I have been uplifted by Nora’s writings about her Quest for literacy for the women of DHF, one by one. I know from experience that life in the field can be so frustrating—it can just make you breakdown. The simplest of tasks take days sometimes. But I honor the work we are doing led by Nora, and her patient willingness to visit women in the field, one-by-one, to give them a chance to take their exams and proclaim their literacy. During a moment of frustration this week, I wrote to Nora “What an amazing feat to have in your life, helping even one woman become literate!”
One of Nora’s Minnesota pals sent her a link to a beautiful NPR story, The Magic of Letters. I had to share some of the writing here, it is such a poignant writing by a once-illiterate Nepalese woman, and demonstrates the power of literacy and how it uplifts.
I believe in the alphabet, because it has the power to change life.
I realized the power concealed in the alphabet on the very first day I joined the adult literacy class. For the first time, I was introduced to letters that stood for my name. In discovering the Nepali alphabet, I discovered I was Cha-me-li and not Cha-mi-li, as everyone used to call me. It felt like magic. A little loop of "e" for "i" changed my name!
If three letters could change my name, how much would I be able to transform my life if I understood all the letters? I spent that whole evening writing and rewriting my name. After that, I carried the spelling book with me while I went to collect firewood, weed the maize field, just everywhere, until I learned to write.
…I cannot express my satisfaction seeing children running to school over that bridge. It is a bridge of iron, a bridge of letters, a bridge of community. Nothing is achieved without the cooperation of all.
I am now heading five women's microsaving groups. Ten or 20 rupees that used to be spent buying petty cosmetic items have been collected into a fund of 300,000 rupees. We are planning to open a small cooperative in the village soon. We also want to run permanent literacy classes for women and open a library. All this is the result of my knowing the alphabet, even though I learned it late. Letters have immense power. They have magic. The greatest thing in the world is the alphabet. That is my belief.
We have such power to make a difference! The cost of one of our literacy classes is $3. Women last year had approximately 80 classes in their course for their certificate. It blows me away when I think that for less than $250, we can give literacy to a group of women. The power in that statement just makes me high with Hope.
We’ve finalized the agreement on The Hope House (pict) and hopefully, we’ll gather the ample support next week at our Planting Seeds of Hope event to fund the house for the first year. Nora has reported the lovely sound of construction noises from the building that will soon be home to the development center for all of our women and more from the community.
Right now, there is an overlay of rhetoric of fear in our culture because of the state of the economy. I try not to take part in the fear, but sometimes it gets the best of me! Today I made a deal with myself, to just say, “I don’t know” out loud to remind myself I don’t have all the answers. There is so much we want to create and is possible to create, and “I don’t know” how much of it will be born. But I know there is a way. Another good friend of mine reminded me he was saying “Yes” to whatever possibility came along. So, yes there is a way and I am willing and I don’t know how it looks.
There is great power amidst even the fear right now. Don’t ever think that you can’t create a ripple of change. For example, here are costs for various types of classes for six women to learn, to learn something new and as powerful as the letters in the alphabet.
Sewing with Ribbon: $6
Money management: $2.50
Community Health: $17
Knitting Ponchos: $2.50
Dying Wool: $2
The Hope House will be a place where we host these classes and women can open the doors and walk into this power. We see it owned and operated and loved by women for years to come. I am excited as we move toward planting seeds of hope that will grow far beyond our lives. Thanks for being part of the embrace and the story.
To the magic in the house, MM
p.s., for you social media folks, follow DHF news at Twitter.com/magszoe. Stay tuned next week for the release of our 2008 evaluation!