Stories of Change

Yola in her new tailoring business.

Lessons from Yola: Don’t let your Limitations stop your Dreams

Yolanda Atri Neng Sae, who goes by Yola, is an only child. She lives with her parents in West Timor, Indonesia. Unfortunately, Yola has faced a lot of challenges in her life. When she was little, she was sick a lot. Her parents struggled financially, barely making a living by farming. They couldn’t afford to pay both medical bills and school-related costs for Yola. When Yola was sick, the idea of getting her to school more than a mile from their house was too much.

As a result, Yola didn’t start first grade until she was 9 years old. She started late, but she didn’t give up. At 21, Yola finished high school and got her diploma.

Then, though, Yola faced a situation that many young people worldwide find themselves in: living with their parents while trying to start a career. Yola’s parents couldn’t afford to send her to college, but her options were limited with only her high school diploma. Soon she found herself unemployed, helping her parents with household chores while not earning any money.

Luckily, Yola’s natural determination came through again. She continued to be active in community groups and programs. The local government took notice of her fighting spirit and chose her to be a member of the management of a Village-Owned Enterprise and a volunteer with the local health center. (Village-Owned Enterprises are programs developed by the Indonesian government to promote businesses and entrepreneurship using locally-available resources.) In October 2020, Yola and some other young women joined a CWS program called Berdaya, which means “empowerment” in Indonesian. Among other activities, the Berdaya program helps women start or expand businesses and find new ways of earning a living. 

Yola started attending information classes with the Berdaya team. She learned life skills like managing household finances and also started on a track to being a business owner. Yola has always had a talent for sewing, so she decided to turn this into a career. CWS helped her find an apprenticeship with a tailor in the district capital, which she completed successfully. Armed with her new skills and training, and with a sewing machine that CWS helped her buy, Yola made her debut as a tailor in her village.

“I feel so happy because now I receive orders every day,” Yola says of her new business. “By sewing pants, skirts, shirts, blouses and dresses, which are ordered by people in this village and neighboring ones, I can earn between 150,000 and 450,000 Rupiah [$10-$32] each month.” 

Now, Yola has a regular monthly income. She uses it to meet her personal needs and to help her parents.