Have you ever had to let someone you love step out on their own? Maybe it was your child on their first day of preschool or your best friend moving to the big city after college. With these meaningful moments, there's often that tension between hope and fear, optimism and wanting to protect.
We had 13 women graduate from our program in Mozambique last month. We are so thrilled for them, and yet we already miss them. I've had people ask, "What does it feel like to have the people you worked with so closely graduate and leave?" And I smile, a bit shamefacedly, and tell them about my friend M.
M was the first internationally trafficked survivor I worked with. She's a Ugandan woman who had been tricked into believing she had a job in China. Thankfully, through the coordinated efforts of organizations in China and Uganda as well as their respective embassies, M was repatriated. She had a beautiful daughter, and I had watched her journey of walking towards restoration and wholeness for about two years at that point. I had watched her try and fail at various business opportunities, witnessed her struggle with substance abuse, and fight her way to believing that her past experiences did not define her future.
But then, seemingly out of the blue, she said she was leaving. She said she was moving a couple hours away to open a business there - she said that she was ready to move on.
Honestly, I was dreading her leaving. I was afraid she was going to fail. I was worried she was going to fall back into patterns of depression and substance abuse. I was concerned that she wouldn't have us ready to pick her up and lift her when she fell. Even though she was only a few years younger than me, I was feeling very mama-bear about the whole thing - protective and not wanting the world to get the chance to hurt her again.
M asked me to go out for tea with her the day before she left. I showed up, not sure what to expect. After we had sat down with our African tea, I asked her if she was sure she was ready to do this. She looked at me straight in the face and said, "I'm ready to be who I once was, and I can't do it here with all of you as my safety. I'm ready to be independent again. I want to be myself again."
And I was ashamed. We had spoken at length about freedom and independence and her having control over her life again - and here she was ready for just that, and I was hindering it by my own love for her and by my own ideas of what I thought was best for her. I was kicked off my high-horse in that moment, and I gained even more respect for M and for all the other survivors I have the opportunity to meet.
This is part of the reason we have graduation in our program. We don't want to create dependency upon us, a safety-net for the women so they never have to reclaim their full independence. It is scary, but it is also beautiful watching this transformation.
So, yes, we had 13 women graduate last month. And guess what? We now have space to welcome new women into the program. New women to watch as they transform their own lives, one step at a time, until they too are one day ready to graduate.
And we welcome you to be a part of this journey. With Export Freedom Mozambique, you can sponsor a box and get to know one of these new women in our program as she receives some of the first inventory for her new job as an entrepreneur selling bras. These boxes of bras are the key to economic empowerment which is a crucial tool as they walk towards true freedom. Next month, we are also launching a fundraiser for a Graduation Party and matching grant program for our graduates as they are entering into this new season. But if you want to start the ball rolling, just click here and note that this is for Graduation.
Thank you all so much for being an advocate for true freedom! And for helping us both celebrate letting go and welcoming new women in with open arms!