It only takes a short walk around Cabrini’s campus to notice that social justice is a key component of the school. From bake sales to seminars, and the sometimes-overwhelming amount of flyers hanging in Founders Hall, the Cabrini student body and faculty pride themselves in helping those in need.
However, the university’s most influential partnership remains largely unseen, as Cabrini hosted a cause worth fighting for this past Tuesday.
“Cabrini University saw the potential in us and has helped us professionally in ways I could never have imagined,” Chitalu Chishimba, founder of Vision of Hope, said.
Vision of Hope is a program at the Saint Lawrence school in Zambia for underprivileged and at-risk girls. Vision of Hope houses young women and girls from impoverished circumstances, teaching empowerment, and building self-esteem.
The program provides young women with an education in health and disease awareness, life skills, financial literacy, and skill training. The students receive training in sewing, rug making, gardening, and cooking.
By teaching income-generating skills, the hope is that the students leave the Saint Lawrence School as financially self-sustainable young women.
Chishmba founded the program in 2009, and after 10 years Vision of Hope could not monetize its work and struggled with outdated resources such as broken sewing machines.
A fruitful partnership
“I don’t want to say that I was starting to lose hope in the program, but the resources granted to us by Cabrini have made our lives at the school much easier,” Chishimba said.
In 2019, The Bridges to Zambia grant project was founded by Dr. Erin McLaughlin, who was recently named associate dean of Cabrini’s School of Business, Education, and Professional Studies.
The grant provided Vision of Hope with two brand-new sewing machines, threads, scissors, shelves, and other office materials. In addition, McLaughlin and her students traveled to Zambia in July 2019 for a month-long missionary trip.
Cabrini students and faculty also provided Chishimba with advice on how to optimize their workspace and helped transform their main classroom into a dining hall/manufacturing center. According to Chishimba, the work she and her students were doing was all for fun, but Cabrini helped fast-track a way for the school to monetize their work.
For starters, all of the older equipment Vision of Hope no longer needed was sold for much-needed income.
Vision of Hope founded a company, Peace by Piece, which specializes in the sale of crafts designed by Saint Lawrence School students.
The crafts come in the form of paintings, necklaces, bracelets, backpacks, and even hair scrunchies. The profits that Peace by Piece provides are instrumental to Vision of Hope.
Necessities such as running water, beds, and electricity are now easily paid for, and with the help of Cabrini, Peace by Piece is developing into a sustainable business.
“We now have company earnings reports, which is crazy,” Chishimba said, laughing.
This newfound money has also helped Vision of Hope pay its staff regularly, and helped girls get trade certificates in the United States. Once certified, the students return to Zambia and help teach other students at Saint Lawrence.
“The mission has always been for students to take the skills they learn from Vision of Hope, and use them to help carry them forward in the professional world,” McLaughlin said.
The event was an all-day seminar showcasing the Bridges to Zambia/Vision of Hope partnership and culminated with a gallery showing and sale of Peace by Piece products.
This art sale is very important for Peace by Piece, as proceeds generated from the art sale will be crucial; one U.S. dollar is worth just over 17 Zambian dollars (Also known as Kwacha).
Another source of hope
Due to the success of Vision of Hope, a boys’ program in Zambia, Home of Hope is currently in the works.
“Zambian children only eat meat twice a year, and this new program will hopefully give Zambian boys a sense of purpose, and fulfill dietary needs,” McLaughlin said.
The mission of Home of Hope is for young Zambian children to raise and sell rabbits. Rabbits multiply very fast, so this will add great fiscal value to their business model. The students will also eat the rabbits, thus adding a rare source of protein for the children.
Mclaughlin also believes that the ownership of these rabbits will help the boys with childhood trauma and mental health issues because they are given control over an aspect of their lives.
Vision of Hope has clearly benefitted from its partnership with Cabrini, and one can only hope that the boys of Zambia will soon benefit like the girls of the Saint Lawerence school.