Today we are showcasing another company whose products you can find at the Gift Market - African Soles!
To help us truly understand the type of IMPACT we can have when we put our money where our hearts are, Jen, the the founder of African Soles, is sharing the story of Florentine with us today.
Florentine is a real woman whose life has been positively impacted by African Soles. This story is especially sentimental for me as the pair of sandals I own (above) from African Soles are called Florentine's Wish, after Florentine!! You can read a bit about them here and here in a few of my very first blog posts!
IMPACTING ONE AT A TIMESometimes it is hard not to feel guilty because I am so blessed. Each day when I get up I have a choice of what to wear, not just one set of clothes. I have a choice for my breakfast; not worried about if there is food to eat. My children are expected by law to go to school. They do not stay home because I do not have the school fees required to send them. And while we have many poor in North America, there are systems in place to help. We have welfare, food banks, job banks, free education, free medical services and free legal services. In Uganda, especially if you are a refugee, there is nothing in place to help you. When I first went to Uganda I noticed a very pretty refuge woman who came and sat through all our meetings. One thing I noticed about this woman was that she never smiled. She always had such a sad look about her. I asked Anne Mwangi, our leader on the ground in Uganda, what this woman’s story was. Anne told me that her name was Florentine. She was one of the fortunate women who escaped from the Congo with her husband and five children. When they reached Kampala, her husband became so discouraged because he could find no work that he left her and the children. She was now left to raise the children on her own. Even though she looked so young, she had a 19-year-old son who could only find jobs for one day here and there, not enough to support them. Her 16-year-old daughter was contemplating going into prostitution because it was the only way she could think of to make money. Florentine often thought of taking her own life but knew then there would no one to look after her children. It was for women like Florentine that I started African Soles that year. It took a while to get the business off the ground and to make enough money to start giving out business grants to women. Before we started giving money to the refugee women, Anne and I decided we should have a 3 day business training course so that once given money, these women would know how to budget and run a small business. In their culture they live for today because they really don’t believe they have a future. The business training taught them about marketing, budgeting and some learned a new skill. Florentine’s original desire had been to start a sewing business but when the time came to help her she had changed her mind. She decided that she wanted to make cheese and sell it to the hotels in town. One day Anne ran into her in the one of the hotels and she just had to take her picture to send to me. I hardly recognized that same very sad woman who I had met a few years before. This was a woman that had hope and dignity and was doing something she enjoyed and was able to meet her expenses. Her life is still not easy by North American standards but it has changed and she is able to smile again.
This is Florentine a few years later, selling her cheese to one of the local hotels.I know we cannot help everyone who has needs but that shouldn’t stop us from helping all that we can. I believe that God has instructed us to see beyond ourselves.
James 1:27 says “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this; to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Just seeing the smile on Florentines face is encouragement enough for me to continue with African Soles and impact one at a time.
Want to join Jen in having a positive impact?It is easy! Check out their website here to read more about them and see all their products! If you live in Sheridan come to the Give with IMPACT Holiday Gift Market and see the products in real life!!! Here is a sneak peek...
The Give with IMPACT Holiday Gift Market is only 9 days away!
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