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Widows Rejoice!

Of all the damage caused by the recent civil war in the Central African Republic, some of the worst has been the terrorizing of vulnerable women and children.

Since the beginning of the war in 2012, millions of people have been displaced, and the civilian casualties alone have left behind hundreds of widows and orphans. Encompass World Partners is committed to aiding the victims of this crisis. Through the donations of those who seek peace for the people of the CAR, Encompass has been able to partner with the local churches to help those who have been stripped of all they had.

Recently, Encompass’ partner churches in the CAR used money from the restoration fund to finance a unique one-day seminar for widows. Many of these women were widowed during the conflict, and most of the participant’s husbands were pastors targeted by the rebel groups. The one-day workshop focused on micro-enterprise and business management. The aim was to equip widows to start and manage a business of their own in order to provide for their families. If these women could earn income making soap, selling firewood, or some other kind of trade, they would have a sustainable way to meet their needs.

The churches invited 56 widows from all over the country to participate in the training. It was an emotional gathering. The women had the opportunity to share about the passing of their husbands and the struggles they faced in taking care of their families. Telling their story was reliving the sorrow, but though the day started with tears of pain, it ended with tears of joy.

Pastors and micro-enterprise experts taught the women in a classroom setting but also gave them practical group exercises. They explored business concepts such as budgeting money, supply and demand, and sustainability. Encompass partner Marie Helen Hibaile, who works with her husband Dr. Augustin Hibaile to equip leaders, spoke on the benefits of acting wisely, encouraging the women not to buy a pretty new dress, but rather focus on the more immediate needs.

At the end of a full day, the women gathered for a commencement ceremony to bless their new business ventures. Every woman was presented with a Bible and a hymnal to help foster their relationship with God. They were also given a shovel and two hoes to use in their gardens. The final gift brought tears of joy and shouts of praise. Each widow received $600 dollars to help start her new business.

The women responded with joy and dancing. Nadjilao, one of the Pastors present, says, “When the ladies first arrived they were very tearful, some crying out loud as they shared their stories of loss and sorrow. But at the end of the training, they were so encouraged that they were all singing, laughing and Praising God.”  After so much tragedy, it was a moment of hope.