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
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