Saturday, January 30, 2010

At Knight's home

Knight also lives in Rubingo, and we visited her in her tiny place, where she lives with all five of her children, and one grandchild. She was thrilled to show us the bed, mattress, and bedding she has bought with her earnings, even lounging on it to show us how comfortable it is. She has also had some bricks made, and hopes to be able to add onto her house in the next year, as well as to be to buy beds for her children, so that they can all sleep under mosquito netting. "It's hard to attach the netting to a mat," she told us. Knight served us fresh pineapple and kabalagala bananas and African tea, called chai. This is really hot milk with a little tea in it. All the women in the Rubingo area tell me that having Alice nearby is what has helped them most over the last year, that she has helped them solve any problems they have. When I asked Alice if she would like to continue as the Coordinator of the group, the others refused to let her say anything but "yes"!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Visiting Justine

Justine lives in very modest housing, in fact the other side of this mud and wattle house has been washed away by the rains, and you can see the great outside through it. And her sewing machine is just inside the door. With her earnings, like many of the other ladies, she bought a chair to use at the machine. Justine has 5 children, and she has put her eldest daughter through tailoring school, and built another very small house for her eldest son to live in. Her eldest son was sponsored in a mechanics training course, and did very well, but now has to come up with almost a million shilllings (close to $600) for all the tools and equipment he needs to begin working. It sometimes seems that obstacle after obstacle faces these women. But Justine remains happy and hopeful.

Anna and her family

One of our visits was to Anna's house, and here you can just see her sewing machine inside the front room, and a partially completed wallhanging behind it. To get to her house, we walked up hill, through banana plants and past a pineapple garden, until we were high up on the hill. Her front room now contains chairs as well, and still further up the hill is a new plot of land, on which she will one day build. On Anna's right is Saphon, one of Kitambaa's sponsored students, who will be heading off to boarding school at the end of this week to begin S-2, the second year of secondary school.

Visits in Rubingo

We have just returned to Mbarara and Canada House after spending a very busy but rewarding four days in Rubingo. We made home visits to the Bitengye ladies living in that area, met with students who are being sponsored by Kitambaa and friends of Kitambaa, were treated to a performance by the Hope Choir, made up entirely of HIV positive individuals, and of course, we visited Alice and went to see how progress is being made on her new sewing school. It was so exciting to see the Bitengye ladies again. We had hugs all around, and then they served us ginger beer and told us about how much their lives have changed in the last year, now that they are earning an income. Many have been able to buy a plot of land, several bought chairs for their homes, and several more bought a table. Three had bought beds, so no longer have to sleep on mats on the floor. One bought a cow, one is paying school fees for two siblings and another is putting her daughter through tailoring school. So you can imagine the celebratory air of the gathering. I think most poignant for me was Anna's comment - "We left our miseries behind in Ruharo" (the location of Canada House and the workshop). As for Alice's school (pictured here), it has five rooms, including one large classroom, one small display and sales area, and three bedrooms, one for Alice and the others will be dormitories for her students. The building up to and above the windows has been completed, and now it awaits more funding to buy the metal sheets for the roofing. I've told Alice that she will need to make more bags!! We were so impressed by all these women had accomplished in the last year, and will tell you more in later blogs.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Alice's letter

This letter from Alice arrived just before Christmas - I hope you can read it once it's posted on the blog. It is a letter to all of you who have supported the Kitambaa Sewing Project, really - thanking us and telling us that the Bitengye Designers are looking forward to seeing us again this year. Well, today we head down to Rubingo, where Alice lives and her sewing school is being built. Also where five of the other women live. This will be very exciting! We will be visiting the women in their homes, talking to them about how their sewing has gone in the last year, and what impact it has had on them, as well as meeting with other grandmothers and widows, and seeing some of the other projects underway in the same area. We will be out of email and intenet access for the next 4 or 5 days, so will send you photos from our visit once we're back here at Canada House.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Queen Elizabeth Parik

The holiday part of this trip came at the beginning, rather than the end. Sort of like eating the icing before having the cake. But no less enjoyable for that. We came to Queen Elizabeth Park for two days, before heading down to Mbarara, where we will be located when we teach this year's workshop. We've had a fabulous day - sighting 11 lions, a leopard, guinea fowl, warthogs, various kinds of antelope, hippos, Cape buffalo, and so on. But the best experience of all was an up-close-and-personal encounter with a dozen elephants - both mamas and babies. We only left when the mamas began flapping their ears in earnest and with the other elephants,
attempted to ambush us. We finished the day with a tour on the channel that connects Lake Edward and Lake George, and drinking cold drinks on the veranda of Mweya Lodge, looking out over the Rwenzori Mountains and the Rift Valley. A wonderful day in so many ways. Tomorrow we will be driving down to Mbarara for the "working" portion of our time here. The rest has been good for all of us - regenerating our batteries before we face the challenges of our continuing work with the Bitengye Designers. We will begin by visiting the ladies in the three different geographical areas in which they live, meeting with them and with other widows and
grandmothers to assess what kind of impact the Kitambaa Sewing Project has had on them. Then it will be back to Mbarara to set up for the workshop itself. We are all in good health, thoroughly enjoying the sunshine and warm air, and gradually slowing our pace to mesh with African time. Thank you to everyone for your prayers and well wishes. So good to hear your comments (I don't know how to answer them!), and to receive your emails. Warm wishes and big hugs from all of us.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Shopping in Kampala

Early on Saturday morning, Trudy, Mary, Joan and I arrived in Kampala. And yesterday was our fabric shopping day. Boaz Tishekwa and his driver took us through the winding and crowded streets of the city to the fabric market. The Nalugo Traders know us from previous visits, and were not surprised by the huge purchases we made, some for the Bitengye Designers and some for Kitambaa Designs. There are at least 8 vendors crowded into one small shop, each selling a slightly different selection of fabrics. We started with Faisal, a fellow known to us from last year, and after amassing a pile of fabrics from him, and moved around the shop, buying something from everyone, from there. Then we were taken to another shop where we were successful in finding the ever-elusive black fabric, a great reason for celebration. After the shopping was finished we sat under palm and fig trees drinking cold drinks and eating a fabulous Indian meal. Tired but very happy shoppers. The days her in Kampala have also given us the opportunity to shop for an amazing number of batiks, and to make two very good contacts who are willing to help us market the items made by the Bitengye ladies.
Success of a different sort! So now we have all our supplies ready to start our second workshop with the ladies, but before that happens, we are heading north to Queen Elizabeth Park for a couple of days. I'm not sure if I'll be able to post from there or now, but I do want to let you know that I will be posting with photos as often as I can, so all of you at home who have been so supportive of this project, can follow along with what's happening. Our totes full of all your material donations all arrived safely - all eight of them. The samples we made up are in those totes too, and await our arrival in Mbarara on Thursday. So I'll be back in touch with you soon.