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

Meet Dendy, Our New Stateside Coordinator

This American summer (Zambian winter) it's been so fun to have some Stateside volunteers, interns and supporters meet up with us here in Zambia to see what their contributions are doing in the lives of 33 Zambian women. We'd love to introduce you to one of those former interns who has chosen to come on full support staff with us as the Stateside Coordinator based out of Columbia, SC. We are so excited to have her as a part of our organization, and we're looking forward to sharing all the awesome stuff she'll be up to over the next couple of years! She's great and we know you'll think so too. So without further ado, here's a blog post from CiH's newest staff member, Dendy Steddenbenz:

For the past year I have volunteered with a nonprofit called Clothed in Hope. We believe that by teaching sewing, business training, and health education classes to vulnerable women in Zambia that we will ignite a change. These women have lost hope in this society and feel powerless and inferior to do anything that would make a difference in their lives and the lives of the people around them. Imagine being trapped in a spider's web (might be a little difficult but bear with me). You try to take a step forward, to escape, to do something for yourself, but you end up more tangled than before. Then maybe you build up enough courage to try again, and you try another step. Now, you're even more stuck. So, you think well maybe it's just better if I lie here and do nothing, than if I keep trying and instead get further and further from where I want to be. Well, this might be just how Zambian women feel. They have no drive. They are filled with fear and hopelessness. Clothed in Hope's mission is to break this cycle! We want to bring empowerment to these women who actually believe they are nothing. We want to free them from the people who shame them and instill inferiority in their minds.

So after that year of fundraising and hearing the life changing stories from the women of Clothed in Hope, I finally made it! And where might you be asking did I make it to?? ...AFRICA! I am here in Lusaka, Zambia getting to work face to face with these wonderful women. How crazy! It's truly a blessing to be here. I never really grasped the entirety of this organization until I saw these women working and learning and engaging in our program. It has been an incredible experience! One of my favorite days was actually this past Tuesday. I got to have the most amazing conversation with one of the women! Tresa had called me in to take my measurements for a suit (a dress made of chitenge worn to weddings or parties). I wasn't aware that I needed a suit to add to my wardrobe, especially since I was to be leaving in just a week and I didn't see myself wearing it back in the states. However, I wasn't about to say no when she offered to make me one! So, she began taking my measurements and we got to talking. She asked me questions about my family and my life back home. Then, we started to talk about her life and how much her life had changed in the past year. The men in her life had walked away and left her as a single mother of two. Her friends no longer wanted to associate with her, and instead pointed their fingers at her. She had barely any money and considered herself to be worthless. She said she began to pray that someone would come. Then she looked at me and said that we were the ones she had been praying for. In that moment she rejoiced for this community of women. She said that with the love of these women and Clothed in Hope she had found hope. Hope in life. Hope in her community. Hope in herself. She was no longer trapped on a web, lying in stillness. She was set free. She no longer felt like she couldn't be a part of something. It was truly both inspiring and encouraging!

This trip was the highlight of my summer! Getting to actually work in the Chikondi Community Center with the women I have heard so much about was incredible. While witnessing this organization bring hope to these women, they have in turn brought hope to me. I am looking forward to working fulltime for Clothed in Hope when I return to South Carolina as their Stateside Coordinator. I have such passion for this organization and I cannot wait to see it grow!

A Reminder

As I wrapped up our health lesson at today’s training class, I knew something was up. I’m scheduled to head back to the States this Thursday for a couple more months of much-needed fundraising. It’s never easy to leave and the see-you-laters surely don’t get any easier. The CiH women and I have decided upon a rule to just not refer to our separation in hopes that it doesn’t hurt as badly. So I thought that was the reason for the unsettling silence this afternoon, but I was so off. Instead of dwelling on the difficulty ahead, friends separated by thousands of miles and too many hours, the women yet again have taught me/us a huge lesson.

I burrowed into my notebook to finish up some last minute budgeting and planning. I looked up only to see 11 shining faces and dozens of colored paper hearts with fancy edges with the word “Zikomo” (thank you) written across every single one of them in colorful crayon. What’s this for?

It’s for every single one of you that have helped make the Chikondi Community Center a reality. They copied the names of each one of you out of my notebook, divided them up, and wrote yet another thank you note. A beautiful one at that.

Because they want YOU to know just how thankful they are. That you have inspired them. That you have stirred up hope within their souls. That you have gifted them with community. That you have seen the value in them and shared it with others. That you keep Clothed in Hope going through this center.

Some programs may gobble up your donation with overhead or administrative expenses, but today’s thoughtful and touching gesture was a solid reminder that the women feel every penny of your donations. Their lives are forever changed because of you. The impact is huge. I hope these little heart cards are a reminder to those of you who receive them that every single day you are inspiring hope within the hearts of 11 women in Lusaka, Zambia, their children, their families, their neighbors, and those who have yet to walk into the doors of the Chikondi Community Center.

So tonight I’d like to share with each one of you who financially support this organization that the hearts of the CiH Zambia women are shouting a grateful, encouraged, humbling “Zikomo.”

With Chikondi (Love), Amy

Muchochoma Village Update

Yesterday I accompanied Elina, Jessy and Emeli out for the every-two-week trip to Muchochoma Village to spend time with our outreach project there with 12 women. The women spend most time just chatting, swapping stories and laughs, but are also intentional in encouraging each other, talking about hardships and triumphs. The trip concludes with quality checks of their handmade Village Twist bracelets and payment for them. It’s a great time of community, and the “Chikondi Club” as they’ve named it is thriving.

It was my joy to get to accompany our CiH ladies on this particular trip, getting to re-connect with dear friends in the village and hear just how this program is literally transforming this village. With a bring-your-own-feed-sack rule, we all huddled under the shade of 3 big mango trees surrounded by 6 feet tall maize stalks for a fun day. And I walked away understanding this even more:

Development works. Work works.

Through our bracelet training and production program, women are able to earn a fair wage, an income that adds to the community and a skill that empowers. The women take pride in the quality of their bracelets. Women are now motivated to refine their skill, to keep on learning and to see even more changes come about in the lives of their families and in their village.

Who knew?! Instead of life being just about bracelets, the bracelets have spurred women on to seek other sources of income, to test new crops in their fields, and to take pride in working hard.

The improvements that come about from development-based programs like ours are usually difficult to see in the short-term. But yesterday it was incredible seeing just a few ways that the new income from Village Twist bracelets is transforming this village and its people.

1. There’s a new sweet potato farm that will be harvested in May. A few of the women from the CiH: Muchochoma group came straight from weeding and aerating that plot to attend our meeting yesterday.

2. They’ve used their new income to build their first official community building: a church. Never before have they had a common space to meet other than under the shade of mango trees. This church building is complete with grass siding, plastic sheeting roof and log benches.

3. The maize fields are higher and healthier than ever with the ability to purchase great fertilizer, learn about better farming practices, and stay motivated to care for their fields properly.

And the best part: the women love the program, the work, the new friendships, the visits from Lusaka ladies every 2 weeks, and opening up their hut to share the freshest batch of boiled yams and pumpkins with us.

With a trunk full of maize, pumpkins, and yams, we smiled all the way home knowing that Village Twist bracelets are more than a fun accessory. They are a method for changing a village for the better by the hands of its own people. Now that’s good stuff.

With Chikondi, Amy

Extreme Makeover: Zambia Facility Edition

Exciting news for everyone who helped to bring us to this point through our Indiegogo campaign: We officially broke ground on the renovations at the Chikondi Community Center last week! We have just begun the last step before being able to open the doors of the Chikondi Community Center as a place of learning, hope, empowerment, and joy for other vulnerable women in the Ng’ombe compound. We see this renovation process as not just another check on the list to becoming a place of hope, but as another way to spread hope, even now.

So we’ve connected our builder, Fred, with a CiH woman’s son who has been eager to provide for his family but hasn’t found work before this. Him and his friend are there from sunrise to sunset working as hard as possible because they, too, share the vision for what this place will be and what it is now: hope and opportunity. We’re using local craftsmen (friends and a husband of one CiH woman) to create our iron gate for our wall fence to provide a safe place for the women in our program. We’re getting the whole community involved, benefitting from the opportunity to be a part of what Chikondi Community Center is to the Ng’ombe compound. We believe in empowering Zambians to recognize their incredible talents and abilities, and we are so grateful to get to include so many skilled men as a part of this renovation process.

The building we purchased is what we’d like to affectionately call a “fixer-upper.” We knew this going into it. We knew that we’d love to enlist the help of the community, bringing all hands together to really take ownership for what this facility will mean for years to come. This facility consists of 10 rooms, ones we can envision coming alive with seminars, new life skills training programs, conversations of encouragement, fabric being cut and sewn into beautiful products, and hope.

And we want to invite you to be a part of every process, even this one. There’s a huge need, one of around $9,000 beyond the cost of the building to get this building up to operating standards. This includes everything from building a wall fence to keep the ladies safe, to painting our name on the side of the building, to replacing rotting doors, plastering the walls to keep dust from being inhaled, and everything in between. Below you’ll find a list of projects we need your help with. You can buy a door, a window, a bag of concrete, and so much more. Check it out. You, too, can provide hope and opportunity to the people of the Ng’ombe compound. You, too, can help renovate the Chikondi Community Center. Let’s do this.


1 Window for $30 (4 needed) Glass Panes $44 Window Putty $10 1 Burglar-Proof (barred) Door for $100 (2 needed) 1 Interior Door for $36 (2 needed) 1 Hardwood Door for $240 (2 needed) 1 Lock for $15 (4 needed) 2.5 Liters of Roof Sealant for $26 (2 needed) 2 Boxes of Roofing Nails for $20

(Next items for the Security Wall Fence) 200 Tons of Concrete Stones for $130 160 Tons of River Sand for $104 10 Tons of Building Sand for $120 10 Tons of Cement for $116 (9 needed) Reinforcement Bars for $39 50 Concrete Blocks for $38 (64 needed!)

(Next items for Wall Plaster to minimize dust inhalation) Building Sand for $121 (2 needed) Cement for $117 (3 needed) Undercoat for $50 (6 needed) 1 Liter of Paint for $32 (4 needed) Paint Brushes $7

Labor $75 (28 needed) Transportation for Materials $200


Roll up your sleeves. Put on your hard hat and click “Donate” to enter in the price of your sponsored building material.

In just a few days, with your help and the photos to prove it, we’d love to be shouting “Move That Bus” (or our ’94 Rav4, but bus sounds more legit)! We'll be updating this entry and crossing things off as donations pour in...

With Chikondi, Amy

International Women's Day

Today we celebrate International Women’s Day, a day recognized as a national holiday here in Zambia. All government offices closed, parades throughout the city, festivals at every shopping center. It’s a huge deal. Maybe because for one day, Zambia realizes just how important women are to the development of this nation. We can put our lives on pause to reflect on the contributions of women who have gone before us, both here in Zambia and around the world, as well as looking forward to the possibilities of impact and betterment through women in the future.

Women, especially those in developing nations, have the ability to impact the most lives. They are mothers breaking generational barriers for their children to have better lives. They are community influencers in areas of high poverty rates. They are the ones who hold families together throughout oppression and injustice.

And with hope and empowerment, they can do huge things. Zambian women could be world changers. And we’re so thankful to witness 11 Zambian women in our skills training program as world changers to their families, friends, and communities. And we hope you’ll agree with us in that they’re not only impacting lives in Zambia; they’re inspiring people around the world with their stories of courage, hope despite oppression, choosing love over despair, and inconceivable sacrifice for others.

So today we celebrate women. Our hope is for women around the world to see themselves as they truly are: treasured, valued, unique, and important. Incredible. Inspiring. World changers.

And for us it’s just started with these 11, with ripple effects throughout Lusaka, throughout villages in Zambia, and throughout the world. What a joy to be a part of it all.

More than a Statistic

(To keep this dear friend and CiH woman anonymous, we’ll use the name Sarah as a replacement for her real name) Sarah has been shyly asking to talk to me after each training class. We’ve missed each other with timing the past few times we’ve tried to chat.  I asked Sarah if she wanted to meet today after class because I could tell that the topic of discussion was really getting at her. Perhaps it was an issue with another woman in the community or a question about our products. Little did I know just what conversation I was going to step into.

Sarah has been coming to class much later than the other women. She comes in quietly, shakes everyone’s hand as customary, takes her seat and gives no excuse for her tardiness. To be grossly honest, I was getting a bit frustrated that she didn’t place the group as a priority like the rest of the women.

So she starts off our conversation with “I’m sorry I have been coming late.” As a group we have an openness policy where any offenses we make to the group must be covered with an apology to every group member. So this seemed like protocol. I forgave her and got ready to leave.

But wait. Sarah shares that her husband has been ill. Malaria, my first thought? Before I ask she shares, “and it’s not malaria.” The local clinic in Ng’ombe, serving over 80,000 people, has stopped doing many of the necessary tests to determine life-threatening diseases, most likely due to cut funding and understaffing. So Sarah and her husband have been to 4 different hospitals and clinics seeking answers.

Her eyes glassy, her voice soft and shaky, “He has HIV.” My heart falls out of my chest, my mind racing. Before I can think of any questions to ask, Sarah’s face lights up for a fleeting moment when she shares the great news that her 2 young children tested negative, and she too. But I could see the devastation remaining in her eyes. The heartbreak. The death sentence. The love of her life slipping through her fingers.

Sarah’s husband has been “sick” for over a month, bed ridden, losing weight rapidly. He can’t walk for more than 5-10 minutes without becoming extremely exhausted. His body is deteriorating. So what does this have to do with Sarah being late? Sarah is pouring out all of her love for this man. She comes late because she’s with him, taking care of him every second of the day, but prepares a big meal, serves it to him and instructs him to rest for the one hour she can get away to come to class for encouragement and training. Sacrifice at the deepest level. Sarah fears that her husband won’t keep enough weight to return to work. She looks at their money, dwindling rapidly without his paychecks to rely on.

Just months ago Sarah saw Clothed in Hope as a hobby since her husband was a successful bread-winner for their family. Now she clings to the group for community, for love, for income, though no other group members know about her husband yet. To us she’s seemed irresponsibly late. But now to me she seems like a hero. A woman facing the unimaginable, watching her young husband fade before her eyes to the disease of which no one knows much of anything. Choosing love, clinging to hope.

As of 2011, 13% of Zambian adults are living with HIV/AIDS. That’s 800,000 people. And 31,000 people died from this monster in 2011. And Zambia ranks 6 in world for Adult Prevalence Rates according to the CIA Factbook.

But all of this seems to change when it’s our best friend’s husband. When the pain expressed through her eyes shatters me to the core. When we try to conjure up hopeful solutions, but know deep down what’s ahead.

Sarah didn’t ask for money for those expensive pills to keep symptoms down. She didn’t say she’s quitting the group. She just said that she’s more dedicated to this group than ever before. And that her only wish for her husband is to somehow provide him with enough protein to have strength to endure the day.

Sarah’s husband is dying to HIV/AIDS. Sarah’s husband hasn’t told anyone because he’s waiting to find out how long he has to live, a test that will come back tomorrow. He’s afraid. She’s heartbroken. We’re heartbroken.

Sarah, her husband, and her 2 young children would greatly appreciate your thoughts and prayers. And if you feel so inclined, we would gladly accept any donations to provide her husband with the protein he needs to keep muscle on his body. 100% of donations in the next week will go to her husband for food and medical bills. We believe in development, but we also believe in loving those in need. Sarah’s husband needs our help.

With Chikondi, Amy

the Wonderful World of Third-World Nonprofits

Big brown eyes. Beautiful white smiles. Laughter. Fun programs. Great photos. Awesome impact stats. Adventurous volunteer opportunities. Yes, these are all beautiful parts of third-world nonprofits. But what if we told you that there is so much more? That development is more than difficult but more than worth it?

As an organization we want to show you life in Zambia, the joys, the triumphs, the hardships, but also the truth. We want to be a transparent organization, honest about our struggles and the first to admit that we don’t always have the right answer or the perfect solution. We just walk one step in front of the next in this crazy world of nonprofit development.

Today is a perfect glimpse into the other facets of third-world nonprofits, facets that complete the beautifully messy thing that it is. Facets that without them, would make the puzzle incomplete. If we framed our organization to be all of the beginning characteristics, we would be cheating you all of the honest reality of our organization and of lifestyles in this sector.

The media (and actual nonprofit organizations- we’re guilty, too) often portrays nonprofits to be daring, adventurous, exciting, full of fun, huge impacts, and personal growth, even glamorous at times. We will agree with all of that, but we believe there is so, so much more. And we’d love to show you.

If every day were fun and fluffy, how would we grow? If every day were easy, how would we learn to endure? If every day was all smiles, how would we appreciate the beautifully joyful days? If every day were full of triumph, how would we recognize the miracles?

Today. Today was a day with a big agenda. Three offices, three stamps, three payments to settle up three pretty important components of our legitimacy and growth during this season of transition. We concluded the day this afternoon, still with three things seeking completion. In better words, nothing got accomplished. Running along the track with finish line in sight, we encountered hurdles that weren’t even on our horizon. We don’t have really cool stories or fun Instagram graphics from today (if we did take a photo of today, you’d probably stop following us all together #boring). We do, however, have a drained gas tank, more blank forms to be filled out, and two tired volunteers who only keep at this from passion and belief in the heart of the organization. We have another day of tested patience. Another instance where we must choose hope, not because it’s easy or fun or glamorous, but because it’s worth it. And because development is what changes lives and communities.

So with days filled with emails, errands, frustrating office visits with inefficient systems and one-too-many confusions, we endure. Because we know there are days to come filled with that laughter, those beautiful white smiles, fun programs, and awesome impact stats of just how people’s lives have been changed and communities benefitted. Maybe that’s one year away, maybe twenty, but no matter what we’re all in. Because we believe in development and hope, and our hearts are forever changed by the stories of eleven incredible women.

Keys in Hand

This week has already been so full of emotion that I can’t even begin to describe all that’s happening here: the good, the difficult, the interesting. I do, however, want to take one minute to celebrate with you all. To name one emotion: joy. Joy. Delight.

A vision and a plan that became reality. Because of each one of you who donated to make it happen.

Yesterday I was handed the keys of the NOW Chikondi Community Center. I had to take a few minutes to just breathe in the beauty of the moment, all that it took to get there, and celebrating all that building will mean to the Ng’ombe compound.

Today I walked the same path to the center that I’ve walked dozens of times now throughout the craziness that is purchasing land in a third-world country. But this time was different. The little kids that giggled as we walked by weren’t just cute faces. They were neighbors, the future of this community, the stories that will never end. The plywood grocery stands lining the rain-eroded dirt path weren’t just other forms of retail. They were the livelihood for many families, most all run by women struggling to provide more for their children than they’ve ever been used to. The stands were financial hope, conversation stops for friends, and meeting places for new friends. The chickens’ squawking in the back of a pickup truck weren’t just noisy animals. They were lucky neighbors’ next meal, perhaps the celebration of a successful harvest in the middle of this rainy season. Maybe even a harvest of the maize planted and sprouting out in every free inch of the compound. It all looks the same, yet everything has changed for us.

I arrived at the new place, vacant, yet still painted with the previous name. Though as Elina and I walked through the facility we knew it was different. Just like in Hook, our imaginations went wild as we cheered over the locations of our instructional chalkboard in the main room, cutting tables lining the walls. Our eyes opened wide at the beautiful mural we imagined on the wall, adorned with the names of donors who brought us to this point and have invested in a community with much more impact than they probably realize. We rejoiced over new friends we’d make in that main training room, women so eager to learn the skill of sewing and to grasp the hope that 11 women have already experienced through our program, focused on the tricky, but so worth it, task that is development.

So celebrate with us tonight! Imagine the keys jingling in our hands, us cheering throughout the dirt-floor, concrete-wall empty rooms of the Chikondi Community Center. We’re thankful that you’re right here with us.

With Chikondi, Amy & the wonderful ladies of CiH

Back Again

Dear Friends,

I arrived in Zambia on Wednesday, carrying the exciting news of the successful campaign of the Chikondi Community Center and the joy of reuniting with women who have impacted my life with their own stories and transformation of lives through hope. I wasn't sure what to expect jumping back into our training program, as it's been continuing even though I spent a few months away in the US. But I was so encouraged when I walked into the room filled with the 11 incredible women I've come to know through over the past months. Smiles, cheers, laughs, and hugs were exchanged. A rekindled connection and shared passion for hope to continue spreading throughout Zambia in the lives of vulnerable women made for a great start to this next phase of the organization. A transitional time of growth, expansion, and refinement. We have a lot in the works for new products, new program details, and even new women who have been on a 6-month waiting list to be a part of our training program, and we look forward to sharing so much of this with you along the way.

So I'm back again. Back, not to create, but to be a part of what's already happening here in the lives of women who are eager, forward-thinking, creative and passionate to see change in their communities. Women like Doreen (pictured above). Doreen joined me today to re-visit the future Chikondi Community Center, and it was absolutely surreal realizing that this would be our place. Our community. Our home. There's much to be done until we can cut the ribbon on this building, as we'll be renovating during the height of rainy season, and paperwork seems to be deeper than the rivers that flow through the compound in this season. But there is so much to look forward to and be excited about for the future, and so much to be thankful for today.

Thank you for joining us in this journey, and for empowering women in Zambia to choose hope for themselves, their families, and their communities.

With Chikondi, Amy

A New Year

Reflecting over this past year, the only word to describe 2012 is incredible [difficult to believe; extraordinary]. 2012 was a year that marked a new beginning for this organization. Dreams became reality. Women previously met became wonderful students and inspiring friends. Stories were re-written, lives impacted forever. Even our stateside staff underwent a transition, saying a tough goodbye to a few and a warm hello to others. We began the year unaware of just what the in-country launch would hold, but it was truly incredible. Our program could’ve held a training cycle for the women and wrapped it up in October when I returned to the States. That would’ve been okay. But that’s not even close to how the story is being written. It’s all just beginning.

Just 2 weeks into 2013, I can already tell that this is going to be another year of incredible. There are just some things about this organization that haven’t gone as planned but have gone so much better than the best-case, like our NGO status granted in days rather than months. Or finding the facility that symbolized despair and oppression, putting a hold on it, and seeing all of you come together so passionately to believe in the future of this organization, in hope winning, and in our impact on lives in Zambia, exceeding the funding amount to purchase it so very soon. We have witnessed the power of community and relationships, and that’s what we’re all about: giving hope through love. Recognizing that we’re all from different backgrounds but we’re really all quite similar. Stepping into each other’s stories to shine light in the darkness. We are all here for each other.

This year is another beginning, a new chapter for us. In just a couple of months, we’ll be opening the doors to the Chikondi Community Center, which will serve as a safe place of encouragement, learning, creativity and opportunity for vulnerable Zambian women in an impoverished neighborhood. As much as planning is a good thing, so is just saying, “yes” to the journey ahead. That’s where we’re at. We have an idea of what we’d like for 2013, but our arms are open to a world of possibilities, a new year of incredible. We’re in for the ride of our lives, and we invite you to join us. Buckle up. Here’s to 2013, a year of incredible for us and for you. Let’s open our eyes and hearts to experience it daily. I promise it’s there.

With Chikondi, Amy

Chikondi Community Center: Update

Dear CiH friends, I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season, filled with hope, joy, love and laughter spent with friends and family. We’re so thankful that you’ve chosen to spend this season with us, as many of y’all have already contributed to our campaign that began December 15, scheduled to end on January 15. You didn’t have to put the busyness on pause to give HOPE, but you have. So far 55 of you have. And that’s pretty incredible. Check out the end of this post to see just a few of the folks who have decided to keep hope alive in 2013 for vulnerable women in Zambia through Clothed in Hope.

For now, we’d like to update you on our progress: - Together we’ve raised over $7,000 towards the Chikondi Community Center!! - With 10 full days to go, we’re still in need of $2,690 to be fully funded on our Indiegogo campaign. - The VERY generous donor who offered to match EVERY gift up to $10,000 until the end of 2012 has EXTENDED their offer to last until the end of the campaign!! All gifts given, big and small, are still matched for double the impact! - The funding doesn’t stop at 100%. We would be SO excited if we get fully funded for this project, but there are still more needs in order for our center to be opened, so let’s exceed it! - Renovations that cost above the building purchase price include installing doors, creating windows, building a security fence and gate to protect our women as they learn skills necessary to benefit their families and develop their communities. The women of Clothed in Hope are inspiring and creative, and we’d love to give them a comfortable, safe place to create unique products, learn new skills, and enjoy encouraging friendships with one another. Community is powerful.

This building is more than a few concrete block walls and a dirt yard. It’s a beacon of hope in an oppressive society. It’s a shelter of comfort. It’s a laboratory for creativity.  It’s a classroom for learning. It’s a statement of love to women who have been hurt, abused, and abandoned. It’s a fresh start for families. It’s a home of HOPE.

Will you help us make it a reality for the women of the Ng’ombe compound? We have 10 days to push it, to Tweet, Facebook, Instagram, email, text, call our friends and family to invite them to be a part of something big in 2013. Let’s make our New Year resolution to be less about us and more about the people of this world. We’re here for each other. I promise you won’t regret being a part of what’s happening in the lives of Zambian women through Clothed in Hope. I’ve been changed, inspired, impacted and challenged by their stories and I’m sure you will too.

Here’s the link: It’s your choice what you’d like to do with it. We’d love it if you’d join us. 11 women, their families, and their community would, too.

A HUGE thank you to the following people who have already invested in HOPE through the Chikondi Community Center campaign:

Emily Douglas Kerry Martin Ashley Sutherland Jonathan Williams Brianna Booth Brewer Family Barbie Chinnis Paul Rabeler Brent & Ashlee Moore of iamj3 Rebecca Kneisley Kari Morrison Lisa Bailey Ashley Branum Tina Weaver Chris Sharpless Michelle Bilinski Larry Conover Silvia Pleasants Luke Blount Laura Matias Jo Hollis Beth Hollingsworth Sandi Riggs Chris Moore Rodger Burden Derek & Mandy Jakes Amy Swindle Kelsey McKinney Shon Beury Thomas & Brooke Kirby Debbie Gibbs Sarah Gonzales Meredith Chinnis Caleb Gross Jeff & Stephanie Deatherage Jeannette Korczak Jeff & Deborah Cook David & Morgan Lemond Claudia Bardi Les & Connie Deatherage Kate Metcalf Alexandria Caputo Mark Woodell Will & Kathy Woodell Christine Weaver Jessica McMichen Sawyer Dils Theresa Hodge Joyce Gannaway Teresa Hansow Fred & Joan McBride Magda Timmons Florence Jowers Terri Pratt Rick & Jeannie Zuburg Studio Piraino Abigail Eisold DP Wurzel Kenn & Laura Swearingen James Staeck (Names listed are in no particular order and some omitted for privacy)

With Chikondi, Amy