Who are we?
We are 5 women. Striving to provide ourselves and our children. Love our neighbors.
And add a little more beauty to this world we share.
It is really that simple. We aren't a program or a project. We didn't start with any kind of funding, and we still don't have any.
SHONA is just pieces of cloth sewn together. The work of our hands.
But in each piece are a thousand stories. Our own stories. And yours.
We started because I was living in Congo. My husband was working for a non-profit in Goma, and so I was living there with him.
I was teaching English and doing my best to learn Swahili. But you can't live somewhere like Goma for very long before you start to ask yourself some questions. I could look out the door of my very comfortable house and see a family living in a tiny shack built on top of lava rock. It was the distillation of a reality that we all have to confront in one form or another. This world is terribly unequal. And we are a part of it.
One day I met Argentine and Mapendo. They were on their own in Goma, a rare situation for a Congolese woman to find herself in. But these 2 women had left their rural homes and come as teenagers to the Center for people with Disabilities in Goma. There they underwent operations to straighten their legs, they learned to walk with metal leg braces and crutches, and they learned to sew. They amazed me.
I had no background in sewing or in business, but I asked Argentine and Mapendo to sew me a shirt. And I posted it on Ebay. It sold. And that is where we started.
Since then, Riziki and Solange have joined us. And we have had countless adventures and challenges. I have returned to living in the US. And had a daughter. The ladies have gotten married, had children, fled the escalating war, lived in refugee camps, built homes for themselves and their families, and done so much more. And they have carried their sewing through it all.
Solange sewing with her daughter, Promise, on her back.
Or perhaps I should say, the sewing has carried them. And you have carried them. Each time you wear a bag on your shoulder. Or tell the story of SHONA to somebody new. Or say a prayer for one of us.
Because really it makes all the difference. In Congo, young women with disabilities are usually unable to attend school and are rarely able to provide for themselves. Much less their families. But through your purchases and your love, these 4 women have become strong and independent. Your purchases and donations have empowered them to buy their own land, build their own homes, provide for their own children and take in countless other family members. They send children to school and buy medicine for those who are sick.
Argentine and Mapendo with their children
Just imagine the beauty of that. When Argentine was little, people saw her disability and advised her mother to abandon her. They thought lilttle Argentine was an unmanagable burden for a poor family living in the midst of the war. Her mother refused to abandon her. Today Argentine provides for her mother. She sends her younger siblings to school. And she is raising her own daughter.
We carry what we love. And, in the end, what we love carries us.