Sharleen’s Story

The Gift of Gratitude


When Sharleen’s husband found out she was pregnant with their child, he left her. She was 15 years old, and this was the third time Sharleen had been discarded by a loved one. First by her mom as an infant, the second by an abusive aunt, and now, her husband. Without siblings or a living father, she was truly alone when she brought her son Kelvin into the world. 

Sharleen worked odd jobs to earn cash or food. She and Kelvin moved almost monthly because Sharleen couldn’t afford the $5-$10/month rent cost. Community members took advantage of her desperation by hiring her, then intentionally failing to compensate her. She was the target of hurtful comments and judgements. Prayer kept Sharleen fighting through each day.

When she joined Zoe Empowers Zimbabwe in 2013, the community didn’t believe Sharleen, an orphan and 16-year-old single mother living in poverty, could be a business owner. What the community couldn’t see was her internal drive to create a better life for her and her son. 

The community observed her grocery kiosk grow before their eyes. They took notice of her and Kelvin’s improved health, since they could now afford regular meals and health care. They watched as she purchased new clothes, moved into a bigger home and Kelvin went to school. They paid attention to her when she offered her business knowledge to others at the market.  

Negative perceptions about Sharleen began to change. Eventually, a small group of women invited her to be a part of their weekly gathering. These women, along with her friends from Zoe Empowers, gave her the sense of community she craved so deeply. She and Kelvin finally had a family. 

When Kelvin turned six earlier this year, Sharleen had saved enough money to throw him his first birthday party—complete with a chocolate cake. This celebration was not only a dream come true for Kelvin but for Sharleen, too. Every time Sharleen looks at the photo taken that day, which sits in a frame next to her bed, she is filled with pride and gratitude. She is now living the life she once prayed for.

Give a gift of hope today.

380 million children living in extreme poverty will rely on charity forever. A monthly gift of $8 over 3 years empowers one orphan out of poverty. How many children like Sharleen can you give lasting sustainable change?