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Written by Gayle
When I went to Uganda in the summer of 2010, I thought I was just going to have a wonderful, hot and sweaty, bonding, dirty, humanitarian experience with my three sisters (and 10 other great people).
|Here I am with our two workers, David and John, and my sister Kathleen.
Our main project was to help build six huts for needy people in the village of Pece Vanguard, in the Gulu area. If you want to read more about that first trip and the history of Uganda, click here.
|This is our finished hut, with some of the people we met and helped, as I visited 18 months later
But one of the great unexpected benefits was getting to know some really wonderful people who were doing everything in their power to bring their families up from poverty and recover from a decades-long rebel war. We met two women’s group who were making bead necklaces from paper, as well as sewing bags and place mats. We donated some treadle sewing machines to the two groups.
We were crazy about the beautiful beads. I immediately thought that we may want to bring them into Lassen’s to help the women. I bought a bunch of necklaces and brought them home to show our buyers. And with their okay, I started shipping the necklaces, as well as bags made from the beautiful African batik fabrics from Gulu, Uganda.
I continued to write to the women in the two groups, and they were anxious to expand their product line. Since many of the women had been trained as tailors, I sent samples of aprons for the women to copy, and soon they were making aprons for us too. But I was worried about the quality control, as well as their understanding of business and the challenges producing items for a western market.
So in January, 2012, I went back to Uganda and conducted some business seminars for the women. This was in the NGO center, where many women take classes in computer basics.
I didn’t restrict my activities to the center, though. I went out into the villages to meet with our two women’s groups.
The women welcomed us with a wonderful dance!
This is the Beads of Hope Women’s Group after my seminar.
|You can see some aprons hanging on the tree on the right!
It was so hot when I met with the Women of Peace that we actually met inside one of the huts, but came out when there was enough shade and breeze to be comfortable.
I took some Lassen’s shirts for the leaders of the groups! This is my sister Suzanne with Grace and Evelyn of the Women of Peace Group. Grace (under the umbrella) was one of the Aboki Girls, abducted from Boarding School by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army when she was only about 13. (And she’s wearing a Lassen’s shirt!)
I continue to work with the Ugandan Women, and you can find their handmade aprons (a great holiday gift!) in all of our stores. They are even on sale this week (October 21-26, 2013).
And just for the adorable factor, here is a photo I took of a little sassy girl in a tutu skirt in Gulu. Girls all over the world love twirly skirts!