sewing co-op uganda

After my visit in Tororo with Hospice, my next adventure was to go to a village on the border of the Bugiri and Iganga Districts, far off the beaten path. Mawanga is a peaceful village with no power, no plumbing, and a wonderful organization called ROWAN – Rural Orphans and Widows AIDS Network. Founded over a decade ago, ROWAN focuses on those women and children effected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the nearby communities, and aims to help them learn skills and get an education so that they can rise out of their desperate circumstances.

I got connected with ROWAN through Instagram, and it was definitely a God-ordained meeting. James, our Ndoto Project supervisor, and I spent 2 days in Mawanga, getting to know Pastors Paul and David, as well as the ladies who now make up the Mawanga Ndoto Co-op. These ladies were less trained/experienced than our ladies in Namuwongo, but they are so excited to be learning this new skill and earning a living income.


Among the challenges, the machines that ROWAN was gifted are HAND powered! I had never seen such machines – Pastor Paul asked me if they were from the 1960’s.

“Um, no. I think the ’20’s? Earlier?!”

Once we returned to Kampala, James arranged for 4 treadle tables to be constructed to convert the machines to foot powered. WIthout electricity in the village, that’s as good as it gets, but it’s a HUGE improvement from having to use 1 hand to operate the machine. I don’t know much about sewing, but even I realized that straight lines were pretty hard when you only had one hand to guide the fabric!


Pastor David and James picked up the new tables on my last Saturday, and David was going to take them out to Mawanga. I know the ladies were thrilled with the “modern technology!”

The first day, James had the women, in particular Robina, who was the most experienced, learning to make patterns and sew on paper. Concrete bags can be pulled apart into a bit dusty butcher-type paper, and the women were thrilled when a paper straight skirt emerged from the sketches and measuring.

david with pattern

We enjoyed Pastor Paul’s hospitality that night, with delicious food cooked over a fire, chickens and goats and cows (and not a few frogs) meandering around, and the dark quiet of a place 10 kilometers from the nearest power. There’s no plumbing, just “squatty potties” – pit latrines – but it was a very welcoming, comfortable weekend.

mawanga bed

mawanga compound

The second day we broke out the kitengi fabric that I’d gotten in Jinja, and Robina and Lydia started making the first pairs of pajama shorts! That was so exciting! James taught all the ladies from 10:00 to about 4:00, and the first “Mawanga co-op training camp” was done. I left them some super cute batik fabric, and am so excited to see the pj shorts they’ve been making since.

sewing 1

elephant fabric

mawanga kids