No pensions, no government assistance, and in most cases, no family support. When a woman’s husband dies in many parts of Africa, not only does she lose any income he previously earned, but her deceased husband’s family confiscates most, or even all, of her property, leaving her and her children destitute. Grinding poverty becomes a daily reality.
Josephine Asiyo is one of those widows. Her husband died in 2009. She was 31 years old. I met her during my last trip to Africa, and I talked with her about her experience as a widow in rural Kenya. “I felt so isolated,” she shared. Tears began to flow. She had no support from others, no one who truly cared about her plight.
I need to interject that, months prior to my visit, I had been told by Cleophas Makona, a longtime friend and partner of Heaven’s Family, about how a posho mill can reverse the “widow’s curse.” Maize (corn) is a staple of poor villagers in much of Africa, but grinding the harvested maize into usable flour requires a mill, a tool too expensive for an individual family to own, much less a poor widow like Josephine.
So in order to grind her meager harvest of maize, Josephine has had no choice but to walk, laden with maize, several miles to the nearest posho mill to have her maize ground into flour. As payment, the posho mill owner kept some of her flour.
Cleophas had requested $2,000 to provide widows in the village of Teso with a posho mill in order to help, not only Josephine, but 19 other widows living in her village. That seemed like a lot of money, I told him, and I wanted some assurance that it would be worth the investment. Cleophas reminded me that Heaven’s Family had already funded 4 posho mills in other villages prior to my tenure as director of the Widows & Abandoned Women Fund. So I investigated the success of those projects.
It didn’t take long for me to become a believer. Our first four posho mills proved to be an incredible blessing to the widows who jointly owned and operated them. So I gave Cleophas the green light for the Teso widows’ posho mill, and I wired him the funds. Over the weeks that followed, Cleophas faithfully sent photo-filled progress reports. A building had to be constructed to house the mill first, then the mill equipment would be brought in and mounted in place.
And then the day finally came, last Spring, when I traveled in Kenya to meet the widows of Teso to see the operating mill for myself.
What I saw was truly “a-maizing”! The mill was up and running, and not only are the 20 Teso widows milling their own maize at no cost to themselves—but they are also splitting the profits they receive from other villagers whose maize they grind.
But the blessings I observed kept going deeper. The posho mill has become a hub of social and spiritual activity. The women have found the emotional and spiritual support they’ve desperately needed from each other, and they are being transformed into radiant, confident women. Hope is being restored, and many have even begun to dream of starting individual small businesses—with the help of Opportunity Loans from Heaven’s Family—so that they can fully provide for their families.
Best of all, the 20 widows and abandoned women of Teso meet weekly for prayer and Bible study as they attend their posho mill oversight meetings, so they are growing in the Lord, too. It is amazing what an investment of only $100 (per widow) in our Widows & Abandoned Women Fund can accomplish!