Today’s guest blogger is Diane Bishop. Diane is the founder of “Seeds of Hope,” a ministry that helps women in Mozambique, Africa make a living by creating jewelry for sale. Pearls of Promise is now partnering with Diane and will sell some of the pearl jewelry at upcoming events. Today, Diane shares her story of how she first got involved in “Seeds of Hope.”
Upon hearing of my involvement with women in Chicuque, Mozambique, most people first ask – “How in the world did you get involved in that?” About twelve years ago, two sisters from Trietsch Memorial United Methodist Church, Marilyn Hurlbut and Barb Williams, went on a picture safari and chose to tack on a little mission work at the end. They returned and shared their experiences with members of our church. As I listened to them, I realized that even though I never had any desire to go to Africa, maybe God meant for me to go. They and other mission team members taught English lessons, volunteered at the hospital, and worked on construction projects. I had none of those skills, so I couldn’t imagine what I could do to be of any service. I also had children at home and a husband who traveled. While I watched team after team return to Mozambique, I got involved in making jewelry with a Christian message to be sold to raise funds for missions.
Then just as my youngest went off to college, I began to think about going to Africa, but still had no idea what I might do. The sisters approached me with the idea of working with the women. Primarily due to the improvements in village life brought about by mission teams (like water wells now providing good water within a 15 minute walk rather than a 2 hour walk); the women were beginning to lift their eyes up and think about what more they could do for their families. However, they had no skills, no education and no opportunities.
The sisters suggested I help the women make jewelry and to start with the jewelry like they had seen in South Africa. I also discovered that many of the women crocheted and so we devised jewelry using wire and crochet.
So in June of 2006, I traveled with the team to Chicuque and along with my new friend, Anne Hyde, we worked with 89 women. We found them to be capable and very eager.
The result was the beginning of an economic development project, for both members of the Church and non-members. Five groups of 15 ladies and a leader were formed, several of which include ladies with disabilities (blind, deaf, lame, mute) They named their business – Irmas Unidas de Chicuque (Chicuque Sisters Together) Today, there are six groups including about 35 women.
Upon our return to the US in 2006, we determined what would be needed to support these ladies in their endeavor until the project could operate on it’s own, primarily in three ways:
1) organizing the business structure
2) assisting in getting them supplies and
3) providing markets in the United States to generate larger profits to reinvest in the project. We proposed a support team comprised of people from several churches to provide help and encouragement to these women with the ultimate goal to get a sustainable business operating on it’s own with no dependency upon us.
Seeds of Hope was born as a mission project, not a business in itself. It’s not been an easy road, but the women are slowly learning about business concepts and they really love making the jewelry. It’s a real joy to see their creativity blossom. You’ll see that the jewelry is very unique.
To help resolve various issues, I found myself returning to take more supplies, teach new skills, work with the leadership, and bring out finished product to sell. Although the ladies are excited about the project and the finished products are quite wonderful, it was still evident that much needed to be done to help them become a sustainable business. So, in 2013, my 6th trip, the goal was S.O.A.R. – Sustainable Opportunities and Resources. I spent six weeks focused on helping them put opportunities and resources together so that they truly can soar on their own.
Seeds of Hope has lots of opportunities for anyone who might like to help. Membership in any church is not a requirement. Since we began to get more finished product, we also offer the jewelry as a fundraiser for other causes.
God has an amazing sense of humor! If you ever meet me, you will see I am not much a jewelry person, but He has called me to work with these women and jewelry and I have merely responded “Yes, Lord”!J
Background on Chicuque, Mozambique: Chicuque is a small fishing village along the coast of Mozambique – about a seven hour drive from the capital city of Maputo.
The women there have virtually nothing in the way of material possessions. They gather firewood and water daily, cook on open fires, live in homes with dirt floors and no windows or doors,
wash their laundry in the river, grow their own food, and
care for their children – a life very different from ours – but they love their families and do whatever they can to ensure the well-being of their children.
They value education and many of them who missed schooling during the wars are going to night school. They have hope for a better future for their children and they are willing to work hard to provide that future.
They lose one of every four children before the age of 5 and even then may lose more later to malaria.
Many times their husbands leave the village to work in the city or in the mines of South Africa.
Many of them are Christians and live their faith in a daily way that we find astonishing, knowing how difficult their lives are.
Categories: Archived Devotions