We could cry all day because we go back to the same misery. We have no more hope.”
These are the heart-wrenching words of a few despairing women, who came to the Africa Mercy for vaginal vesicular fistula (VVF) surgery. Not all surgeries are successful. At times, several procedures may be required to repair the injury, and sometimes there is nothing else that can be done. These women were preparing to return to their homes as they came, with no money, no hope, and constant urine leakage.
“They were so full of hope… and they used all their money to get to Kara where the Mercy Ships vehicles picked them up and brought them here,” says Ellen De Pagter, Hospitality Center Education Coordinator.
She conferred with Adjete Wilson, a day volunteer, whose mother, Antoinette, teaches soap making. “ They spend so much money on soap to keep their clothes clean and sweet smelling,” said Ellen . Antoinette agreed to present a program to teach the departing women how to make soap. Each received a litre and a half of the clear liquid to take home, plus enough money to buy the equipment and products to make the soap in order to start a small business. This would give them the opportunity to start a small business and have an ample supply of soap for themselves.
She also offered to open the presentation to any of the other women with VVF, who were waiting for their surgery dates. Almost all of them were very interested in learning how to make soap and have a business of their own.
The women packed the education room at the Hospitality Center, where Antoinette shared her recipe for soap making in great detail, giving opportunities to stir the batch with her wooden paddle. If acid is not used, the soap can be used on the skin. She advised the women to keep children away from the mixture, if they use the acid. They were also given a printed list of instructions and ingredients which was laminated for greater durability.
After the program, Adjete gave the departing women a basic course in business finance, stressing the importance of using the money to buy the equipment that will produce an income for them. From then on, the soap will bring profits.
Ellen also gave each woman a small wooden box with instructions to put a portion of the income into the box each time a bottle of soap is sold. The box must be broken to remove the money.
“Save up the money to buy something important,” she told them.
One of the women said, “I wondered why God ever brought us here. I thought God had forgotten us.”
But after seeing the program, a few of the women were anxious to pair up to make the soap together. Another woman went out and bought everything she would need to make the soap at home.
“This is the first ste ,” she said. “I can start now.”
Ellen was satisfied to see the women had made such significant progress.
“They have new hope again ,” she said.