Looking back to look ahead

On Tuesday, we’ll be celebrating exactly one year of being an official 501(c)(3) charitable organization. But before then, let’s just pause a second to take a look back over the past year. Just one year that has opened eyes and hearts to Clothed in Hope. The organization has spread past me and my efforts, placing the responsibility to do something in the hands of so many others. I have been humbled to be a part of this past year, meeting peers passionate about the cause, parents, businessmen, graphic artists, video editors, just about anyone and everyone who has said “I want to do more” with their talents. Clothed in Hope isn’t just a cause, it’s a movement. It’s a network of people who have rejected the notion that life is meant to be lived alone. It’s a contagious heart that sees the needs of Zambia and chooses to do whatever it can to help.  Sure I’ve put in countless hours for CiH but more than anything, it’s given to me. It’s shown me the beauty of humanity- that we’re all the same and when we come together, anything can happen. That it’s a joy to walk by faith. It’s shown me that people love to give. Maybe it’s not always in the form of monetary donations, but it’s shared Facebook statuses, Twitter mentions, t-shirt sales, invitations to speaking engagements, time, and most beautifully, passions. During 2011, I had the honor of watching everything progress. With every news release, every press coverage of Clothed in Hope, I became more and more hopeful for the future of CiH in the lives of Zambian women. But this past summer, it all came alive. After my journey down the red dirt path hand-in-hand with Elina’s sweet children, both her own and the ones who she’s generously given a home to, I arrived in this house in the middle of the slum community, Ng’ombe, in a cinderblock house seated on a secondhand couch. Doors were open with an afternoon (winter) breeze blowing through. The sun poured in through the barred windows and the light curtains that tried to keep bugs from sneaking in. As chickens ran through the living room with echoes of children’s laughter filling the other rooms, it all became real.

Surrounding me were 5 Zambian women, 4 of them complete strangers to me. They wore their nicest blouses and sat attentively as Elina translated our first meeting together. I’ve been told that it’s going to take years to earn the trust of these women but after sitting with them for just a couple of hours, I’m not so sure I agree with that completely. These women, timid, gracious, humble, hurting yet enduring, full of faith and hope, shared with me, a young American stranger, the hardships of their lives, the oppression of their culture and the hopes they have for the future. I was invited into their lives. I was offered words of encouragement. I was asked questions about my own upbringing. And humbling won’t even begin to describe the feelings I felt that one afternoon. Sitting with these 5 other women hearing about the deep hurts in their hearts and the struggles they face, I realized something.  We are all exactly the same. Sure we’re raised in different environments, with different socioeconomic classifications and whatnot, but we all have fears, doubts, insecurities. But we also all have dreams, hopes, joys, aspirations, laughter, smiles, and love to give.

I could have planned as much as I wanted, and I could’ve typed emails until my fingers fell off, but until I sat there and everything became real, none of it would have mattered. It was in those moments that I was able to see the true heart of Clothed in Hope, one that loves to give and loves to love. One that sacrifices. One that sees a sister, mother, aunt, daughter hurting and must do something to help her. One that notices that life is so much more than what is in front of us. One that sees hope in the little things. One that just busted at the seam that day in June.

When I walked out of that room, saying my see you later’s instead of goodbye’s, I knew that I would walk away changed. Those women have more to offer us than we think we can give to them. And those women are so eager to see life in a different way through Clothed in Hope than they’ve been forced to experience throughout their entire lives. It was my absolute joy to get to know these women, my friends, who told me, “When you leave to come here next year, tell your friends you’re coming home. We will be your family now.” And it is my absolute joy to let you share in this journey to give back to the women who have given everything for their children and who have been told by their culture that they are worthless, meaningless, inhuman. This road isn’t easy; it’s going to be a long one, but I invite you to see that it will absolutely be worth it, every step of the way.

With Love, Amy