by CLOTHED IN HOPE 70 Lives Impacted Zambia
Melody: I've known of Melody ever since she became a student of ours last Spring. I took this photo of her for her class registration. All I knew ...
I've known of Melody ever since she became a student of ours last Spring. I took this photo of her for her class registration. All I knew about her was that her name is Melody, she is 25 years old, has 3 children, and lives in Muchochoma Village. And I knew that she was deaf and mute. That's it.
She seemed timid, and honestly just scared.
Fast forward to a year later, the day before her graduation. I'm sitting in the office waiting for women to share their stories if they want to. In walks Melody, and her friend follows. They sit down, sharing the same stool. Melody's friend says that Melody wants to share her story. Melody and her friend begin communicating, not in sign language, but in a series of movements, motions, and noises. Melody's friend smiles, nods, and encourages Melody to keep sharing. I sit, amazed. Amazed at two things.
First, I am amazed that Melody is able to communicate effectively, having no secondary schooling, therapy, access to learning sign language, nothing, and chooses to do so, so bravely. Secondly, I am amazed at her friend. Another woman in our program has befriended Melody, who would be an outcast in rural communities like theirs. Children with disabilities are often abused, sometimes even killed, due to the vast misconceptions of their condition. But Melody's friend doesn't see her as deaf and mute, she sees her as a human, as a woman, as a friend. My mama heart is so proud to see this spirit of belonging and community in such a tangible way.
Melody shares her story. She moved to Muchochoma Village in 2012 (when she met her BFF who became her communicator). She has 3 children all from different fathers living in all different places. She shares how hard it has been to raise her kids in such a difficult situation. Melody was selling tomatoes before she joined our program. But tomato season only comes for a few months out of the year. She was left to fend for herself the other months.
She shares that now that she knows how to sew, she is happy. She can take care of her children. She loves sewing shirts, trousers, and dresses, and showed us her beautiful Graduation dress that she designed and sewed.
Melody thanks us, we thank her, amazed. In awe. In awe of her victory, her freedom, her persistence, her determination, her strength, her beauty.
After the meeting, I chat about her story with our Director, Elina, who was also in the room for Melody's sharing. She's visited Muchochoma Village over the past year and witnessed Melody in action. Turns out, Melody was one of the fastest learners, and is one of the best seamstresses and designers of the entire group.
Already feeling a full, near-exploding heart, I went into the next day, our Graduation Day, so excited for Melody. I witnessed her joy, her excitement, how proud she was of herself, and how proud her entire Graduating Class was of her. Hugs, cheers, dances, tears. Melody is not her disability. She is not just deaf and mute as some would say. She is an empowered woman, full of dignity and strength. Beloved. Unique. Beautiful.
Jessy is one entrepreneurial woman.
A mother of 5 and grandmother of 6 children, she joined our program in 2012 with the very first group to complete our skills-training program. Jessy appeared to be shy and timid, but we now know her to be a woman of less words spoken because of the many thoughts she's constantly entertaining in her mind - she's brilliant.
After graduating with excellent sewing skills, Jessy hit the ground running with her business endeavors, despite the cultural hardship of having been left by her husband and enduring the loss of all of her siblings. Jessy applied for our first microloan cycle, was approved, and passed the difficult exam required to receive the microloan funds. With that money, she bought a sewing machine to begin her tailoring business.
Now, four years later, Jessy has greatly expanded her business to include brickmaking, renting out an addition she built on her home with business profits, and renting out a small salon and boutique that doubles as her retail space for her skirt and dress designs.
Jessy has diversified her business plan to ensure that she will always be able to turn a profit and further the success of her family. Jessy is looking for colleges for her youngest children, a rarity when most children do not complete secondary school. She purchased a new stove and fridge to introduce better foods into the family diet.
She is flourishing as a businesswoman, mother, grandmother, and staff member of Clothed in Hope. And is if that's not enough, Jessy even gave up a room in her home to a woman with HIV/AIDS who was rejected by everyone else in the community.
Jessy is now thriving, and makes sure others around her are too. Her success is her community's success, and we are so proud to know her.