A story about a worthy investment, as told by Matt Miner
I’m someone fascinated by quotes (as vehicles for acquiring wisdom), and there are some tried and true ones that most everyone knows. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” goes the saying, but sometimes you have to take it one step further. Sometimes it is not just about teaching someone to fish, but first giving them a fishing rod.
At the Amahoro Children’s Home, a home for orphaned and abandoned youth near Kampala, Uganda, I met a young woman named Zam who had a clear vision of what she wanted to do with her life. She was working as a caretaker at the home which, while important work, was not her calling. Years ago, Zam was one of the first children at the home, and as she grew up, she became a big sister to all the young ones at the home.
After watching Zam help look after the children all day, I spoke with Happy, one of the administrators at the school. She told me about how Zam deeply wanted to be a dress maker, and as I learned more, I saw an opportunity for Zam to achieve her dream. A small investment of money—money we were going to spend on souvenirs and small trinkets for family back home, could literally change the arc of her life. That small sum paid for her tuition to a vocational school, and in just a few short months, Zam was learning to be a seamstress.
I’ll be honest, I have a poor eye for women’s clothing. To be even more honest, I have a poor eye for just about all clothing. But I do have an eye for passion, and drive, and desire. When people can bring their full selves to their work, I believe the product is something beautiful, from dresses and welded barrels to street food and fine art. Zam was a wonderful mentor and helper at the school, but it did not capture her true passion, or her full self. I know the world needs more people who can provide for themselves, who come alive with their work, and take pride in what they share.
Whenever people talk about aid, we talk a lot about the importance of having enough to eat, having a bed to sleep in, and a roof over our heads. And for good reason: without those things, it doesn’t matter what else you may have. But what was remarkable about this opportunity for Zam is that it was not just about providing the core essentials: this career path will be a means for her to help herself and to help others around her. With this investment, Zam might be able to help give back. She has seen firsthand the needs of vulnerable children and she has experienced what small gifts can do for someone’s life. A little bit of help can pull someone else up, and at the end of the day, that is a much greater achievement.