I will never forget this morning in Guatemala. It started with what we considered a Kingdom Quake, a Holy rattling of the land with a 6.6 earthquake at 3am that morning. When normally I would be scared out of my mind during an earthquake (I was traumatized by them in California), I was strangely calm during this one.
Patty Aragon Winske, Meredith Ehler, and I were going downstairs to do a scheduled morning prayer before our second day of the Women’s Leadership Summit. We met Julia and Chrisela, two of our guests (one a volunteer from the Women’s Empowered project we fund, and the other being one of the women who is in the group whose life has been positively affected by the savings and funding program) at the stairs. Patty invited them to come down to join in our prayer and they were all too happy to.
On the way to this outdoor church spot Meredith was getting texts from her brother. He was telling her the significance of a 6.6 earthquake representing the 66 books in the Bible. In the Bible there are many instances where the earth shook and massive change took place.
When everyone got there, we took each other’s hands and prayed for the work that was about to be done that day and then one of our guests prayed for us in Spanish. She prayed for our safe delivery home and for our families. We then went on to enjoy a full day of learning from these resilient, smart, and brave women that we hope to be like one day.
I am so grateful for the experience we had learning about the Brighter Together foundation who funds PCI’s (Project Concern International) Women Empowered (WE) program. Through this program, the women are able to start to save their money in a secure way, for the first time in their lives, by working together.
I am so grateful we got to experience the exercises they do in their weekly meetings to learn how to open their own savings account amongst themselves, pool money together, request and grant loans to each other (with interest paid back so that a profit occurs for each woman at the end of the year), and even have a social insurance pool for emergencies that happen within their group that year (unexpected life events where they decide whether it needs to be paid back or just gifted).
Some of these women were in their 5th cycle of the program and have been able to make massive change w/in their household. Altogether this group has been making moves in their communities by focusing on creating change in their community, such as fighting drugs, increasing education, cleaning up pollution, etc.
Some of these women started with having to hide these meetings from their husbands to now having their husbands give them extra money to add to the group’s savings fund. Some husbands are even helping out at home since these meetings that teach these women everything from bookkeeping to savings, to conflict resolution, and more are 2-3 hours weekly.
Many of the groups are even able to grow funds big enough where they no longer have to store the savings in a lockbox at a house, but where they can put their savings in a real bank. Outwardly there may not have been any noticeable change from the earthquake that started our day, but on the inside, my world turned upside down. Thank you LimeLife, Michele Mallardi-Gay and Madison Mallardi for daring to be different. Thank you for thinking outside of the box for this trip. I know we could have easily gone into their villages and brought money, and built things to give them a helping hand. There is a need for that and there are so many mission trips who focus on that solely and God bless them for that… but you both daringly took another route, one that could have been open to criticism if the whole story was not known.
You believed in the power of the ladies in these programs and you saw their gratefulness and perspective when presented with a pinhole of opportunity. You understood the importance of helping fund the programs that teach these women the life skillsets they need to become the heroes of their OWN community. Like you have said time and again, Michele Mallardi-Gay, we do not exist to give them a fish. We instead teach them HOW to fish, then HOW to smoke and salt and save the fish, and even more so, how to open a fish business to work towards becoming financially secure.
To see how empowered each one of the ladies felt, carrying a true pride in knowing THEY did that… THEY changed the course of their community…well, I will never look at life in the same way. As you said in your closing speech, it is not enough to believe in a woman, you have the help them believe in themselves. It is not enough to have compassion for a woman, you have to teach them how to have compassion for themselves. Thank you for being such a great role model for me and our entire LimeLife by Alcone family. I am grateful and blessed and I thank God that he chose to announce His presence that day in a big way.