Extreme Response exists “to meet the needs of men, women and children living in extreme, often life-threatening situations.” When I think of a life-threatening situation, I think of things like children not being vaccinated against diseases that could take their lives, or consuming food and drink that is filled with bacteria. There is, however, another reality to “life-threatening.” It is living in a situation where abuse is a daily occurrence, having to provide for children with little or no resources, and having no support of any kind from anywhere.
Women bear the brunt of poverty. When there are no skills…no money…no food…they are ultimately held responsible by society. And they hold themselves responsible. We as mothers want what’s best for our children, and when we can’t provide for even their most elemental needs, it tears at our very souls.
For some time, we at Extreme Response have been looking at “what’s next” with the daycare. It has become clear to us that our next step is the women who work at the dump. They are the mothers, grandmothers and aunts of the children that we care for, and if we are to break the cycle of poverty, we must help them. In January we presented the idea of a “women’s center” to our board. We laid out the logistics, the reasoning and the ideas that we had come up with. They were very supportive, however they made it very clear that there was no money in the budget this year. We left agreeing to pray about it, both corporately and individually.
Jose, who runs our Zambiza program, is possibly the most optimistic man I’ve ever met. He KNOWS that God will provide. And he BELIEVES it with all his heart. When we told him that there were no funds for this year, he just smiled and said “Ok.”
Our board meetings took place at the end of January. Toward the end of April, Jose was talking with one of the dentists that offers her time at Zambiza. He told her about the dream of a women’s center, and he told her exactly what we were looking for. A large meeting room where classes could be held, smaller rooms that could be used for after-school tutoring, shower facilities and a room that could be used as a temporary shelter if needed, and a space that would function as a dining room. She said “Really? I’ve got that space, and it’s for rent.” Jose went to look at it, and called Dan with the news that it was perfect. Dan agreed to go and check it out, still knowing that there was no money, and rather skeptically believing that it was as perfect as Jose said it was.
It was perfect.
Located less than one kilometer from the daycare (another goal), with every single space that we were looking for. As they were talking, the lady made it clear that she was putting the space up for rent on the 1st of June, so any decisions would have to be made quickly. She also told them the price per month, but then told them that since it would be used to help women, she was going to lower the price by several hundred dollars.
The guys left the building knowing that they had found what they were looking for, but also knowing that there was no money to be had. Dan went back to his office and emailed Jerry. Jerry responded back saying that there was still no money, but we needed to keep praying. Several minutes after this conversation took place, Jerry received an email from a woman who told him that she had felt a burden that morning to help women, and she was wondering if we had any projects in place that were specifically for women. OH. MY. Jerry wrote back to her and explained the situation, and explained that we were looking for funding through January of 2014 to get the women’s center off the ground. She immediately responded that we could consider it done.
The center is now open. Teresa, who is Jose’s wife, meets with the women of Zambiza and holds a Bible study with them, teaches them life-skills, works on crafts with them, and helps them find value in who they are. These women are learning for the first time that they are beautiful, and that they can create beauty. The first day that the center was open, there were almost 20 women there, taking unpaid time off to come and learn. School will start back in September, and our goal is to have a program in place to help the children with their schoolwork, and to give them a place to go after school instead of going home and either running the neighborhood or having to be in charge of smaller children while their parents work. Many, if not most, of our parents are illiterate, and cannot help their children with their schoolwork. Eventually we hope to be able to offer classes to the women, to help them learn to read and write. We are also hoping to offer medical, legal and psychological services to them, and we already have doctors, lawyers and psychologists talking to their colleagues about providing a few hours a month pro bono.
“There are women who make things better… simply by showing up. There are women who make things happen. There are women who make their way. There are women who make a difference. And women who make us smile. There are women of wit and wisdom who- through strength and courage- make it through. There are women who change the world everyday… Women like you.”
― Ashley Rice