The Daily Gamecock

Inspired student sews own charity

Clothed in Hope to aid Zambians

The Ng’ombe compound in Lusaka, Zambia, is home to many vivid memories and experiences that Amy Woodell will never forget.

Over a summer mission trip in Zambia, this third-year fashion merchandising student spent six weeks working with a college ministry at the University of Zambia.

However, she said the most significant memories of her trip derive from the weekend visits to the slums. Woodell said these dramatic experiences have now led her down a path she didn’t see coming.

“I never imagined myself as a 21-year-old CEO of a nonprofit organization,” said Woodell, who now owns and operates the nonprofit organization Clothed in Hope.

Inspired by her mission work and unforgettable experience, Woodell hopes to provide a place of occupation and education for the widowed women in Zambia.

“[The women are] the ones who have to be strong. They’re the ones who have to wake up every day and take care of the children by themselves and the ones who were just really affected by the oppression,” Woodell said. “It just never got out of my mind that I just had to do something.”

According to Clothed in Hope’s website, a Zambian law passed in 1989 gave widowed women entitlement to 20 percent of their husbands’ estates. Over time this law has become negated by society, and not only do the widows no longer receive their entitled 20 percent, but they are also forced into “sexual cleansing” to remove this haunting ghost.

Launched officially on Feb. 21, Clothed in Hope is geared toward helping women break from this cycle and help them to feel loved and treasured. Woodell hopes to enable them to gain independence through producing and selling their own clothing, as well as by educating them on various life-threatening diseases and teaching them financial responsibility.

“The Zambian society really prides itself on independence, and they love being able to sustain themselves,” Woodell said. “So instead of me giving them $10 a week, they’d be earning their own money so they could feel just the joy of being able to experience success in this society.”

“I want it to be more than just a means of an income. I want to provide education on HIV, AIDS, malaria and waterborne illness — just things that they have no idea about but they’re obviously affected by because the average life expectancy is 47.”

Woodell’s initial vision began with these women making “gameday” dresses while using parts of a Zambian fabric called chitenge. However, due to complicated import and export laws in Zambia, Woodell has found shipping the products to the U.S. to be harder than anticipated.

Despite this potential setback, as a fallback plan Woodell hopes to teach these women to sew and ultimately bring about their own income by having them create and sell Woodell’s own original “Love Africa” T-shirts to tourist communities in Zambia. These shirts are being sold now on her website to help generate her start-up capital for the Clothed in Hope project.

“I want to establish a relationship with these women and really get to know who they are and really pour into them with what I can,” Woodell said. “Just really inspiring them to want better for themselves.”

Woodell plans to move to Zambia after graduation in May 2012. More about Woodell’s story and project, and how to make donations, can be found at