conceptor's story

I used to work for an Indian woman in her shop. She sold chitenge and sewing supplies and other things. But she was very hard to work for because she did not trust anyone, and if you stood for a minute with your arms folded across your chest, she would yell at you to get doing something. Even while customers were there, she would scream from across the room, “You lazy good-for-nothing, get me more cloth!”

She would not let me eat or drink the whole day. All I could have was one small Mahel beer and a bun. But I got used (to it). Other workers would stay three, maybe four days and then they would be gone. You would just be getting used to working with them, and there would be a new one. No one could stand working for that lady. She used to treat me like a slave, making me carry her heavy bags of groceries as she walked three steps in front. But I had my children to feed and so I stood it for six months.

One day she accused me of stealing from her. I picked up my purse and set it on the counter in front of her. I said “Here. Look through my purse to see if there is anything there.” She looked and there was nothing, so I said “Ok. Now you can call your grandmother to come and help you, and your sister and your mother to come help you, from India. Because I am not going to help you anymore.” And I left.

I just stayed at home and relaxed. After three days, she sent her driver to my house. He told me that the woman wanted me to come back to work. I said No, I am not coming. He came back two more times, but I refused. For one month that woman tried to find someone to work for her. After the one month the driver came back,

” Mrs. Chanda is asking you to come back” I said Ok and went to her store.  

Her husband came down to talk to me. He said “That was very bad, you should not quit like that.” I said, “She should not talk to me that way”.

After that time she treated me well, even bringing me food from her house sometimes for my lunch. It was very hot but I got used, and then I liked it. That woman and I became friends. She even raised my pay. I worked for her for three and a half years until she moved to America.



Sr. Immaculata Gets Her Dream

by Marsha Winsryg

rural Zambian womenThanks to generous and quick-working donors Carol Koury, Cia Bloomquist and Annie Schwenk, I was able to send Sr. Immaculata $800 dollars today. When I called yesterday to give her the wonderful news, (a part of my job that I would not trade for the world), she reacted first with disbelief and then delight. I wish I had a little tape recording of that conversation, but you will have to take my word for it, this small miracle, a gift from some global-thinking women and from a higher power that Sr. Immaculata has full faith in will make a difference in the lives of 120 women in rural Zambia.

Sr. Immaculata will send me photos as the work progresses and I will pass them on to you. We are all invested in this scheme to create sustainable income for the women in this world.


sr I lgI met Sr. Immaculata Mulyei in 2002, on my first visit to Livingstone, Zambia to visit the Mama Bakhita Cheshire Home. She is a small, trim and thoughtful person in her mid-seventies now, highly respected in the community, with a dry sense of humor and an abiding concern for rural women with their struggles. A modest and determined woman,  she quietly searches for ways to accomplish her considerable goals: to help small groups of rural women to sustain themselves by adapting their economic endeavors to the changing environment.

Mpekala is her name for this project, meaning “where I live”. In the past she has raised money to supply cows, goats and chickens to ten groups of these women living in the remote Sekute area outside of Livingstone. But changing weather patterns bringing drought have made watering their animals difficult.

Sisal can be easily grown with little water, so a new project is being put forward: the making of woven sisal bags using natural dyes. The goal is to produce their own sisal and to learn how to make handsome shoulder and hand bags of varying sizes.

The bags will then be promoted and sold as fair trade goods of the best order. I myself will offer them for sale in my internet store as well as at my craft sales.

What is needed to begin is $500 dollars of start up money to buy the first sisal, since it will take a season to grow their own, and to hire a teacher from the Zimba tribe who is skilled in this art.

This project is all about sustainability and adaptation. Is there a generous person out there have the where-with-all to take on the privilege of helping this woman start her program?

Thank you.


They Support Each Oher

by Marsha Winsryg

Zambezi Dolls

I am up early swimming at the Back Packer’s pool around the corner and using their wifi because nothing doing at Mama B. Again the ladies made too many dolls in hopes of a yearsworth of pay, I guess, so we are again working on many details, but we ‘ll work this week on the old dolls and whatever gets done, good. Next week we start a doll from scratch, one for each woman, and try to list on paper all the criteria and best practices, as they say.

This is being posted after the fact because wifi was non existant during my stay. What actually happened was that we had to work on the half-finished dolls almost the whole two weeks because I was adamant that they be up to my high standards, i.e. symmetrical bodies and faces, completely hemmed and fitted clothing, attractive and well-sewn hair and accessories to heighten their desirability. This work has in the past been done after I received the dolls in the States by groups of craft handy friends. We called them Doll Parties, and they were fun, BUT, I have to try to teach the God Given Gift Club ladies these western standards so that the dolls will sell well in our markets at the higher prices we must ask in order to pay the doll makers well: $25 a large doll and $15 for a small doll.

Zambezi Doll women working

They made 42 large dolls and 62 small that we managed to mostly finish by working long and hard. They never complained at my continual requests for improvement: we resewed many eyebrows that were too large and heavy and gave the dolls a threatening expression. We refitted clothing that was too large and enlarged clothing that was too small and could not be removed. We removed arms that were sewn at right angles instead of 45 degrees and loosened legs where they joined with the body so that the dolls would sit. Sometimes the days were long and hot, especially when the power was off and no fans could cool us. But at the end of two weeks the ladies earned $2100 which they will share according the hours of work each put in. This is a very substantial amount that will sustain them for months.


Sr. Bridget and I spent Wednesday afternoon going to some very upscale hotels near Victoria Falls and found some interest at one of them. Sr. Bridget will take the dools and meet with one of the shop owners. This would be a step in finding local support and very encouraging if it happens.

God Given Gift Club

God Given Gift Club

An interesting dilhemma is the need to work as a group and the desire of each woman make her own complete doll. So far, this is not possible because of varying skill levels, especially in facial embroidering and clothes tailoring. At this point, they must still work as a cooperative which impresses me more that individual expertise. In any case, they continue to be a very supportive group who look out for one another, and heaven knows, that’s hard to find.