One year ago we launched our program in Zambia. Also one year ago, I sat down for our first meeting with IJM (International Justice Mission unaware of what this past year would bring. The meeting was primarily to continue learning about the property grabbing injustice faced by widows and their children so that I could better understand the culture and oppression we were diving into with our program launch. For one hour I listened to story after story of vulnerable widows having their property stolen from them, forced to be homeless, without even enough money to feed their children. Widows are threatened into secrecy over this injustice. The lives of their children are used as leverage in the deceitful dealings of former loved ones turned thieves. Story after story, the heart of Clothed in Hope continued to grow stronger for the vulnerable, for the widow, and it was incredible to hear how this organization run primarily by Zambians has been a symbol that injustice will not prevail. IJM Zambia takes on court cases for the widow and the orphans to rightly restore property to her family. But their efforts don’t stop at the slamming down of the gavel. The woman I was honored to interview is a part of the Aftercare program at IJM. IJM recognizes that it’s not enough to just win a case or fight for a case. The overall quality of life for the widow and orphans is in the hands of this organization and they choose the best for them. IJM offers temporary housing throughout the duration of the process, sometimes lasting 2 or 3 years. They provide intensive counseling throughout the entire process. They also connect with local organizations to connect women to income generating opportunities so that regardless of the court decision, the woman will be empowered and equipped to see her family out of this hardship and pave a new way for them.

That’s where we come in. The more this Aftercare coordinator explained the hardships of the widow and orphan coupled with the success stories through Aftercare and counseling, the more I got so fired up over what a partnership would look like with this powerhouse of an organization.

But not in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined that the day would come when Clothed in Hope is a community partner of International Justice Mission. This summer, it came. We are officially one of less than a dozen community partnership organizations selected from over 150 from across the nation of Zambia. With multiple site evaluations and meetings, the puzzle pieces of CiH and IJM began to fit perfectly together. They advocate justice for the vulnerable. We seek to empower and equip the vulnerable to regain their ground after years of oppression.

With the most humility, it is my joy to share this partnership with you all. Together we are a greater force for justice in this world. Together we tell the widow and the orphan that they are not forgotten- they are treasured and we will enter into their pain to make that known. Together we empower, we equip, and we believe that hope is the greatest motivator of all.

So what does this mean practically?

- The 21 ladies of Clothed in Hope have been trained to make referrals of potential cases in their communities. With a personal visit from IJM and a lesson on the in’s and out’s of IJM’s case selection, the ladies are now equipped to fill out referral forms of neighbors or friends and turn them into IJM under the “Clothed in Hope” file. The ladies in our program aren’t just having their lives changed; they are life-changers in their communities. They are advocates and seekers of justice. They are empowered with a voice and with the ability to bring justice through this partnership.

- Hopefully sometime in the near future, we will be able to start our first training class solely for women receiving legal aid, counseling and Aftercare from IJM. We will be one of those income-generating opportunities that IJM names as one of the most vital parts in the restoration process in the lives of widows. Through tailoring, sewing and fashion design, widows will feel confident in their new trade to earn a living for herself and her children, regaining her confidence and her joy through the beauty of community.

Our wildest dreams have come true, and we are so very grateful. We are so excited that this connection has been woven between two organizations sharing the same heart for vulnerable women in Zambia. Incredible things can happen when we choose to step out, and we can’t wait to see what this partnership holds for years to come in the lives of Zambian widows. Thank you IJM for letting us share in your victories of justice in the lives of the vulnerable worldwide.

With Chikondi, Amy