Hands of Honor – Fatim’s Story – Part 2
It wasn’t until Fatim called her mom from the bus station in Dakar that we knew she was safe. The man hadn’t gotten the appropriate paperwork, but in the dead of night, he snuck her across the border. Once in Senegal, he bribed someone to let her on a bus headed for Dakar. I spent a lot of time praying with my friend, Mah, in those days of waiting. She told me she felt God’s peace when we prayed.
God revealed His care and concern for Mah by protecting her business. In all of the stress, one night she left the keys to her restaurant in the lock. She couldn’t believe it when a neighbor she didn’t even know returned them to her the next day without anything having been stolen. Extreme poverty is a reality my friend lives day in and day out. It forces her to make choices that you and I could never imagine.
Several months after arriving in Dakar, Mah hired out Fatim as a maid to a Senegalese family.
I struggled with my friend’s decision to put her daughter into child labor. Through Hands of Honor, I’ve been an advocate in my community against child labor and focused so much energy on bringing an end to it. I encouraged Mah not to go in this direction; I told her that Hands of Honor could help send Fatim to school, but Mah didn’t need a daughter in school, she needed the $45 a month that Fatim would make to pay her rent. The impact of the pandemic on her restaurant was making it difficult for her to make ends meet.
I made sure to keep in touch with Fatim and asked her often if she was treated fairly by her new employers. Our family’s relationship with Mah and Fatim grew. They became more receptive to us sharing our relationship with Jesus; they asked us to pray for them and even joined us on Easter Sunday at our local church.
As the months passed, I assumed that the opportunity for Fatim to attend school was over until a recent visit with Mah. She was so discouraged. The rains had come in Dakar and with them, the unbearable living conditions in the slum community where Mah lives. She’d been in a relationship with a man who’d promised to marry her, but she’d recently come to realize that he was only using her. In our conversation, she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I don’t care what it takes; I don’t want this life for my daughter. Can you still get her into school this fall?”
I had a visit from Fatim yesterday. Grinning from ear to ear, she said to me, “Did you hear? I’m going to school!”
Your partnership and generosity with Hands of Honor allowed Fatim to enroll in a private vocational school in October 2021, where she is thriving and learning a skill set that will provide her with safe employment. Mah and Fatim are being discipled weekly by Hands of Honor staff, and they are on a journey to Jesus.
Alliance Women encourages you to partner with Hands of Honor through your prayers and financial contributions. We have set a goal to raise $25,000 to help Hands of Honor expand its ministry to young West African girls. For more information, please visit www.alliancewomen.org/give.
Fatim’s Story – Part 1
Fatim was born out of wedlock to her fifteen-year-old mother. She was given to an uncle and was raised as his “lamonden,” his live-in maid. She was not given the same privileges as other children in the home and was not accepted as their equal.
Fatim was 14 years old when her uncle took a second wife. Her workload doubled, and the sister wives began to fight over her.
Mah, Fatim’s mother, never got past the stigma of having a child out of wedlock and had been ostracized by most of her family. In her early 20s, she moved to Senegal to open a small restaurant in a slum community in Dakar. Mah kept in touch with her daughter and visited several times over the years and always ensured that Fatim had her current phone number.
When things progressively became worse for Fatim, she reached out to her mother. Mah talked to the family and asked that Fatim be allowed to move in with her. She even made a trip back to Mali to speak to the family in person. But to no avail, they refused to let Fatim leave, and they cut off all communication between the mother and daughter.
Fatim persisted and found a way to reach her mother through a friend. Once a week, she was allowed to go to Koranic school, and she’d use her friend’s phone to call her mom. Together, Fatim and her mother came up with a plan to be together.
Pretending as if it was like any other day for Koranic school, Fatim left the house, but she took a taxi to the bus station when she was out of sight. Mah had sent her bus money through her friend and arranged for Fatim to travel to Dakar with two acquaintances traveling on the same bus. It seemed as if the plan was foolproof until they got to the Senegalese border.
Fatim was kicked off the bus and denied entry into Senegal as she lacked the appropriate paperwork. The two ladies traveling with her could not help, but they showed her what bus she needed to take back to Mali.
Fatim was terrified to return. Her uncle was a violent man, and she feared his reaction after she’d attempted to leave his household. As night was falling, a man recognized Fatim’s distress and offered to help her. Having no other options, Fatim went with him. He allowed her to use his phone to call her mother in Dakar to explain the situation. He told Mah that she needed to send him $120 to get Fatim her paperwork.
I got a frantic phone call from Mah in the early hours of the morning; she was so distraught that I could hardly make out what she was saying. She shared what was going on and told me that she only had half the money for Fatim’s paperwork and asked if I could loan her the other half. I assured her that we would help, and then together, we prayed for Fatim’s safety.
Mah wired the money to the stranger at the border, and then it was two days of silence.
Alliance Women encourages you to partner with Hands of Honor through your prayers and financial contributions. We have set a goal to raise $25,000 to help Hands of Honor expand its ministry to young West African girls.
To participate, please visit www.alliancewomen.org/give.
Hands of Honor – Dana’s Story
My name is Dana. In my village and in many others throughout West Africa, girls like me face an uphill battle. Because of the poverty in our homeland, we are forced to work from a very early age. When we reach our early teens and sometimes even sooner, many of us are forced into arranged marriages with older men while others become pregnant out of wedlock.
Sometimes we endure horrible things like genital mutilation that our cultural practices often force on us and because of gender inequalities, we are denied opportunities for education.
We feel alone, frightened, and trapped.
Last year, some women from CAMA’s Hands of Honor program approached me and told me about Jesus’ great love and care for me. They showed me that there was hope for a better future because I am God’s child.
Today, I’m writing worship songs in my native tongue, and Jesus is calling me to reach my own people who have never heard about His mercy and grace. And even though I face persecution—sometimes under threat of death—I will never go back to my old religion.
I know that the odds are still against me in many ways, but I also know that Hands of Honor will walk with me every step of the way—just like Jesus!
Alliance Women encourages you to partner with Hands of Honor through your prayers and financial contributions.
We encourage you to pray each Wednesday (West Africa Wednesday) for the Hands of Honor ministry.
We have set a goal to raise $25,000 to help Hands of Honor expand its ministry to young West African girls. For more information, please visit www.alliancewomen.org/give.
West Africa Wednesday
Pray each Wednesday for the Hands of Honor ministry and program expansion into another country.
by Becky McCabe, CAMA Africa Regional Developer
Birthed in 2012, Hands of Honor addresses the injustice and inequality in the lives of vulnerable teen girls in West Africa, primarily child laborers. The nonprofit, Save the Children, identified the best and worst places for girls in our world based on several indicators: education, child marriage, adolescent fertility rates, justice, security, and inclusion. Of the 144 countries analyzed, the lowest-scoring countries are in West Africa. There is a significant need to promote equality and opportunity for girls in West Africa!
What began with just a few girls in one community morphed into Hands of Honor and now ministers to over 100 girls spread out in seven communities located in two countries in West Africa. Hands of Honor advocates for and intervenes in the lives of vulnerable child laborers. Through Hands of Honor ministries, girls are offered a safe place in their community. They are cared for by qualified Christian staff who provide Bible, health, literacy, and vocational instruction.
In 2020, Hands of Honor fulfilled a long-time goal of launching a preventative measure against child labor in a vulnerable community. They and their partners built a Christian elementary school that provides equal access to education and addresses a critical need for a quality educational option in a rural community. The school is self-sustaining, and opportunities exist in other communities for Christian school builds. Studies have proven that children enrolled in and succeeding in school are far less likely to be put into forced labor by their families. Alliance Women has opportunity to expand the reach of Hands of Honor by helping them launch in a new location.
REACHING INTO SENEGAL
In 2018, Hands of Honor launched in Senegal through a partnership with SOS Dialogue, a counseling and skills training center providing vocational training for non-schooled girls from low-income families. As the only evangelical girls’ vocational school in Thies, the third largest city in Senegal, the center is uniquely positioned to demonstrate Christ-centered compassion to their participants. In the words of founder, Marthe, “The love of Jesus Christ for these girls is our motive.”
The partnership between SOS and Hand of Honor created a culinary arts vocational track through the school that provides the opportunity for employment in the booming hospitality and tourism sector in Senegal. In August 2021, the first nine students finished the three-year program and are safely employed.
Girls from low-income homes need to have their fees subsidized by outside partners. Gifts from Alliance Women will fully fund 10 students from start to finish in this three-year program. In addition to funding culinary arts students, Alliance Women desires to fund other Hand of Honor ministry expenses including staff compensation, orality training, vocational training, literacy materials, and annual professional development.
Alliance Women is committed to prayer and financial support for the Hands of Honor ministry in West Africa. We have set a goal to raise $25,000 for this vital ministry to girls.
To participate, please visit www.alliancewomen.org/give.