Chikumbuso, a grassroots project in Ng’ombe, Zambia, provides an alternative lifestyle to the most vulnerable women and children in the township.
In late 2004, Linda Wilkinson approached a group of widows living in Ng’ombe. Their families had been decimated by the HIV/AIDS crisis and they found themselves without any means for earning money to care for their ever-growing households.They nursed and buried their children and relatives and took in grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
The first priority for the group became finding a means of making money. They had little formal education and leaned on artistic skills. The handbag project began with just a few recycled Shoprite bags, a crochet hook and a pair of scissors.
Today, the group has grown to 45 widows and 25 at risk youth making beautiful handcrafted items. Their skills as artists and entrepreneurs have grown through various classes ranging from learning about color and design to financial training for both their personal and professional lives.
English training has helped the women continue learning even though they dropped out of formal education many, many years ago. Their confidence has increased tremendously; they regularly attend local fashion shows and often find themselves speaking to organizations about the project and how they can help.