Stitching hope

How Lillian is transforming her life, one dress at a time

Written by Hannah McCandless, Communications Fellow

Lillian sits at her sewing machine, joined by her peers Rosemary and Violet as well as her Village Enterprise business mentor and field coordinator, Florence and Caro.

Every night, Lillian would scrape together whatever money she could find and prepare a simple meal for her family. She would put her children to bed and then, exhausted, she would climb into bed next to them. As she lay down her head, she would pray for sleep. Instead, her worries would start. Her son needed a new pair of shoes. She would have to ask her husband for money. What would they eat tomorrow? How would she pay school fees at the end of the month?

These days, Lillian sleeps just fine.

That is because in March, Lillian started a tailoring business. After three months of basic business and savings trainings, Lillian and her neighbors Rosemary and Violet used their Village Enterprise seed capital to purchase fabric, zippers, and thread and put Lillian’s idle sewing machine to use.

“I had the training,” Lillian explained, “but not the opportunity.”

Before she had children, Lillian took a vocational course where she learned how to sew. But as her family grew, she and her husband struggled to provide for them. The small income they brought in from doing casual labor could barely cover the cost of food. There was certainly nothing left over at the end of the week for beautiful fabrics or fancy zippers.

Through her participation in the Village Enterprise program, Lillian received the capital she needed to invest in a tailoring business. She learned how to run a thriving business, so that her sewing could become her family’s livelihood. And best of all, Rosemary and Violet would be right by her side.

Lillian reviews their record book as Violet and Rosemary prepare material.

Lillian crafts the dresses, and Rosemary and Violet help to add zippers and decorations before taking the completed dresses to sell door to door or at the market. When there aren’t too many orders, Lillian patiently trains Rosemary and Violet to use the sewing machine.

I asked Lillian what the most important change she has experienced has been.

Love, she answered. Love in her family and love in her community.

Lillian’s group just received their seed capital in March, so their business is still new. While they have yet to realize some of the tangible gains that will come with the growth of their business, Lillian has already seen great changes in her relationships, and those in her community.

“In those days, if I needed anything in the home, I had to go to my husband,” Lillian remembers. “And when there was no money, we would fight and argue. The stress of caring for our family was too much.”

“But now,” she continued, “the children never go to sleep hearing their parents fight. Now, there is love in our home.”

Lillian and her three children