Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Room of Their Own

We pile out of our van in urban Lusaka, Zambia. The women of Chikumbuso greet us with everything they have. Their smiles, their song and their joy. Chikumbuso is a home, a community center, a school, and a safe house for women and their families who are infected and affected by poverty and HIV and AIDS.

It was once a bar and brothel where women were abused and used. "Mama Linda" bought it and redeemed it and created Chikumbuso. Today it provides clean bedrooms for families, a storage unit free of rats for books, classrooms, and a nursery where new moms can find safety, a crib and a locked door.

Most of the women at Chikumbuso are AIDS widows and have the disease themselves. Most of the women would be homeless and destitute without Chikumbuso. An HIV positive women, or a woman with full blown AIDS and her children are not wanted in society. Most of these women come from, or still remain, in abusive situations within their homes.

Chikumbuso is a haven. Behind the smiles and song I see the weary eyes and the suffering souls. Behind busy hands that knit handmade purses from strips of plastic garbage bags to sell for a bit of an income, I see tender hearts broken by the situations in their lives. Yet, there is something more here. Something sacred.

When you watch the video of these beautiful women singing about their community, can you see it? In my short visit, it became clear when women gather at Chikumbuso there is spirit of safety and solidarity. They have a room of their own.

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