Auma Lucy (Mama Lucy), 45, is the backbone to our Gulu tailoring team. Mama Lucy, like most of those living in and around Gulu, has directly felt the profound effects of the 22+ year civil war with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), as well as the disastrous implications of the spread of HIV/Aids. One brother was killed by the virus and the other by LRA soldiers, leaving Lucy to care for her two biological children, 9 orphaned nieces and nephews, as well as her elderly parents.
Lucy put herself through tailoring school by cleaning the church which it was affiliated with, and has taken it upon herself to take in at-risk women in her community, teaching them tailoring skills for free and then bringing them in to her business and sharing Awava business opportunities with them. All of the children she cares for are in good schools, her parents are receiving the medical care they need and she has been able to buy two plots of land and start building on them. Lucy’s life has been utterly transformed by her work with Awava, and she has used that to transform the lives of others. She is our role model to say the least.
Lakot Rosemary, 23, is one of our beloved tailors in Gulu, northern Uganda. She loves to joke around and we have never seen her without a huge smile on her face. Rosemary is the mother of two (ages six and two) and lives with and cares for her children, her husband, Okello, her mother, brother and orphaned nephew. The money she has earned working with Lucy and Awava has made her the primary bread winner in her family and ensured that her children and nephew are all in school.
Ochen Esther, 27, is one of our family of tailors in Gulu. Once
you cut through her shy exterior you will find the opposite. Esther loves to kid and we’ve learned that any time you see her straight faced, she’s just waiting for the next opportunity to make fun (in a nice way, of course) of someone in the market stall. Esther has three children (ages eight, six and three) and lives with and cares for them, her husband, Geoffry, and her eighty-year-old mother. By working with Lucy and Awava, Esther is able to keep all of her children in school and provide medicines for her mother.
Auma Concy is the newest addition to our amazing tailoring team in Gulu! Concy is still in the training process with Lucy with one month left to go. At the age of twenty-four, Concy cares for her six-year-old daughter, Winifred, as well as three orphaned relatives with the help of her husband Denis.
Due to the lack of money for school fees, Concy was not able to attend secondary school, stopping her formal education after Primary 7 in 2003. Her husband was able to support her through six months of tailoring school in 2009 to lay the basic foundation of her knowledge of tailoring. Lucy is now working with Concy to strengthen those skills and it shows in the work she has done in her first 2 months with Lucy and Awava!
Baskets and Cow Horn Products:
Awava's baskets and cow horn earrings are made by women artisans working with Awava through Uganda Craft, Uganda's only fair trade certified craft company.
Yudaya Nakibuka was born in Luwero and moved to Mpigi when her husband died. She completed primary school but stopped school in 1973 when her parents could no longer afford her school fees. Yudaya tends to someone else's garden and weaves baskets to provide for her family. She lives with two of her grandchildren and supports another granddaughter who is in boarding school and has three children of her own.
Yudaya is full of spirit, in Uganda people say she is “stubborn”, meaning she likes to joke around. She has a sparkle in her eyes that make you wonder what mischievous thing she is plotting next.
Wondo Sarah moved from Mbale to Nakawa in search of work to provide for her family. She lives with her husband and one of her children. Sarah attended secondary school through year four when she had to quit because of a lack of funds. She now makes jewelry from cow horns to provide for her family.
Nabalema Edith is a single mother of three living in Kazingga. Edith makes our beautiful Musoke baskets as a way to provide for her family.Edith is illiterate and does not speak English but works incredibly hard to ensure her children receive an education. They are all currently enrolled in school.
Nayiga Bena is a widowed mother of three, ages 5, 10 and 14. Bena makes Awava’s Kasaayi baskets which help provide income which she puts towards her children’s school fees. Bena is illiterate and does not speak English though she tells us her children are teaching her slowly by slowly.
Each time I walk in to Uganda Craft, the first thing I see is Rose Ssanyu’s big smile welcoming me in as she sits on her stool working on her latest masterpiece. I walk to her, squat down and shake her hand for a while as we ask each other how we are, how our families are doing, etc. before turning around to greet all of the other employees. Roses’ greeting always ensures that my Uganda Craft experience that day is sure to be amazing.
Rose is a widowed mother of three who suffers from disabilities brought on by polio, and cares for her elderly parents. She has worked as a shop attendant at Uganda Craft since November of 1984. Rose cares for her parents and children on income earned through her job with Uganda Craft as well as making small banana fiber baskets, woven key chains, and beautiful banana fiber angel ornaments (Awava has sold tons of these around the holiday’s!).
Recycled Paper Products:
Konye Keni, Acholi for “you help yourself by yourself”, is a Women’s group in Gulu, Uganda making Awava’s paper bead products. Konye Keni formed in April of 2008 and is comprised of six Women living in Pece Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp just outside of Gulu Town.
Lanyero Florence, 35, is the unofficial leader of Konye Keni. Originally from Atiak, Uganda, Lanyero is a single mother of five (four biological and one orphaned nephew) children.
A friend taught Lanyero to make different types of recycled paper beads and she continues to pass this skill on to other Women in hopes of giving them income. Lanyero taught the Women of Konye Keni and has recently started spending time in her home village, Atiak, teaching Women there.
Lanyero was also recently able to move herself and her family out of Pece camp, buying a 1 acre plot which she built a home on and is growing crops for her family.
Akello Grace, 42, is a single parent of five children and cares for two orphans, all of whom, except the youngest, attend primary school. She earns her primary source of income by selling food and small items at her kiosk. She attended primary school for six years before a lack of funds forced her to stop.
Akello Susan, 23, was born in Gulu. She attended primary school until 2001 when her parents passed away and she began caring for her two younger sisters. In 2006, she took a one year course in welding through a NGO. She now helps to provide for her son and sisters by welding and making paper beads.
Alur Josaphine, 47, was born in Pece, Gulu. She is a single mother of three, all of whom are currently in school. Josaphine finished primary school but could not afford secondary school. She attended Gulu Blight Commercial College for typing but could not complete her training because of a lack of funds. Josaphine now provides for her three children through casual labor and growing vegetables.
Lalam Santa, 25, shares her hut in Pece with her three biological children, one orphan, her older sister, and her auntie. She is the main provider of her household, earning money and goods through tending for someone else's garden, collecting firewood, and buying and selling vegetables. She earns most of her money making paper beads.
Hand Loomed Products:
Awava's hand loomed raffia table mats and purses as well as our banana fiber table mats are all made by artisans at Uganda Handloom Craft in Mukono, Uganda. Individual artisan bios coming soon!