Thursday, July 22, 2010

Update on the Bitengye Designers

It is now just over 4 months since we returned from Uganda, and thoughts of the Bitengye Designers and the widows and their families are never very far from our minds. We're already thinking about what new projects or designs we will teach the women when we return again in January. Our present plan is to meet with Alice for at least a week before all the other women arrive, so that we can teach her these new things. Then she will teach the other women, with our support, for the workshop itself. But what has happened since we left? Well, we've had 2 large shipments of items, and sales for most of these

is going very well. We now have people in five different provinces helping us sell what they make. Alice has the roof on her school. And at least one of the tourist craft shops in Kampala at which we left their products has sold out of them. We are gradually handing over more of the management of the orders to Alice, with Nightingale (you may remember that she was our wonderful translator this year) and Perez, helping Alice understand and reply to the emails we send to her. In addition to the already sponsored secondary school students we have, we've begun a scholarship to Alice's sewing

school. The first student started in the spring, and now a group of quilters in Whistler has made a second scholarship available. (It cost about $150 for a year's tuition.) We have had two Singer Featherweight sewing machines donated to Alice, and will arrange for these to be set up with solar power when we are next in Uganda. And we have received donations of 5 more sewing machines for next year's project. We are investigating possible new crafts to teach the women, and hopefully a few new women, and will be trying to practice one or two over the summer ourselves, in order to be ready to teach others. A group of quilters in Victoria is busy working on the next raffle quilt, and framed batiks will soon be available for purchase. Thank you to all of you who are supporting this very small grass-roots project. As most of you know, we raise all our own funds to carry on with this, and couldn't do it without the help of so many of you. So, many, many thanks to each and every one of you.

Monday, July 12, 2010

African Jigsaw

This spring saw a marvellous collaboration between Alice, the Coordinator of the Bitengye Designers, and the Victoria Children's Choir. Word reached Eric Allen that Kitambaa was working with this amazing group of women, and he thought how wonderful it would be if the choristers not only sang about Africa, in their performance, African Jigsaw, but also wore shirts made by women in Africa. After some discussions around style and colour, he
entrusted the undertaking to Alice and the Bitengye Designers. We transported the colourful shirts back to Canada with us in March, and now here are some photos of the Victoria Children's Choir performing in their Uganda-made garments. What a sight they must have
been! The choir was delighted with the shirts, and with the overall impact of seeing all the children dressed in them while they performed. And Alice, who did most of the sewing, was equally delighted that the funds from this one project, would pay almost half of the amount she needed to put a roof on her new sewing school.
One postscript to this story - a teacher who was in the audience at the performance had been staying at Canada House in Uganda, and had seen them. But she didn't put two and two together until she saw African Jigsaw and recognized them from her time there. It's a small world indeed!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Wedding in the Family

There are some of you who are wondering if I've given up on blogging, or worse yet, disappeared from Kitambaa and the quilting world. Let me assure you that it was only a temporary absence, while we prepared for and then celebrated the wedding of my daughter Emily, to Michael Beausoleil. (I had determined that I would never write on this blog about anything but quilting and the Bitengye women in Uganda, but this is an exception that I hope you will allow.) It was a wonderful wedding, almost magical. Someone said it was Narnia-like, or Tolkein-esque. The Woodland Gardens where the ceremony and reception were held was absolutely perfect. We hung flowers from the trees and filled a medley of other vases with more wild flowers and peonies and roses. Emily looked stunning in her dreamed-for Art Deco style silk dress, and she and Michael beamed through the whole thing.
After the ceremony itself, the words of which brought tears to many of us, there was croquet on the lawn, and bocce, and a photo booth set-up where many chose to have their portraits taken. My son Ben and his Emily are pictured here in the booth. There was a fabulous meal, with salmon cooked on cedar planks by one family friend, and served by the marvellous ladies of my Book Club. Followed by dancing, surrounded by paper lanterns and flowers, and where the old folks got out first to show them how it's done. All in all, it was marvellous, and yes, magical, a family celebration we will remember for a long time to come. And I hope that those of you who follow this blog, will accept this as my humble apology for not staying in touch more regularly over the last month. Some things take precedence, and this, for sure, was one of them. Thank you for the patience of those of you who have waited longer than you should have had to for responses to your emails, and apologies to those of you whose orders took longer than I would have wished to fill. I am back in the saddle now, smiling quietly to myself from time to time, and once again dreaming of new quilts and new designs and new fabrics to cut apart and sew together once again.