In years past, I have used the blog to describe the activities of each day during my visit to Pilot Light Projects and I have gone in depth about each project. This year, I am going to focus on the individuals that make up our beneficiaries instead.
Today was a day of stories, both heartbreaking and triumphant. We visited the Mother/Child Development Center Project in Kigali, Rwanda. The following are four women whose stories embodied, for me, why we do what do and all are shining examples of the strength of the human spirit.
JOSIANE: The first time I met Josiane was two years ago when the MCDC Project was new to us. To say she is a people person is an understatement. She smiled and joked, making everyone laugh (in a meeting of at least 30 people), while telling her story, although her story was anything but funny. She is an orphan, living alone in a house paid for through her work as a prostitute. She is HIV+ and she spent her nights getting drunk and working, not caring at all about herself. She was alone. I remember that when the other women in her group said that attending trainings was difficult, because they had to work during the day, she joked that for her it was not a problem, because she worked at night.
She heard about MCDC and asked if she could be involved, wanting a better life for herself. For the first year, her commitment was patchy, partly due to health issues and also because she had no way to earn money during her time of training other than her job as a sex worker. When she heard that MCDC was opening a bakery last year, she asked for a job and that job has completely changed her life. She works long hours, from 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM sometimes, which is at her own request, because she feels that being at work keeps her off of the streets and away from old habits. She told us today that now she is respected as a girl with a job, for the first time. She receives counseling through our program for her HIV, as well. She is beloved amongst all of the women in the program, due to her infectiously bright personality and positive attitude.
MARIE CLAIRE: Marie Claire, also known as Mama Teta, moved me today in a way that is actually life changing. She left her village as a girl to work as a live in domestic worker in the city. She became pregnant by a man who immediately disappeared after learning he was going to have a baby and she lost her job. She finally was able to find a family that would take her and her baby in, but for room and board only, no salary at all. She was virtually a slave to this family. As her child grew older, she was unable to send her school and she went to MCDC hoping to get her daughter into the Daycare Program and herself into a training program. Her daughter, who I had the opportunity to meet at her school last year, was the shining star of the school. She is sincerely extremely bright and says she wants to be a doctor, so she can treat her mother, who was born with foot deformities.
It was difficult for Marie Claire to attend trainings while working for the family, so the directors of MCDC proposed that she work in the bakery and she is now, for the first time ever, living on her own and supporting herself and her child. We visited her home today. One would see it and feel very bad for her, because it is a tiny room, big enough only to fit a twin size mattress on the dirt floor and nothing else. The metal roof is not watertight and they share a latrine with several other households. She has to cook her food at her neighbors, as she has no kitchen of her own. She stood in her doorway to welcome us and she told us, with a huge smile on her face, that she is so happy because she is now free. She is now able to imagine a future. Her statement made my heart skip a beat. Wow…humbling and so very beautiful.
FORTUNATE: This beautiful woman is the greatest example of success in using the micro loan scheme that is part of the MCDC Project. We visited her in her home last year, where she had just used her loans to increase her business and then took another loan and increased her business again and then bought some chairs for her main room. Over the past year, she has increased her business from selling 3 bags of greens in the market each day to 9 bags, which is an increase of 15.00 per day! She has added on to her house to now have more rooms and she has purchased more furniture, a television (!) and continues to increase her business. She serves as a wonderful example to the other women on how to utilize the savings culture properly to improve the quality of their lives . Imagine what this businesswoman could accomplish if she were born under different circumstances.
You can read in detail about this project here, http://staging.pilotlightfund.org/wordpressgallery/photosmedia/
To see more photos, visit the website or our facebook or Instagram pages!