Sunday, March 18, 2012

women helping women.

 santiago is a really small place  - it's not uncommon to get into a public-car and know at least one person you're riding with; or go to the supermarket and run into a handful of friends. it's even less surprising to meet someone new and find out you have six hundred mutual friends.

i met a woman seven years ago when i first moved to the country. we shared a mail service, and there it was. we never hung out or became friends, but life has brought us back together on a few occasions over the years. about three years ago, we spent a decent amount of time together, trying to figure out some alternative education for a group of students.

she probably doesn't even remember this, but with my elephant-like memory, i do - in a routine conversation, her work in the city of la vega came up, and very recently she had spilled her heart to the women she worked with about her desire to start a program for girls. it was just a seed in her heart three years ago - something she hadn't even wanted to share with the women she worked with for fear that it wouldn't come to fruition.

and then, just last may, the posts started on facebook about a new project. and then, a blog. and god put this thing in motion so fast that i couldn't believe it. i was skeptical. how in the world would they support this? was it really going to work?

on friday, i went with two new friends and joy to visit this amazing project - new hope girls academy - in la vega. and i knew they were doing something incredible before, but now, wow. i'm in awe of what god has done in this place in just one short year.

and while it's amazing and crazy what is happening for the girls, what is more incredible to me is the empowerment of women happening in the community. it's nice to expect americans to support these "poor kid" programs, but it's harder to sustain and doesn't necessarily help to break the poverty cycle. generational poverty causes a deep-rooted insecurity in those affected and takes much more than "an income" to fix. education is only part of the problem - there is so much more involved when there has never been a sense of financial security, a sense of self-value nor the education or skills necessary to support onseself.

new hope started an artisan program for local women! they've trained women to make these beautiful flipflops, paying them a fare-wage for their work - now, they are creating purses and bags on a donated sewing machine. 
 the "workshop" is just someone's house, and the tools might seem a little primitive - a candle to singe the edges of the fishing line used to sew the decorations on the strap.
it's pretty organized for the small space they work in, and the women seem to work harmoniously.

as the project grows, these women - and hopefully more - will learn how to think about the future, and not just worry where the next meal is coming from, they'll be able to educate their children and feed their families a more stable and healthy diet.

in conjunction with the school and safe-house for girls at risk (at risk for any number of things - incestuous abuse, prostitution, slave-labor), new hope girls academy has the potential to re-shape the future of women in their community. of course, they've encountered opposition from men... who wants to marry an educated woman, afterall? and who will take care of the men once these women are liberated? but. overall, it's a place that people are supporting.

you can check them out at: new hope girls academy, or on their facebook page (like them, do it!) and you can read my previous post about them (before i even saw the place in person).

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