Rio Rancho, NM – In early May, the king of the Bemba tribe in Zambia and a small delegation with him visited the Albuquerque area. They were scheduled to meet with a humanitarian organization called Women of Worth in the city of Rio Rancho (located next to Albuquerque) to personally thank the volunteers for their service.
Although King Henry Kanyata Sosala became ill and could not attend the luncheon and reception in Rio Rancho personally, his representatives from the delegation participated. Godfreda Mugala and others expressed gratitude to Women of Worth for their contribution to young women of Zambia.
Who are the Women of Worth and what was their contribution that merited such a visit? Women of Worth is a community-based sewing group which meets the second Monday of every month in Rio Rancho at the Cabezon chapel of The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints.
This multi-denominational group was established about three years ago to serve the community with their sewing projects. Susan Whetten has been the leader since its beginning, and Ellen Hatala has helped to find contacts and needs within the area. It is open to anyone, male or female, adult or child, who would like to participate. Typically during the summer, school-age children and youth help out as well.
The sewing group has a common purpose: to create items for individuals and animals, often in distress, which will improve their lives. They have made quilts, blankets, heart pillows (used under a seat belt after heart surgery), breast pillows (to increase comfort for women and men after breast surgery), stuffed animals, knitted hats and dog chew toys. They donate them to hospitals, local animal shelters and other groups or individuals as needed.
Women of Worth, sponsored by the LDS Rio Rancho Stake, recently contributed to making hygiene kits for girls in Africa. These kits, which consist of underwear and washable sanitary pads, assist girls in developing countries who do not have access to disposable products. Rather than staying home from school one week each month, which prevents them from graduating, the kits enable the girls to attend school regularly and have the opportunity to graduate.
Dannie Harper, a member of the Women of Worth sewing group, coordinated with Christine Glidden, president and founder of a non-profit charity in Albuquerque called Women To Be. This organization has distributed hygiene kits for girls in Nepal and Guatemala, and will distribute about 1000 kits made by made by Women of Worth and other sewing groups in New Mexico in Zambia in June 2018.
In addition to the distribution of the hygiene kits, Glidden introduces the girls to the concept of reusable products. She likes to establish sewing centers in the various countries she visits, if possible. This enables the girls to become more self-sufficient by making their own kits or by selling kits to others to earn money. Her current plan is to establish such sewing centers in Zambia where women there can be trained and employed to sew.
It was Glidden who established contact with the leaders in Zambia, where the Bemba tribe consists of about 6 million people. She arranged for an emissary of King Sosala to visit the Women of Worth in November 2017, so this is not the first contact the humanitarian organization had with the representatives of this African country.
Emissary Andrew Chapuma, who spoke to the group in November, and the king are interested in becoming better acquainted with American culture and in nurturing an economic partnership. They are both supportive of and grateful for the hygiene kits that will be distributed in Zambia. Chapuma’s visit was attended by dignitaries such as State Representative Jason C. Harper, LDS Rio Rancho Stake President Casey C. Allman, and Rio Rancho Mayor Greggory D. Hull.
At the reception in November, Chapuma spoke of the importance of women in his “matrilineal society.” He explained, “For us as Zambians, we respect women. We treasure women. Women carry the child in the womb.” The hygiene kits will enable girls in his country to move forward, complete their schooling, and experience more opportunities in life. He commented, “God is watching over us and cares about us.”
Casey Skousen, LDS Director of Public Affairs in Rio Rancho, told Emissary Chapuma: “We are honored to share with you and your people.” Skousen, aware of the value of the hygiene kit project and the impact it would have on the lives of Zambian girls, commented further, “When you change lives, you change generations, and when you change generations you change the world.”