Monday, March 31, 2014

Recheal's Clinic and Shelter - An Update

This series of photos was taken when we visited Recheal in Kikagate last November. You may remember that Recheal is one of the Bitengye Designers, and that last year she was sponsored in obtaining her "nurse's training". She is also a leader in her community, having started the group "Living Positively with AIDS", which performs instructional dramas and songs to surrounding communities. This year she told us that the next thing she wants to do is to build a shelter for HIV positive orphans (she has 17 in her care at the moment), and a counseling centre and clinic for adults who are HIV positive. A huge dream, but she believes it will happen, and when she told us all about it, we committed
ourselves to helping her raise the money to make it happen. Just like Alice's school, which is now finished. At one time it too seemed an impossibility.
So . . . once again we have an "Opportunities to Own" quilt which for which we are selling tickets - just $5 each. We are selling as many of the luggage tags we make as possible - if you or your Guild would like to order some of these, please let me know and I'll mail some to you - and we're accepting donations to this end. They're also $5 each. It seems that our time in Uganda is not over yet, that we are connected with these women we've come to know in a deep way, and we cannot forget them now.

P.S. Just a couple of notes about the photos - Recheal is in the brown skirt and brown top in the top photo, Joan is see holding Davita's hand - she's Recheal's youngest, and the grey-haired man with beard and baseball cap is my husband David. I don't think I have to tell you who the traditionally-built woman in the red dress is!

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Long Overdue Update

It has been far too long since I last updated you, both on what's happening with the Bitengye Designers and other widows in Uganda, and on my own work. I am going to blame it on major computer problems (I am now starting to get used to my new Mac) and getting well and truly sick in early January, and staying sick for weeks. But it really is inexcusable. Especially as so many of you have been so generous in donating to several of the women I've told you about, since my fall visit to Uganda.
So before telling you about anything else, I want to let you know that there was a terrific response to my story about the widows in Rubingo, who
didn't have savings enough to rent land on which to grow their food for the coming year. Many of you sent donations for this, and the result is that ALL of these women now have land for the coming year. Thank you so very much.
Another situation was that of Robin Zayanga. In the second photo, she is standing in front of her present house, made from banana leaves. But thanks to the generosity of a number of Canadians, construction is now underway on a new house for her. No more rain dripping on her
in bad weather.
And then there are the Bitengye women, six of them here at Alice's Sewing School, at which they are presently attending a two week workshop, led by Alice, on how to make garments. What they were finding was that in between orders for the other items they now make, they had no income. We talked over possible solutions, and came to the decision that if they knew how to make dresses for the local women, they could make these when there were no orders for crafts. Again, it is thanks to the generosity of so many Canadians that all of these things are happening. I promise to update you further, in the next blog post. I promise it won't be long before you hear from me again!

Friday, January 3, 2014

It Isn't All Sunshine . . .

I wonder if there's a song by that name? It seems to fit where I'm at right now. I felt so positive on January 1st, but I've come down with a wicked head and chest cold and cough, and have spent the last two days climbing in and out of bed, unable to do much besides blowing my nose and heating up my Kitambaa Cosie (my version of a "magic bag") along with drinking lots of fluids and using up lots of kleenex. I know, I know. This is a "first world problem", and yes, I'm the same person who has written to you very recently about widows in Uganda needing the money to rent land so that they're able to eat, and about Recheal starting her own shelter and clinic for those affected by HIV. But this is also part of my life. My best laid plans get swept aside by illness, family commitments, or just plain practical errands that can't be put off any longer. It occurs to me that sometimes we need to hear that other people share these woes and are similarly thwarted in their efforts to "live the creative life". Today I read the post from Robert Genn, author of the Painter's Keys who posts a newsletter on the web twice weekly. He's a man who is full of a world of wisdom, but today he was writing from the bed in his bedroom, as he learns to live with pancreatic cancer, and to realize that his life as an artist is going to end sooner than he might have hoped. But it's what he wrote about that really touched me. He described the view from his window in loving detail, and reflected on his life lived making art. So I have something to learn here. Instead of moaning and groaning, it might have been smarter for me to head to the local coffee shop, and then armed with a wonderful latte (and my kleenex), and then to have driven down to the beach to enjoy the sunrise. It came up in glorious colour at 8:30 a.m. today, but I was so busy feeling crummy that I missed the opportunity to see a part of that world described so eloquently by Robert Genn. But as I wrote on New Year's, the important thing is to pick myself up when I fall or when I miss these golden moments, and to carry on trying to do better tomorrow. So there are no photos today - just mumblings and ramblings as I share the shadow side of my creative life. I will talk to you all again soon.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy, Happy New Year!

January 1st of the New Year - a time to look forward and a time to look back. Last year - 2013 - was a wonderful year. And there is much to look forward to in the coming year, but when I tried to think of one word to focus on for 2014, "NOW" is the word that came to mind. As someone far more poetic than me once wrote (or words to this effect), yesterday is gone and tomorrow is but a dream, but today is the day we have to live in whatever manner we choose. Which doesn't mean we can't take the lessons from yesterday forward with us - things like learning the value of working in a series, or that time spent with family and friends is the richest of times, or that the important thing is not whether you succeed in your goals, but whether you have the courage and strength of character to pick yourself up when you fall down or change direction when it's shouting at you that change is needed. THIS is today and "now", and in this coming year, I want to put aside my multitude of excuses and "just do it", which means being open to whatever presents itself, whatever lies ahead. On
a more practical note, this means that I am slowly down-sizing Kitambaa Designs, so that I have more time to do my own work. And it means that my commitment to the Bitengye Designers is stronger than ever, and that I will do whatever I need to do to help their cooperative and business grow. It means that the time to become more active is "now", and the time to pay more attention to heating healthily is "now". It will see me blocking off chunks of time to work in the studio and making those times inviolate (unless, of course, there's some dire emergency). It's already meant shedding myself of so much stuff, in recognition that living in the "now" is so much more successful the simpler my life is, and the less clutter surrounds me. These are some of the things I'm pondering this New Year's Day. Thanks for listening. And thank you especially to those who have kept in touch via email of Facebook or by commenting on this blog over the past year. It has meant a great deal to me. To each of you a Happy, Happy New Year, full of adventure and quiet times, creative times and times of "moodling", full of friends and family and all there is to experience in this wonderful world in which we live!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

An Update on Recheal's Plans

A little while ago, I told you about Recheal and her plans to build a shelter for HIV positive children and for orphans in her home village of Kikagati. You may remember a photo of the plot she has bought for this purpose. A couple of days before we left the country, she came to Mbarara with plans for the building she'd imagined. When I saw the drawings, including a clinic and dormitories, counselling rooms and examining rooms, let alone the estimate for the cost of building such a structure, you would be correct in thinking that I was speechless. It was so much more extensive than I had imagined, and so much more costly, that I wondered how we could begin to talk about what might be possible. It was a reminder to me that from her point of view, the point of view of most Ugandans, we Canadians are all rich. And we are, but how to explain that we don't have this money in hand, but have to raise support, and that anything that is built will happen slowly?? I was very thankful that Athens was there to help me with translating, but still it was challenging. Recheal believes that if we
build the centre, people will come, both clients and staff. And that might be true. But there is nothing worse in Africa than to see unfinished buildings built by well-meaning and of no use to anybody. So, after some deliberations, I suggested that we start small, with a four-roomed building. That we go back to the architect and ask him what he can do with a budget of 20 million shillings (about $8000) - and that if the shelter and clinic is well-used, perhaps we could look at an extension later. Recheal accepted this, albeit a bit reluctantly, and this is where plans stand at the moment. It's still an enormous amount of money to raise, but it's much more do-able than the
amount of money initially suggested. Recheal will be able to dispense medications for HIV clients there, and be able to do her counselling, with support from the hospital she trained at in nearby Kabiunda. So it is a beginning. One of the ways I hope to raise the necessary funds will be to sell designated Kitambaa items for that purpose. And this will be one of the causes for which we sell Opportunties to Own on a quilt. Of course, donations are also very, very welcome, and all cheques made out to ACTS are income tax receiptable. I'll be sure to keep you updated as things progress.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Wilson's School - A Success Story of a Different Sort

Another visit we made in Rubingo, was to Wilson's School. Wilson worked with ACTS back in the late 90's and early 2000's, and became known to Canadian supporters who recognized his abilities and decided to help him accomplish his dreams. They supported him when he decided to return to primary school, at one time in the same class as his youngest child. He finished primary school, then secondary school, and then bacame a teacher. And now he runs a school of 340 students, accepting children who might othewise not be able to attend school at all, and works unceasingly to improve the school by any means at his disposal. His Canadian support has continued with sponsorships for students, assistance with school building expansion (presently he has 6 classrooms for P-1 to P-7), and so on. He absolutely beamed as he presented his students, and they danced and sang for us. He spoke of working to increase the teacher's salaries from 100,000 shillings a month (about $40) to 200,000 shillings ($80 a month). He talked of various challenges he still faces, but my overall impression was of a humble man, who had a vision to improve the quality of education in his village, and who has already accomplished much more than he had ever imagined. What a great story! What an honour to meet this man, quietly working away in his small corner of the world, for a better future for children.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Widows Groups - Rubingo

These photos are of some of the women in leadership positions in the 7 widows groups in Rubingo. Together, with the other members, and the HIV positive group, they number over 200. We met with them to discuss their current needs. School fees always top the list, but this year the need for land to cultivate was just as pressing for them. For the last several years land has been rented for them, but the leases run out in 2014, and even with their best efforts to save money, they just don't have what it takes. They have micro-credit systems running within each group, and that has produced some of what they need, but not enough. They told us that in order to feed their families, they need a minimum of 2 plots, each of which measures 20 yards by 60 yards. The rent for 2 plots for a year is $70. Such a small amount in Canadian terms. ACTS has some of what they need for the coming year, but its budget for things like renting land has been greatly reduced. Ideally each woman would have 4 plots, which would allow them to grow enough to sell as well as to feed their families, and so to save enough to pay for rent for the next year. But in the meantime, 2 plots will at least feed them and their families. If any of you out there are looking for a Christmas gift of a different sort, and would like to support one of these widows in the process, please let me know, by emailing me at I will be making up special cards which will include a photo of one or more of these women, and which can be given to the person you have in mind. If the cheque is made out to ACTS, your donation will be tax-receiptable. I told these women I would do what I could to help them, and I will. They are such beautiful women, strong and determined - the same group I first met with almost 7 years ago, before I started the Kitambaa Sewing Project - so they hold a very special place in my heart.