The last week of our trip was spent in the village of Kayunga Kasanna. This is a small and beautiful village outside of the city of Kayunga. It is on the Nile River (if you walk far enough into the village, which we did not do this time, but did last year.) It was wonderful to go back and see familiar faces as well as new ones.
During the first week of our trip Karen and I spent a lot of time refining our plan for the villages. A few things came to our attention that we were not aware of. First of all, with this being such a male dominated society (and abusive) there was concern that the sewing machines could be destroyed or sold if put in the women's homes. This brought on a chain of other concerns and considerations, but finally we came up with a plan. My biggest concern was what we had planned and how much time we had. We only had 5 days at the most and we wanted to teach 2 women how to make shorts, button shirts, and dresses. OMG, under the best of circumstances I don't know that I could teach 2 new beginners to make these three garments well in just 4 or 5 half day sessions. I was really stressing out about this. I knew we did not have access to electricity, pressing equipment, good light or reliable machines (another post about that later). In addition, there was the language barrier. (I do not speak Lugandan and very few women speak English. Those that do, don't understand us and we don't understand them.) Nonetheless, we really wanted to make this work, so Karen and I did a lot of brainstorming. Also, our original plan was to do a basic micro-economics business plan, but after talking to some of the women, we realized this would not work either! I did a lot of praying about all of this. Well, thanks to God, we came up with a new plan.
We knew that the women we worked with (we planned on two, but ended up with three) would need a lot of practice time. There would be no way that we would be able to get them up to speed enough to be making uniforms in one week! We went into the city of Jinja and bought a lot of fabric in beautiful colors. We now were planning on training 3 women. (Actually, I was doing this part and Karen was working with 20 other ladies on hand embroidery.) We came up with a "business plan." The women would each need to make at least 4 pair of shorts (elastic waist), 3 shirts and 3 dresses in order to develop their skills and confidence. These practice garments would then go to children in their villages who needed clothes. This was a perfect solution. Their giving back to their own villages would be their "payment" for use of the machines. The machines would be kept at the church (2 in Kasanna and one at the resource center in Busanna.) After the women completed making clothes for the children of the village, they could then use the machines to make garments to sell. The patterns that we used would still work perfectly for school uniforms when used with different fabric. Also, at this point, if the women wanted to buy the sewing machine so that they could take it home, we made an affordable price (1/2 of what we paid) available to them.
I worked with 3 women from 3 different villages. The first is Kathy. She lives in the village of Kasanna. I have known her the longest and of the 3 women, she speaks the most English. Last year Kathy took us on a walk through her village and we even took shelter in her home (mud hut) during a rainstorm. She has some basic sewing skills, but is still a beginner.
The next of the women in Florence. We met her last year and she lives in the village of Busanna. She has intermediate sewing skills and does a lot of sewing already. For example, she knows to understitch a neckline, but didn't know to trim corners or seam allowances. How I wish I could work with these women for a much longer period of time. Florence understands some English, but not as much as Kathy. She rarely speaks in English.
The newest to our group was Phobe (pronounced "Faybee") She lives in a village called Sababu. I have not been to this village, but hope go go there next year. It is more primitive than Kasanna. They do not have a church building there, so she will have to walk to Kasanna to use the sewing machines. It is about a 2 KM walk. She was very shy and quiet, but had such a beautiful spirit and really wanted to learn. I think she knows a few phrases in English, but doesn't understand much. Also, I think she has had no previous sewing experience. Fortunately, sewing is very visual, so she picked up very quickly. I'm really missing these women right now.
While I worked with Florence, Kathy and Phobe, Karen worked with the other ladies (about 20) on embroidery. We had decided before we came that we would do embroidery since this is something that they could all do, each having their own piece to work on. The women loved this and were proud of their work. They also told us that this is something they could do to make items to sell. They were very excited about it.
The women that did embroidery, also hand sewed a little drawstring bag to keep their supplies in. We also completed 1 pair of shorts, cut out 2 more, 1 dress with two more cut out, and one shirt. Hopefully they can do the rest on their own.
You can see more pictures here and I'll be adding more sometime this week.