It may or may not be the end...

Who can say when is something finished or just on pause? Life has a funny way of bringing back to life things we thought were long gone. 

Since it was founded in 2009, Hope Ignited has been like a banner over many dreams and hopes. Sometimes mine,  sometimes others. While the project may have officially come to an end, our hopes and dreams don't, and you never know when they might sprout back to life. 

I'm back in Canada now. Trying to settle in, combat reverse-culture shock and reestablish my life. Looking back, I'm so proud of what we all did together, the hard work put into making things happen here and in Zambia, the perseverance it took on all sides to keep things going through many ups and downs. Here are some of the highlights of what we did together and who we helped: 

  • Donated a laptop and plenty of children's educational software to the local rural school.
  • Built a swing set and see-saw for the children
  • Held a 2-day retreat for the local church focused on the God's love and getting to know Him
Sept 2011- early 2012.
  • After a year and a half of gathering donations, we shipped a 20ft container from Canada to Zambia. It was filled with a combination of one-time donations, like clothes, and items for long-term projects, like sewing machines, music equipment and books
  • For three weeks we distributed clothes to the community and gift bags to the school children
  • With bicycles that came in the container, we were able to help four children  to get to school to reduce their walking time from hours (4-6) to minutes (45-60). We provided peer support to these kids and some continue to use their bikes today
  • We started the knitting program and our ladies finished their first projects
  • As part of an afterschool program, we opened one of the classrooms to the children so that they could have a safe environment for play and development
  • We started a bible study once a week for all ages
  • On the ground, "we" consisted mostly of Misheck and I--the project helped create local jobs and training
  • We renovated an old room into an office/library that was open to the local children to come and have access to books that they would never see otherwise

For most of 2012 to early 2013, we focused on managing and fine-tuning our programs
  • Our kids got better and more regular at attending piano and drum lessons
  • We spent time reading to kids and helping older kids with their literacy skills in the library
  • We had multiple, daily play sessions--for different ages and genders so that everyone could get a chance
  • Misheck was able to spend more time coaching and mentoring the boys in the football program
  • We converted the shipping container into a building that was intended to be a resource centre or a sewing school. It was beautiful
  • Our knitting program thrived, not only with improved skills but with the ladies communicating together, helping each other and learning basic business skills
  • My dad visited and while there I put him to work restoring the swing set for the kids

The latter part of 2013 brought on some major change. I changed NGOs and thus changed the community I was working with. But change can lead to good things if we let it so here are the highlights. 
  • It was the year of the bunny and income generation! As well as continuing with my original group of knitters, two new knitting groups were started so we all worked on the same project--little bunnies. These bunnies were sold in local shops and abroad. It also helped the ladies to learn more business skills and recognize local opportunities
  • We started three English classes and brought on a local teacher to help with the beginner level. This generated a job and educational opportunities for adults. I taught the two advanced level classes

  • By this time it was good to see the knitting programs doing well on their own. Each time I would came back to Canada, I collected donations of needles, wool and other tools the ladies could use. This always boosted their income as they could sell the stuff made of Canadian wool at a higher price
  • I continued to mentor and check in with the knitting groups but little was needed. Mostly these were opportunities to get to know what personal challenges they might be facing and pray with them or share wisdom
  • One of my friends in Zambia was a highly skilled knitter so I organized classes to teach the ladies to read patterns. This was both a good opportunity for them to practice their English skills and take their knitting to the next level
  • Conducted bi-weekly personal development sessions (a form of counseling) 
  • Talent Revolution was born and launched in 2014. My desire was to see this business impact the Zambian workforce by teaching leadership skills and values. I spent time setting up this business, creating a web site, building  training modules and meeting potential clients. It was met with very positive feedback as many business owner's saw a great need for values and integrity training
 I want to thank you all again for all your support and encouragement over these years. It's good to see what we accomplished together and what seeds might still sprout up in the future. It's important never to give up on our dreams and while you have helped me ignite dreams in Zambia, I hope your dreams are also ignited wherever you are. God bless. Natasha

Little Bird Flies Alone

After three years, our little knitting group is really flying on their own now. It's great to see. I think it's finally gotten into their blood and become a routine.  Knitting is just what they do.

I've been visiting the ladies every few weeks to give out wool that was collected over Christmas of last year and to check in on new members. We had about three new people join us this year.

At our last meeting, I asked each woman to share what she was thankful for and one thing to encourage others. All of the ladies were so thankful for the opportunities the knitting program has brought to them, the extra income and for some, the chance to learn a new skill. They were also thankful for the high quality wool and needles that were donated. They have been overwhelmed by the generosity of others. They have promised to keep working together, helping one another to improve quality and learn new patterns.

I have to say, although we have certainly struggled at times, these ladies have also blessed me tremendously. They have given me hope that change, while slow, is still possible.

One of my favourite changes was what occurred with Joyce. Last year, Joyce was really struggling just to mentally connect with the group. Her skills were good but she just seemed a bit "out there". As it turns out, Joyce was in an abusive relationship. The women really gathered around her and decided that she could stay in the group despite the fact that she wasn't really making items that were sellable--they just were not up to the quality standards. But we stood by her, paid her for them anyway and just surrounded her with hope and love and joy that she was with us.

This year, Joyce was completely transformed. Her abusive husband left her and she was able to blossom. She was always a really talented knitter and she began to make great quality hats and outfits. What Joyce needed was love and friendship--that's what she found in the group. Awesome! Here is a picture of Joyce receiving one of the big balls of wool that was donated. She was so overjoyed!

The strategy this year was to give each woman some donated wool at our first meeting. At the following meeting, she would bring what she had made so that we could check that it was done and done well :) She would then get some more wool for her next project. We went back to making hats as the heavy wool was perfect for the Zambian winter--yes, it gets cold in Zambia. So the ladies didn't have any problem selling the hats locally. With all the funky wool we had, most items were sold before they were even finished.

Some of the women are still asking for literacy classes but even within our group attendance is sporadic at best. What I may do, however, is set up a computer with some lessons on it and while we have our knitting meeting, people who are interested can do a lesson on the computer. We'll see how that goes. 

As the knitting program has been winding down, I've also been looking for new opportunities to make change within Zambia. A friend and I have started personal counseling sessions for individuals. There is so little available to people in our area who are struggling. I'm happy to be able to be a part of this. I do it one to two days a week.

I'm also starting a business this year. While I hope this will help me make money and sustain myself while in Zambia, it also has undertones of making a difference by teaching values and integrity with a side-dish of (shhhh!) anti-corruption. Hooo...this could end up becoming bigger than expected--we'll see! Corruption really kills economies and makes the poor poorer. And when the poor themselves go with the flow and follow the corruption path, how can people ever get out of the cycle of poverty? This business will take quite a bit of investment in time and money but I have hope it will be good all around. Please continue to pray, support and encourage this mission! It's a mission with a vision. lol

Love and blessings

Making bricks the hard way

Under 5 baby clinic

Under 5 baby clinic

Just hangin' out with the boys

Latest Updates

Wow! Time has flown by! I can't believe I've been back in Zambia for more than two months now. Apologies on the lack of updates!

(Click on any of the pictures for a better view)

Settling in has been a bit of an upward battle. Although things are going well, I'm still struggling to find a proper place to live. It's taken up a lot of my time and efforts, but I'm still thankful for the place I'm in now--even if it's another temporary measure. Have to wait and see on this one...FYI for a little perspective, in the 3 years I've lived in Zam I've moved 8 times!

However, other things are going quite well. When I went out to visit the ladies in the village, I was happy to see them still knitting away. Many of them continued to have orders for baby clothes and yaay! They're doing it on their own now! Exactly what the plan has been all along.

First Day Back
While general community involvement has been low, we have still had a few new people interested this year. Community involvement has always been a big challenge for various reasons of the simplest kind (rather drink beer, jealousies etc). However, for now, I continue to support this group and we'll see what other opportunities arise.

Today, I handed out some of the wool and tools that were collected in Canada. It's getting cold now in Zambia, so the quality wool that was donated will fetch a good price as winter hats that the ladies can sell. The ladies were very excited about it and very thankful!!

Zambia is such a beautiful place with beautiful people. I've been making a point to carry my camera more often with me. It was nice to be traveling down to the village on the rural road where "everyone knows my name". It was also nice to be able to stop and talk to people I hadn't met before and feel welcomed and safe.

This is Charlie. He works at this market stand.

There are lots of men like these ones...even young kids, who move coal or heavy loads of wood every day. When I see them I feel such compassion and remind myself to be thankful for what I have. Maybe they will inspire you in the same way.

Besides the village, I've also been conducting "Personal Development Programs" for people here. In Canada, we are so blessed with all kinds of support groups when issues arise--AA, group counseling, addiction experts, marriage counselors etc. Well, in Zambia there is very little available here. So, along with an experienced friend, we are helping those who want help. It's been very rewarding and good to share God's love and hope in a different way.

Please continue to pray for all these things. Feel free to drop and note and say "Hi" anytime. It's always encouraging to hear from you all. :)