Clothed in Hope teaches women in Zambia to sew

In 2010 USC alumna Amy Bardi spent six weeks in Africa on a mission trip. While there, she volunteered at an orphanage and learned that most of the children there were social orphans, meaning that they had parents, but could no longer live with them for various reasons.

After spending time with the children, Bardi knew she wanted to help them in some way, so she started Clothed in Hope as a third-year student.

Clothed in Hope is a non-profit organization that aims to empower vulnerable women in Zambia by teaching them how to sew and make merchandise that is sold on the Internet, trunk shows and in some local shops in Columbia. 

“By empowering and equipping mothers through life-skills training, I get to play a small role in impacting the orphan crisis from a preventative angle,” Bardi said in an email. “The short trip to Zambia in 2010 opened my eyes, awakened my soul and began a stirring deep down that I just couldn’t ignore.”

The staff for Clothed in Hope includes a few stateside volunteers and interns, all of whom are Gamecocks, and five local staff members in Zambia. Bardi and her husband are the directors of in-country programming.

The team works together to run three training classes, each of which consists of around 10 to 15 women. The classes run for 12 months until graduation.

Clothed in Hope has seen over 50 women go through their life-skills training program and have graduated over a dozen women. Recently, Clothed in Hope launched a microloan program to provide financial opportunities to women to start their own small businesses.

“It’s a great example to their families, so that one day we can hopefully break the cycle of poverty because their kids can say, ‘Wow, look at what my mom did; I want to live a life that has accomplishments, that has meaning too,’” said Lauren Haile, third-year fashion merchandising student and current Clothed in Hope intern.

USC students who have interned with the organization believe they have a far-reaching impact in the lives of these women.

“It’s not just selling clothes; it’s providing them a salary, a better life and a job,” said Michelle McCloskey, fourth-year fashion merchandising student and current Clothed in Hope intern.

Bardi hopes to continue building and expanding Clothed in Hope. The organization started with just five students in a room of one woman’s house in 2012, but has already grown so much since then. She sees growth in herself as well as the company.

“I am no one special. I started with a dream to climb the corporate ladder and live a ‘successful’ life. But along this journey, I’ve had to step into my weaknesses, into great unknown, and I have discovered that my idea of success was quite wrong,” Bardi said. “A successful life isn’t marked by money or status or achievements even, it’s marked by living a life for the benefit of others, by writing a story bigger than yourself.”

Bardi also sees the potential for other people to have this same impact on the world.

“Take your passion and your talent and see the potential for how it could play a part in changing the world. You are capable, you are unique, you are gifted and you have the opportunity to share that with the world,” Bardi said. “How great is that?”

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