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War has claimed many victims in eastern Congo — but not the crafts people of the SHONA cooperative! These inspiring women show what faith and perseverance – and a little help from a friend – can do.

SHONA is a grass roots organization working with handicapped young women most of whom suffered from polio as children, couldn’t get treatment because of the war and lost the use of their legs. Unable to walk to school, they weren’t educated.  Unable to carry water or do household chores they are not regarded as marriageable. By teaching them to sew and apprenticing them to an older ‘mentor’ the women are able to build a new life.

Twenty-two-year-old Argentine caught polio when she was four but she didn’t receive medical treatment until she was 15. With her income from SHONA she supports a brother and also sends money to her mother and other siblings in her home village.

Riziki was also handicapped by childhood polio. Through her SHONA earnings she is able to provide for herself for the first time in her life.  She can also help her younger sister who spent many years caring for her.

The tiny organization has no full-time staff and no funding. It was founded by Dawn, an American English teacher who started the project while teaching at the university in Goma. Dawn brought the women a sewing machine with the idea of making simple products that could be sold directly to customers in the US.  Now back in the States, Dawn continues to support the women — although she says she could use some help! Click on 'Read More' below to find out how.

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