Thursday, September 11, 2008

About a w a v a. and How to Get Involved!

awava: Luganda word meaning source or origin.

At Awava, we believe in order to reach sustainable peace in Uganda and beyond, access to resources is essential. These resources include, but are not limited to: access to a reliable financial income, clean water, education and food.

Our mission is not one of charity, but of economic empowerment, for if you “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” In assisting Awava’s artisans with design and providing Western market access, we at Awava are not only providing a space in which marginalized Women in Uganda can sell their masterpieces, but ensuring that these products will sell. By ensuring the sale of these products at a fair price, Awava’s artisans will be able to gain access to precious resources, therefore empowering themselves through their skills.

The idea of Awava started in the summer of 2006 when Kate von Achen and Lauren Parnell Marino traveled to East Africa together with United Students for Fair Trade ( to study fair trade coffee production in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. During the trip, von Achen and Parnell Marino experienced firsthand the positive effects of fair trade on producers and identified ways in which the system needed to be improved.

Awava has now become a reality with von Achen and Parnell Marino finding themselves back in Uganda studying and working within the fair trade world.

von Achen moved to Kampala, Uganda in August 2007 to obtain her Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies with a focus on Women in Post-conflict Development at Makerere University. During the past year, von Achen helped to start a successful fair trade business with Women tailors from northern Uganda. von Achen was the Country Director, and oversaw all operations on the ground (from building relationships with the tailors, to buying fabrics, to assisting with grant applications and implementation).

Parnell Marino returned to Uganda in June 2008 to resume working with Uganda Craft, a fair trade craft store in Kampala through which she had previously conducted much of her undergraduate thesis research before graduating from Northwestern Universiy.

Upon Parnell Marino’s return to Kampala, the two began discussing their dreams of starting a business which went beyond fair trade, hopefully impacting the future of the fair trade movement. They also wanted to focus on marginalized Women artisans from all over Uganda, not just one particular group being affected by a singular conflict. Awava is working with Women artisans from the following areas:

• Gulu District (northern Uganda): northern Uganda is a region which has been terrorized by a 22+ year civil war with Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army. While the peace accords have yet to be signed, a cease fire agreement has been respected since 2006. People are slowly starting to move out of the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps and back to their villages.

• Karamoja District (north-eastern Uganda): The Karamojong are primarily agro-pastoral herders who have been experiencing various conflicts, within their own group and with neighboring societies - primarily due to cattle raids. Traditional Karamojong belief is that they own all cattle by divine right: cattle ownership is crucial in the negotiation of bride price, and cattle raiding is seen as a right of passage to young Karamojong men.

• Kampala (the capitol city and its suburbs): The people of Kampala come from all over the country in search for income. The informal economy is booming with street hawkers selling food, new and used clothing and accessories, various knick-knacks for the home, etc. It is difficult for most to find a steady income, Women especially. While Kampala and its surrounding areas may not be experiencing violent conflict, conflict is still very much present.

Awava aims to be different from other fair trade businesses by focusing not only on conflict and post-conflict development, but also by creating The Awava Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit to help support various social programs involving the groups in which we work. Ten percent of all of Awava’s annual sales will go into the foundation to promote the various social programs working on the ground.

The Awava Foundation will not be providing charity service, but will establish small grant funds. In order for individual artisans or artisan cooperatives to qualify for a grant, they must write a proposal with an indigenous idea. The Awava Foundation volunteers will be there to provide logistical support and funding once the idea is approved.

How to Help

Awava and The Awava Foundation are both fledgling ventures which need as much support from friends and other like-minded individuals as possible. Currently our staff consists of a small group of volunteers. While we can always use more volunteers, we are also looking for additional start up capital to get our project(s) moving full steam.

If you are able to make a donation, investment or contribute a temporary loan, we would be beyond appreciative.

For donations, investments and loans we invite you to mail checks made out to Kate von Achen to:

Kate von Achen
1346 E. 2350 Rd.
Eudora, KS 66025

For the time being, donations are not tax deductible, and will be sent through Kate's personal checking account. The Awava Foundation is in the process of applying for 501(c)(3) non-profit status, and the for profit business and non-profit foundation cannot open their specific business bank accounts until Kate returns to the U.S. from Uganda in December 2008. We will, however, be tracking all donations and small loans given, and information regarding such things can be requested at any time. We can also provide a detailed account of where all money has been spent.

Thank you for your generosity and support-

The Awava Team

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