It was in the midst of an internal question I was wrestling with and trying to answer when I met Pai.
Our day in the MineField Village was almost over and our team was looking to hire another woman to work for LandMine Design. We had interviewed several women who desperately wanted a job and honestly, all of them were "eligible" for the program. This is where my internal struggle came in. The reality is every woman feels eligible for our program because every woman we meet is incredibly vulnerable, terribly poor, and deserves a chance to be successful. My question? How do you know which woman to choose? How can you choose? They all need help so badly, and isn't that what we’re there for?
Pai waited all day for her interview with me. She carried two things in her hands. One was her daughter and the other was a dirty cloth I could tell used to be white. Her hair was pulled back and her face sad but hopeful.Hopeful, like any of us going into an interview, that she would be chosen for the job. As the questions came and her story unfolded, my heart broke and that internal struggle began showing on my face. She walked over a mile with her daughter in her arms to come to this interview. She lives so far away because the closest thing she has to a home is sharing a small hut with her sister, where she and her daughter sleep on the dirty kitchen floor. They were hungry and hadn't eaten that day. I could tell something was severely wrong.
"How old is your daughter?” I asked.
"She's 4," Pai answered.
"Is she okay?"
"No... she suffered a brain injury when I was pregnant with her," she said softly.
A rainy and muddy day in this small village, where there is no clear road to drive on, was a day 4 years prior that Pai would never forget. She was 6 months pregnant and her family, while riding a moto, was hit by a car. Her husband was severely injured and in a coma for several days. Pai, pregnant and desperately hoping she wouldn't lose her husband had also been injured but this injury was not obvious yet.
Pai began to cry and wiped her tears with the towel she clenched onto.
"My daughter will never be able to walk. Her injuries in my womb left her paralyzed. My husband recovered but left us when he realized she was not a normal child. My daughter can't eat on her own. I cannot work because she requires nonstop care. I don't have enough money for the medicines she needs. I don't even have enough money for food to feed her..."
Then I began to cry.
The internal struggle was out in the open for all to see as tears fell down my face and this interview quickly turned into a sob fest where by the end of it, all I could do was figure out a way to hire her and provide hope. She and her daughter both needed a turnaround, a chance to see what they could do if they were given a chance. A simple opportunity to work and join a community, I knew could change her life. Would she be successful? I don't know, that's what the interview was for before the emotional burdens trumped logic. But the opportunity alone held the power to put hope back into her heart, and maybe that was enough.
So what is the answer to these questions that no longer were internal but showed all over my face? How do we know who to hire? Which story of despair do we give a chance to? After meeting Pai, my answer is - all of them. We figure out a way; with the help of anyone who will help us, we just do it. We don't leave anyone behind. We work hard, we lean into hope, we listen to the stories, and we just figure it out for yet another desperate mother and her baby girl. In this case, I looked at my team and said, "Even though there are only enough funds to hire one, we have to hire two." And that's what we do at Landmine Design. We share the hope we've been given and we don't allow anything to stop us.
Today, Pai still walks over a mile with her daughter in her arms to come to work at LandMine Design, but there are confidence and hope in her stride. She is never late to work. She caught on quickly to the skill of jewelry making and now creates some of our best pieces. She smiles and laughs while making jewelry with her daughter safe by her side. Most of all, she's not alone in her struggle anymore. She's surrounded by a community of women who help and uphold her. She's earning an income for the first time in her life and the trajectory of her life has shifted dramatically.
A story like this isn't easy to share and yet we believe awareness isn't enough. As I remember Pai's face the day of that interview, I have to say that although awareness may not be enough, hope is. And hope has changed Pai's life.
Purchasing a piece of jewelry impacts these women significantly. As I mentioned before, we only had enough money for one but had to hire two...we simply couldn't walk away from her. This is where you came in.
Through the Fellowship of 52, we've been able to offer Pai safe employment and education for the first time in her life!
From the bottom of our hearts, thank you, fellows!