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Meet Exildah, Zambezi farmer

Exildah Kamonyo was born in 1968 in Ndola, Zambia. She went to school through grade 9, then enrolled in a 2 year training course to become a tailor. She married at 18, and gave birth to her daughter, Naomi, a year later. Naomi was born with cerebral palsy.

Exildah divorced her husband two years after Naomi was born, and moved back with her parents. Her parents were very supportive, and helped care for Naomi. Two years later, Exildah married her present husband, and gave birth to her son. The family moved to Livingstone.

She wanted to find a school for Naomi in Livingstone, and was referred to the Mama Bakhita Cheshire Home. There, Naomi attended classes and physiotherapy sessions, and Exildah found camaraderie with the other mothers of children with disabilities. They formed a group to encourage and advise each other, and to devise business ideas to help provide for their children. The sisters at the Mama Bakhita admired Exildah both for the way she took care of her daughter and for her leadership skills.

Tragically, Naomi died at age 18. But Exildah remained in the women’s group. Years later, when AACDP director Marsha Winsryg started the Zambezi Doll Company, Exildah and the other mothers in the group became a cooperative of doll makers.

“Marsha taught us how to make simple dolls. We struggled at the beginning, but after many years of practicing, we were able to make a doll that she could sell”, said Exildah.

Then AACDP manager Sydney Mwamba had the idea to start a communal farm, with the women’s group as farmers. Exildah is glad to be participating. She says, “I am happy to see what has happened and how the farm has turned out to be a real farm, producing vegetables for us to eat and sell.”

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