Sometimes the best plans need to be overhauled. In the beginning of the LandMine Design program, our small team of staff had standards we purposefully considered and then deliberately established. They were principles, if you will, by which we seek to establish a job creation program in the middle of a minefield.
One such principle related to the women we would employ. To us, the highest priority for employment was easy: we sought to hire mothers who were desperate to feed their families. We hoped to provide a sustainable income so that these dear mothers wouldn’t be forced to leave their families in search of work across the border. We knew of too many who had made that choice and were at risk of the brutalities of human trafficking each time they left the safety of their home and village. Our hearts not only wanted to provide an income, we also wanted to provide a quality education, health and hygiene training, Christian discipleship, and financial budgeting/savings training. Establishing this principle seemed like a no brainer: Hire adult women/mothers in need.
It’s funny to think about how resolute we were when establishing this principle. At the time, we had no idea how that principle would be one of the first to be broken. Within months of our beginning, young teenage girls began coming to our program. We had (and still have) an open door policy welcoming any woman into the training times. Samphor was one of them. She would sit with the mothers we had hired and listen to all they were learning. She was sweet and wide-eyed; and she was a sponge, so eager to learn. Because of her age, she was definitely NOT in our target market of women to hire. Within a few weeks, Samphor felt comfortable enough to share her story. She shared about the dire needs of her family; of being abandoned by her mother; of struggling with health issues that could have taken her life. Learning her story, the other women and our staff would often break down in tears over Samphor. It didn’t take long before the other women asked if we would consider hiring Samphor.
It was at that moment that we were faced with a choice. Were we going to stand behind our well-thought out policy only hiring adult women/mothers, or were we willing to consider beyond the policy. Were we willing to notice teen age girls like Samphor? You see, the truth we’ve found at LandMine Design is that things are not always as cut and dry as they seem. Sure, making policies is relatively easy on this side of the ocean. But, when you sit in a remote village face to face with a teenage girl who has no where to turn, policies feel abstract and removed. How could we tell this sweet teenager that she doesn’t fit our ‘market' for new hires? How could we gaze into her soft brown eyes and explain she’d have to look elsewhere for work to help provide for her hurting family? And how could we send her off to quit school and find other means for an income in a country where 35% of the prostitutes are under the age of 16 (UNICEF)? Samphor deserved more.
And that’s where our policy turned upside down and overhauled itself. Today, we hold policies with open hands. That’s not to say we don’t establish well-thought out plans and strategies. But, we realize that we can’t hold them with clenched fists. Sometimes we have to adjust the policies to better meet the needs not completely known when such policies were established.
With great joy, we employ women living in a MineField. They are both adult moms and teen girls, like Samphor. Today all of our teen employees not only earn an income that literally feed their families; they also are able to continue in school. For these teens, they have the chance to be the first in their families to finish elementary school and hopefully beyond. All the while, they are learning a skill, developing business strategies, and understanding important things like clean water and sanitation.
For young women like Samphor, overhauling plans has been life-giving and we couldn’t be more grateful!
- Karla Tillapaugh, Landmine Design Director