A day at the Woman’s Craft Project

Bakers Posted by Paul and Tania Baker on Mon, 04 Apr 2011 | 1 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to del.icio.us Post this to Facebook

On Wednesday mornings I first meet up with Teddy, one of our local HIV counsellors, who helps me at the project. Teddy is vital considering that the ladies who attend do not speak a word of English and my L’Uganda is still very basic. She has also been helping out at this project for years and knows the score.

We discuss our aims for that day and then head over to the HIV centre. I call it a ‘centre’ but it is really just a sheltered area with concrete floors and wooden benches. It is here that hosts the HIV clinic on Tuesdays where around 200 people come to collect their ARV drugs and see a nutritionist and a counsellor. On Thursdays the same clinic is held for children. In total Kiwoko has 1000 people on their HIV clients list, of which 150 are children.

Around 20 of the women from this list attend our craft project on Wednesdays. These are women who needed to earn an income to support their families but due to their HIV status they are unable to get employment and are often ostracized from society.

How this project works is that the women bring crafts that they have made and we buy them off them. This secures a weekly income for them. We then sell the crafts on to visitors and teams that come and any profits bring a much needed income to the hospital too. As Kiwoko is a not for profit private hospital, it barely breaks even every month and so income generating projects like this are vital for the survival of the Hospital and keeping treatment affordable for local people.

Each of the women that attend has a speciality. Joyce and Rose are perfectionists at making the paper beads and the jewellery that they are used for. They love to hear what kind of jewellery women are wearing in the UK so they can try and replicate it. Oliver and Meredith are the basket experts. Resty and Josephine are the girls for tablemats and Grace is the Queen of the weaved purse. On my first week Rose taught me how to make a bracelet. She had made 5 in the time it took me to make 1.

We always start the morning off with a short bible study. This is sometimes taken by me or another staff member but most often by Joyce of the beaded necklace fame. Joyce is what we call an ‘expert client’. Because HIV is such a taboo, people here are very reluctant to admit they have it. As a result people do not want to get tested as to find they have it is considered a death sentence. So they continue not knowing and often spreading the disease. Our ‘expert clients’ are those who realise that by letting others know they have HIV and yet through treatment from Kiwoko, they are living healthy and full lives, they can promote getting tested as a life saver rather than the opposite.

We would then chat, while the women continue making their crafts. They enjoy me trying out any new L’Uganda phrases I have learnt on them, and when I manage to get something right I receive a chorus of “Gyebale ko” – Well done. They tell me fascinating stories from their villages. The most common topic is witchcraft which is still rampant in rural areas in Uganda. One week they told me of a man whose house had been burnt down because it was suspected he kept ‘charms’, and last week one of the ladies uncles had drowned because he was possessed with evil spirits. These stories remind me of how many obstacles are in these ladies lives as they try to live as Christians.

Nehemiah 6:9They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”

We then provide them with a lunch and afterwards we buy their crafts for that week. Some discussion is then had of what the ladies should make for next week, depending on what stock the shop is running low of or if we have any orders. A few weeks ago we were preparing a large order for the Ulster Hospital who have a team who fundraise for Kiwoko. They had ordered 100 small baskets which they were going to fill with mini eggs and sell over Easter. They also wanted 100 daffodils and tulips to decorate the baskets. Despite having never seen a daffodil or tulip in their lives, with just my attempt at a drawing, Oliver and Ruth managed to produce the most beautiful flowers out of raffia. They are a very talented bunch of ladies.

I think for the women involved Wednesdays are more than just a salary and a free lunch. It is an opportunity to spend time with others who know what they are going through, to relax among friends, and to laugh at the white person trying to speak their language!


Linda Campbell said Sun, 10 Apr 2011 11:52PM
Great to hear about your Wednesday craft mornings, Tania. Seems you have a talented group of ladies there. Gyebale ko!! We miss you and remember you regularly at our Wednesday morning prayer time. Love Linda and Iain x

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