Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bufoka Orphans

Yesterday I received an email from Ivan, the organizer of the Bufoka Orphans Group on Lake Bunyonyi. The choir he teaches is composed of 70 orphans from just one region of the lake. They perform their songs and dances as a means to raise funds for their school fees. Ivan's email indicated that Sissy Kyampeire, an S-4 student at Lake Bunyonyi Secondary School, no longer has a sponsor, and he wondered if I might be able to help. I told him I would pass on the information in case there is anyone out there who would like to sponsor a secondary school student. The fees work out to about $300 a year, and can be made in 3 payments, $100 at the beginning of each of three school terms. If anyone is interested in supporting Cissy, please get in touch with my by email ( Since we arrived back home, sponsors have been found for three more of the students we promised funds to, which is hugely encouraging, including Sarah (Dinah's niece), and Saphon (Anna's son).

Kitambaa has just returned from the Victoria Sewing Show, where I gave talks on the sewing project. For those of you who would be interested in this, I will be giving the same talk at the Abbotsford show the weekend after next, as well at several Guild meetings. If you would like me to come and talk to your group, please let me know, and I'll certainly try to find a way to fit it into my schedule. I will be continuing to sell squares for this year's Grandmothers' Quilt (photo at left)until they are all gone ($5 each), with the funds raised from this going towards next year's workshop with the Bitenge Designers. So have a look at my website to see where I'll be in the coming months. You can look for me at Quilt Saskatchewan, as well as various places in B.C.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What Next?

Many of you have asked or wondered, perhaps, where the Kitambaa Sewing and Quilting Project goes to next. I thought I'd take this opportunity to fill you in a little. What is very clear to us, is that our time with the Bitenge Designers in Uganda was a beginning, not a one-time event. There is huge potential for this project to grow, and we will be doing everything we can to facilitate this. We'd like to provide the women with ongoing training, to teach them new items to make, to add new members to the group when the time seems right, and to support Alice in her efforts at building a new school. To do this, we will be incorporating ongoing raising of funds along with other Kitambaa-related activities. Pictured here are the luggage tags we've been making. They sell for $6 each, with all of the proceeds going to the sewing project. We will continue to see our "African Stars", also for $6 each. Included with these is the pattern to make the small piece pictured here. So if, perhaps, any of you are members of a guild or group through which you could sell these, please let us know, and we would be happy to send them to you. Or if you would like to contribute to next year's sewing project (we plan to return in mid-January 2010), or to support of the secondary school students we are now sponsoring, or to the sewing machines we will require for new students, please get in touch with me, and I'd be happy to tell you how to go about that. And now I must run - Joan and I are on our way to the Nanaimo Quilters' Guild, where we will make our first presentation on the work that we were involved in, in Uganda, and also where we'll have the items made by the women for sale. Perhaps we'll see you there, or in Victoria, or Abbotsford, or Vancouver, or Vernon, where we'll be giving the same talk? And for those of you who are further afield, and are interested in the items for sale, I'll be sure to get them on this blog and on my website in the next few days.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Victoria and Albert Museum

Joan and I have been home for 2 1/2 days now, and are gradually getting over jetlag. Thoughts of the women of Bitenge Designers are still never very far from our thoughts.

En route to Canada, we stopped in the UK for a few days. The highlight of that time was a visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum textile collection. What a treasure trove! In vertically organized "files", samples of textile art from as far back as the 11th century and from around the world are housed. They are part of the textile study area, and are intended to be brought out and examined and sketched. Only we hadn't brought pencils or sketchbooks with us! What a wealth of history in housed in this amazing place.

This shot gives you a view of the carefully catalogued collection. The glare of the framing glass makes them a little difficult to photograph, but is a small price to pay for access to these remarkable pieces. I left wondering if I still have time in my short life to undertake a more in-depth study of textile design. Who knows?

This piece is hand worked in silk thread against a heavily quilted geometric background. It gives new meaning to the words "hand made". There were beaded pieces and embroidery, lacework - virtually anything that could be described as textile art.
If any of you are contemplating a visit to London at any time in the future, I would recommend a visit to the V & A, for sure.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Homeward Bound

We have bought a few crafts along the way during the last five weeks, including baskets from this woman in the Mbarara market. But we hit the motherlode when we came to Kampala, and have had a fabulous time over the last two days, buying fabrics and jewellery, batiks and other treasures, many of which we will have for sale at our Kitambaa Designs booth at upcoming quilt and sewing shows. And now our bags our packed, and in the morning will fly to London, where we will spend a few days, before completing the last leg of our journey on March 10th. The sights and sounds of this country will be with us for a long time to come, as will memories of all the wonderful people we've met. Once we're home again, this blog will feature both this project and other Kitambaa-related news. I look forward to meeting many of you as we travel across the country in the coming months, and welcome any inquiries into how you can be involved in our work with the Bitenge Designers. Please stay in touch . . . Pippa and Joan

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Visit to Lake Bunyonyi

We spent most of last week on Bushara Island on Lake Bunyonyi, about 4 hours south of Mbarara and close to the border with Rwanda. It's at a much higher elevation that other places we've visited, and everything is uphill from the lake, so we found ourselves getting short of breath quite easily. All the more reason to enjoy the incredible bird life on the island. In this photo, however, I am looking back at the lake from one of the secondary schools I visited.

Specifically I was visiting these five girls - Loice, Phiona, Prudence, Agnes, and Immaculata - sponsored by my daughter Emily and four of her
friends. These girls are now in either Senior 3 or Senior 4, and will stay at this school until they finish thier "O levels". Another 2 years will prepare them for "A levels", which all of these girls hope to write. Their dreams include entering medicine, nursing, and being an accountant.

And here is the S-1 class at the same school. There are 110 new students in this class - school starts at the end of January - of whom 6o are orphans, either "single or double orphans". Kitambaa Designs is now supporting 9 secondary school students, and has promised to continue doing so throughout secondary school, providing the students earn good marks. You have already seen photos of several students we have supported over the last three years; the students we added on this trip are primarily the eldest children of the widows in our workshop. The cost of a year of school is roughly $100-150 a term (depending on the school), and there are three terms in a year. This need for secondary education is probably one of the biggest in the rural areas of Uganda - certainly it was the need expressed most frequently by the widows we met.