One of the shining examples of the caring and selfless attitude that we see in so many of our tool recipients is Rebecca. Rebecca comes from Kalundu Village, which is in Luapula, one of the poorest provinces in Zambia. And according to the World Bank, Zambia ranks among the poorest nations in the world, with roughly 60% of its citizens surviving below the poverty line of $1.90 a day.
But in Luapula, where Kalundu Village is, this stark reality escalates even further. Here, a staggering 82% of people confront the daily battle of life beneath the poverty line. Suffice it to say, the struggle that Rebecca has experienced for her whole life is at a level that we probably can’t begin to understand.
Rebecca’s family, like most other people in Kalundu village, eked out a living through subsistence farming. Each season, they toiled to cultivate just enough crops to feed the family, and in fortunate years, a surplus to sell or share with their neighbours. Her husband sought out odd jobs to bring in a little money for food, while Rebecca cared for their children at home. Their life was a constant battle against poverty. But Rebecca wasn’t just concerned with her own problems. She told us of the problems that her community was facing.
Kalundu village, for the longest time, had no tailors. Every time someone needed a pair of trousers mended, or a new dress made, they had to go on a gruelling journey to the nearest town, Mansa, which is over 200km away. They would cram into the back of a pickup truck, shoulder to shoulder, bouncing along the dusty roads, risking the perilous journey. Traffic accidents account for a significant number of deaths in Zambia, and it's not hard to see why when you see how overcrowded these pickup trucks become. These trips are not just inconvenient; they are life-threatening.
One of our dedicated in-country team members, Pastor Davies Chibwe, came up with a game-changing idea. He thought, why not bring skills training to the people who need it the most, to the ones tucked away in rural areas, like Rebecca, who otherwise might never have access to such opportunities? He set up the mobile skills training team, which sends tutors to stay in rural areas, bringing tools and skills with them.
When news of the tailoring course reached Rebecca—a course set to be held right in their village, in a building that was previously standing empty—it was as if a lifeline had been thrown to her and her family. Even more than that, it was a chance to become a problem-solver for her community.
Tailoring presented a way for Rebecca to bring in a sustainable income for her family, also allowing her to mend and make clothes for her neighbours, sparing them the dangerous, often lethal journey to Mansa. This was a path of change not just for Rebecca and her family, but for the entire community.
Pastor Davies sent three sewing machines to the village, and a tutor went to stay with them for the duration of the three-month tailoring course. Rebecca, who had never touched a sewing machine before, emerged as a natural. She discovered an innate creativity that she had never had the opportunity to express before, as she skillfully made dresses and shirts using the vibrant Zambian fabric called chitenge, which you can see Rebecca displaying below.
She was given a sewing machine after she graduated from her course, and it completely changed her and her family’s lives. Now, the whole community knows about her tailoring skills. They come to her for repairs or to buy new clothes. Using her TWAM sewing machine, she teaches tailoring to others who are interested for free. In return, her grateful students, mostly farmers, often share their produce with her. No longer does Rebecca's family end each day with pangs of hunger, unsure when their next meal will come. Now, they know that even if their crops fail or work is scarce for her husband, they have a dependable source of income.
But for Rebecca, it doesn’t stop there. It’s not enough that her life has been transformed, that her children can go to school, and that her neighbours no longer have to pile into the back of a pickup truck to get their clothes repaired; Rebecca’s aspirations go even further.
“I want to empower even more people in this community, just like I’ve been empowered. I want to help others that can not travel to Mansa for training. I feel deep in my heart that I want to help the people in these villages, I want them to have the same chance I did. As the Bible says: “what freely you have received, freely you must give”. I have seen so much change and development here. This is a practical skill, you don’t need a formal education for it. Widows and vulnerable people can all benefit from it. I am planning to open my own centre so that anyone who needs these skills and can benefit from them can get them.”
Rebecca dreams of a community where everyone has access to these powerful tools and valuable tailoring skills, a place where everyone can embrace the same opportunity that changed her life. Her ambition is not only to better her own circumstances but to uplift those around her, to empower the people who need it the most. Rebecca embodies the heart of TWAM's mission, showing us that the real power of tools lies not just in transforming one life, but in sparking a chain of transformations that can reshape an entire community.
You could give someone just like Rebecca their own life-transforming sewing machine for just £25. Buy an alternative gift and make a lasting difference.