Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Inspiration Hit Me… and Left Wrinkles on My Cheeks

“For us to create history we will face challenges. For it to be meaningful there will be challenges. We have managed because we have a vision. We want to help many people with disabilities! Us persons with disabilities have to take it upon ourselves. We know the hardships firsthand and cannot sit back and rest because we have done well. We have to help each other!”
  Nigel Kachenga, Chairman of Holland Disabled Association

Kwasha Mukwenu tailors modeling their handbags at the craft market! 
They were so proud and loved seeing people get excited about them!
After a couple of days traveling from Georgia under my belt, I finally arrived in the Northwest Province of Zambia! After 4 months of working in the states to make personal money and processing the previous year in Zambia, I am ready for whatever comes my way -refreshed and in good spirits!

I arrived in the Solwezi area astonished to find Kwasha Mukwenu selling their handmade, beautiful purses at a craft event held by a local copper mine! They took the initiative to make up a beautiful display complete with business cards! They even designed a committee to take care of details for all selling events.
This made me happy, but there is more. This initiative is only the tip of an iceberg that has been growing over the past four months!

Some of the tailors at Kwasha Mukwenu selling their handbags at a local craft market! I arrived after they had already sold a lot of purses! 

The disabled in the Solwezi area have grown Holland Disabled Association (HDA)! In 2003, a group from Holland helped this association with start up by building a very small shopping center and guesthouse to generate income. Local businesses pay HDA rent for space.  Also, each business is required to hire a disabled person! 

Since 2003, disabled Zambians have to be elected by the members to run this group. Disabled people can join HDA for $14 then pay a monthly membership fee. This membership gives them the opportunity for surgery, crutches, skill training, and a job. This program is unprecedented! It is totally run by disabled Zambians without outside help at present. Phenomenal! - especially in the 3rd world!

Disabled people in Zambia are expected to have no life at all. If a person cannot walk, he will probably sit in his own filth for years!  Also, money from the government usually comes from officials to woo people into voting for a certain political candidate. Since disabled people are not seen as worthy citizens, they usually get no government support.

Two key players in the running of HDA are Nigel Kachenga and Gift Kahangu. They each have major physical disabilities, but have not used handicaps as an excuse for failure. They have been successful to form this group and keep it sustainable.

Gift has created his own business, as well, called Kwasha Mukwenu meaning ‘Help Your Friends’. He is contracted by HDA to train disabled people in welding and tailoring. Every trained person is given a job as deserved. It is amazing to see this group work together to achieve the impossible!

Gift teaching a sewing class! Everyone works so hard and loves to come to learn there! The room is so small and the students and workers have to take turns using the room. 

Now for the big surprise I let onto in the last blog… drumroll please!

Initials Inc., a monogramming company in Georgia, has decided to give Kwasha Mukwenu a help up! They are selling a beautiful Zip Around Bag for $18 with $5 of every sale going towards the construction of a training center and workshop for Kwasha Mukwenu! 

I am with the Co-Founders of Initial's Inc at their conference! Talk about an amazing group of women! Their dedication to help others also inspires me! Looking forward to the future! Check them out:   
Buy a zip around bag to help the project while your at it!!

Since Kwasha Mukwenu is a business, this donation will be considered as a loan to be paid back to HDA. This way HDA will have assets to give loans to disabled students; send people for surgery; expand to other areas; and provide people with crutches, wheelchairs, etc.! It will be sustainable and a gift that will empower untold numbers of people to have a chance at life - a gift that keeps giving! 

We are on the threshold of finding an organization in Zambia to manage this project.  Once the details are settled I will tell you more! 

6 of the new students (2 not pictured) at Kwasha Mukwenu! Thank you 
to Michelle & Casey West! They gave a good portion of their wedding
 gifts to give them opportunity! Once they learn and make money they will 
give some money back so someone else can be taught! A gift that keeps giving!
HDA has expansion plans to help as many disabled people as possible in this province of Zambia. I told them today that they are leaders… they just might expand all over the world with their established model! They giggled and appeared very proud!

What if we all were like Gift and Nigel, who stay up at night thinking of ways to help others who are less fortunate? What if we all believed in people who have been shunned by society as useless? What would the world look like?

Gift told me they are starting a program for parents of disabled people to teach them about the worth of their son or daughter. Parents will understand that their child is worthy of corrective surgeries. A child with a deformed leg is worthy of education.  Beautiful!  Holland Disabled Association is obliterating stigma around disabled people beginning close to home!

HDA is working to overcome obstacles and challenges one by one. They know they are leaders in this movement… they know they are inspiring ripples that will go out from themselves!

As for my village… I am going back on Thursday. They too have many challenges to overcome. I will be surprised if I find everything running smoothly. Even though there are great leaders in the community group, they face huge obstacles. I will discuss more about their challenges in my next post!

The project to build a training center and workshop for Kwasha Mukwenu is my main focus this trip! I will, of course, be in my village (Luamala) a lot though!

Today, people who are overcoming their own physical challenges and making it a priority to help others inspire me! 

Life and people are beautiful… everywhere!

Gift and a couple other disabled in the area are working with this boy who most likely has cerebral palsy. HDA &  Kwasha Mukwenu donated this wheelchair to this boy so he can go around rather than sit in one spot day in and  out. They see him several times a week and give him exercises to do to stretch the muscles. Gift says the boy is much happier and he is seeing a difference!

Using their own resources, they make and repair mobility aids for persons with disabilities in the community. Here a pair of crutches are being made. My heart melted when I heard this!

This little boy, also named Gift, was able to have surgery and braces on his legs because his
mother paid the membership fee for him. Several people who also walk with crutches have
been teaching him! Great improvement has been seen! 
The government gave HDA a farm after they failed to run it for the disabled. Without any assistance from the government, HDA has grown a huge garden! Complete with wheelchair accessible pathways! They will sell the food and the profit will go to help more disabled!

Another person HDA has successfully helped out! They found her sitting in her own filth. She had been that way for years after a car wreck. They first welded a walker for her. The group then made crutches for her! All of this was disabled people donating their time and money for another disabled person! Wow!

*Many of these pictures were given to me by HDA. They were taken while I was in the United States! They are just so inspirational I had to share!

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