisters and a brother 6,000 miles away also choosing to be brave. We’re all going to do this thing together, one stitch at a time.
With Chikondi (Love),
[To join the HOPE Club, committing financially to join us in these efforts, to keep our program going for those brave ones out there, click here. We can’t do what we do without you.]