It’s currently Summer in Malawi and the shade and slight breeze wafting through the tailoring room at GOGO (Grace of God Children’s Home) brings some welcome relief from the heat. The women in our GOGO Group take a break from sewing and gather their chairs around in a circle to start recollecting about Phase 1 of the program that they just finished. Phase 1 took a lot of commitment; time, energy, perseverance and mental concentration. Not every woman made it through and our circle is smaller than it was when we started off on this journey in February.
The mamas admit that Phase 1 was difficult. They had no experience in sewing. Even learning the rhythm of how to operate the machines seemed daunting in the first few weeks. The formulas for creating patterns seemed like a foreign language. But now, here they are, 7 months later and they stuck with it and finished Phase 1. Mary shares that she feels happy to have stuck with the program and is proud of what she has accomplished. Malita adds that it’s a real boost and she feels a sense of pride for what she’s learned.
Alice has a beautiful smile and shares about her dreams as she gazes out the window. She explains how she wants to provide for herself and not have to depend on her parents. She hopes to stand on her own and be able to send her children to school. The women explain that they had this idea before starting the training with Ufulu Groups but now, after the training, they really believe it can happen. The training helped them see the “how” of what they hoped to accomplish and that their dreams are now growing because it’s actually a possibility.
We chatted about the Business Training portion of their training. The women explain that they now know how to market themselves. They feel confident moving into an area and being able to assess the environment to see if their businesses can be successful. They have learned how to save and are all now investing in a Group’s Savings Plan in their local communities. They admit how the business classes have given them the confidence that they can actually start a business with their skill they have learned.
Next, we shifted the conversation over to the Christian Trauma/Healing Counseling sessions. Most of the women shared that they had never heard of the concept of counseling before they entered into those classes. Malita admitted that the class helped her think through her life and sort through her burdens. She feels lighter now. Mary shared that the class has helped her curb old habits of dealing with hurt and unforgiveness. It has opened her mind and helped her realise that behaviours can be changed and she is now reacting to things differently. Mary’s young son runs into class during this conversation with a half eaten mango. He lays his head on his mom’s chitenje skirted lap as he munches on the juicy fruit. His mom gently strokes his head, I can’t help but wonder the changes going on with parent/child relationships as these women have bravely faced their past traumas and are emotionally healthier for it.
Alice speaks up next and all the women break into laughter and nod their heads. She shares that the counseling has had an impact, but even just the daily routine of coming to training every day has added some structure to her life. They all agree that the program has helped them stay out of trouble and given them something to look forward to each day.
Now, these mamas move into Phase 2 which is focused on building their businesses with their skills. The pre-school and lunch program have phased out as the women are now earning money and able to start paying for these items themselves. They are working on gaining customers, holding a high standard for their goods, and saving money.