It has been a busy but amazing first day with three meetings that were all exciting!
YIMBA (Sing) Uganda – www.yimbauganda.org
We spent the morning with Anne Marie and Emma who are the founders of Yimba Uganda. Emma is a Ugandan musician who was born in Katwe (watch The Queen of Katwe) and who has since become known in the music industry. Anne Marie is from Australia and completed her international development degree while working in various charitable organizations, including one in Jinja. Together they have founded Yimba which aims to give back to the disadvantaged of Uganda through opportunities like a recording studio, tailoring program, menstrual health presentation, and “rent-a-goat” initiative. We were especially interested in the menstrual health presentation as they are doing similar work to us except they are producing kits on a small scale using local fabrics, imported Australian PUL (when family and friends visit) and the labour of the tailoring students who “pay” for their training by producing 10 kits each per month for free distribution. They have just been invited to share their training and kits in a women’s prison but they don’t have enough kits. They will probably focus on the mothers in the prison who have their children staying with them. Maybe in July we will be able to share an event where we can distribute kits alongside them. I brought 5 yards of PUL for Anne Marie as well as a jar of Vegemite. While excited about the PUL, I think she was more excited about the Vegemite!
We met Betty and her beautiful 9 month old baby boy Keith for lunch at Java’s (a personal favourite) to discuss the making of 8000 pads and 2000 bags in time for our work in July. Nothing fazes this woman and she just said “of course” when we asked her if it was possible. She has another woman who she is training that works at her home with her and there are 3 other women she hires when she has large jobs like this one. We purchased a serger for her in 2013 which she has been using up until this point but with so much use, the screws come loose and need to be retightened frequently. We will purchase an industrial babylock for her while we are here using some of the grant money we received from Rotary. With 2 babylock machines, she says it will all be done. She has expressed interest in starting a tailoring mentorship program where she takes 5 students and teaches them what she knows. She already has the machines (2 need tables and one needs some minor repairs) and then needs to find a place to rent that will be large enough to host the students. This is certainly a project that works with ISEE so we will be looking for sponsors for her to be able to establish her training program. Let us know if this interests you.
HEYFU – Health Empowered Youth Focus Uganda
I met the HEYFU team in 2015 and was immediately impressed by their vision and their desire to empower their community in Kawempe. When I was there, I spoke about our reproductive health program and left them with a kit to look at with the hope of reconnecting and distributing the kits next time I visited. HEYFU already has a comprehensive reproductive health program but does not have a sanitary kit component. I was thrilled to see the initiative that the team too with that one kit… they have made tracers, purchased fabric, and are teaching girls how to make the kits themselves. They go into the outreach communities, have the girls trace the patterns they have created, they cut the fabric and then hand-sew one shield and one liner. They are using macintosh fabric to replace the PUL which they say is like umbrella fabric and they are using a button hole and button to hold the shield in place instead of the snap. The idea of buying a snap machine came to my mind but then the girls are not in the immediate area so would not be able to come and snap their own shields. Plus, the HEYFU team wants the girls to be able to make them without needing any more special supplies than what they can access easily. How amazing is that??!!! What creative thinking and initiative. I hope that in July we will be able to be part of a community outreach event where they do the reproductive health presentations and we do the sanitary kit presentation. That would be an amazing way to start a partnership.
We are also going to start a Mama Nguvu program in Kawempe through HEYFU as they also do youth and women empowerment programs. The piece that I want to learn more about is the business and financial training that they do with their recipients that includes a savings and loans program. I feel that is a piece that is missing from our program and we have tried to get information from other organizations to learn more about this piece but have had no success locally (in Canada). We have left them with 100 applications and have explained that they can distribute up to 100 but that they don’t have to distribute that many. They know their community best and know who would be good candidates. It’s different from how we did it in Namuwongo so we’ll see how this goes.
We both feel very excited about how the day went. We know there is great potential with these two organizations and we feel very lucky to have the opportunity to work with them.