guest post by Holly Doden

He asked me to get them fixed. I laughed. This wasn't the sort of thing that gets fixed. This was when you raised your white flag, admitted defeat, surrendered the trousers to the garbage, and bought a new pair. But he begged me, they were his favorite pants. The staple in his closet. They had carried him through interviews and presentations, making him look a little more like a doctor and little less like a 20-something hipster. They were the first pair of pants he had ever gotten hemmed, the break was perfect. He had coordinating shirts and ties, even his shoes were paired just right. 

But in a moment, all that changed. In a moment, those pants went from being the best thing going for his wardrobe to something on the brink of extinction. As the oldest and most (ahem) mature of all the groomsman, my husband took it upon himself to ensure the dance floor was put to good use. And if you've ever seen this man dance, you know his enthusiasm is unparalleled.  The beat dropped, he jumped, the seams exploded. This was his jam. In the space between the lyric "Party" and "Rock" the fate of the pants was sealed. Where there had once been back pocket slits, there were now two massive holes. Where seams had once held tight, there was now a painful separation. Where fine Italian wool had once laid smooth, there was now a tangled mess of fiber and string. 

Three years later, those pants still hang in my husband's closet. Big shout out to Mrs. Lee in the Sunset district of San Francisco. She smiled and nodded as I handed the pants over to her, asking for a miracle but completely resigned to fact that they were destroyed. I returned a week later with $20 and a good deal of skepticism. She smiled broadly and presented the pants. Covered in plastic, swinging from a hanger, cleaned and pressed. I began to laugh, "NO WAY!" Mrs. Lee smiled and nodded, pleased with her accomplishment. For a mere $20 we had salvaged the most valuable piece of clothing my husband had ever owned. 

Today I put something away in my husband's closet, laughing aloud at the memory and marveling once again at the magic of the tailor who pieced those trousers back into existence. Simultaneously, I can't help but think of the One Thread Program. Not just bringing garments to life, but bringing people to life. Stitching up and down, back and forth, weaving that thread to create a patch. A patch that bridges the chasm between worthless and valued. Between broken and whole. Between known and isolated. Between empowered and discounted. 

The country faces a major challenge in youth employment. More than 70% of those aged 15 to 24 have no jobs, with urban areas particularly affected. The shortage of jobs helps increase the size of the informal sector and the weakness of supportive structures leads many young people into a life of crime
— African Economic Outlook

At Emmanuel Training Center, students are more than a statistic. They are offered a chance at reclaiming dignity- even if they've already become mothers, even if they are teenagers who never had the opportunity to go to school, even if they've grown up in an orphanage and have no family or support system beyond the walls that have held them since childhood, even if they've already been owned by someone, sent out to make money in the way only a woman can, even if... With Paul and Micheline, they are given a chance to be human again. Ironically, it doesn't cost much more than that $20 I paid the tailor to help move a young person from the class of unskilled to skilled, from unemployed to employable, from vulnerable to independent. 

Being in Kinshasa is a bit like looking at that pair of busted pants. The poverty is overwhelming and the brokenness is blindingly obvious. But when you meet Congolese people like Paul and Micheline, people who, like Mrs. Lee my tailor, have the vision to see beyond? Everything changes. It is no longer a blur of chaos, it is a sea of prospective students, future tailors, future business owners. It is a sea of hope. 

This vision is at the heart of Emmanuel Training Center. From now until Friday at 7pm PST you have the chance to help us push this dream even further into reality. Our goal is to raise $2,000 to purchase a generator for the center so they can keep working through the notorious brown outs. Every dollar over that $2,000 will allow us to offer more scholarships to bring more young people into opportunity. Thank you for your support!