As I set foot inside Cards of Africa, I am immersed into a bustling environment of people sitting around wooden tables, gluing, cutting, bending wire and laughing as they hand-make each and every card.
The results are beautiful but as I sat and chatted with a group of ladies on one table I soon realised that their stories of hope and personal triumph were even more dramatic than the cards themselves.
I would like to share just one of the many stories I heard that day:
Rachel lives in an orphaned household; at just 18-year-old she takes takes care of her 15-year-old sister and 12-year-old brother. She was just four when her dad died from stomach ulcers and only 11 when her mum died from AIDS.
Her aunt eventually took them in but was too burdened by having three mouths to feed. Up at 4am each day to do chores, Rachel started being absent from school and went from the top of her class to the bottom in just a year.
When she couldn’t take any more and finally moved her siblings back to the house they were raised in, they discovered there was no furniture left and Rachel struggled to find a way to feed and clothe her brother and sister.
But since Rachel started working for Cards of Africa, all that has changed. She is now even able to pay the yearly health care fee in case her brother and sister fall ill and need to see a doctor.
She has bought furniture for her home as well as new mattresses to sleep on. Her brothers and sisters are both eating well and wearing better clothes.
Rachel says that ‘the joy and dignity that come with providing for everyone’s needs is a new experience.’
Arthur, the manager of this organisation, is extremely proud of all of his staff and takes great pride in telling me how their business has progressed through values they live by:
“We run this business because we have a heart for the poor and marginalised in society and that faith requires action.
“We believe that all people are precious and that we must do more than provide jobs; we must take care of the entire person.
“As a result, we take a holistic approach to employment. For example, we spend time at the beginning of each day discussing practical, spiritual, and emotional issues with our staff. The life skills acquired from these discussions have proven to be invaluable to their growth.”
Cards of Africa is just one of the 50 businesses that Shared Interest Foundation will be working with over the next three years. Training them in business and financial skills, market access and environmentally sustainable ways of working, we can help many others like Rachel to achieve their potential and provide for their families.
As I say my goodbyes to Rachel and her colleagues, I think back to my philosophy on fate and fortune and realise that it is not what happens, but how you move forward that matters most. In fact, life is much like a pack of cards. It is how you deal with it that counts.
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