manual sewing machines uganda


I’m a writer, so people ask me all the time why I haven’t written a book about my 5+ years and 10 visits to Uganda. Well… It’s complicated! I usually say something like, “Storytelling is hard!” And any fiction writer will tell you that’s true. (I did include a stop in Kampala in my first novel, which was fun to write.)

But when it comes to my friends and the many people we work with in Uganda, it’s a challenge. So much of what people write about Africa is about the bad things: poverty, disease, corruption, etc.

When I think of Uganda, though, I think primarily of GOOD things:

deep joy
true friendship and love
contentment in the midst of such hard conditions
a deep drive to make things better for their children

The hard stories are not told from the point of view of victims, even though many legitimately were victims of corrupt and evil people.

They’ve never heard of PTSD. They work all day, every day, even if what they’re doing makes very little money.

What they need is a chance. What they need is just a little help.

Sometimes we help with emergency relief: rent for a widow with children whose husband has left her or died; food when the city has demolished whole swaths of the slums in the middle of the night; support for elderly women.

But our main goal is development, not “relief” – which has become “hand outs” in so many cases.

A friend with a ministry in Kenya recently posted this quote on Facebook:

“On-Going relief is the killer of development because it creates dependency. It brings a message to the people receiving relief that they are not capable. It takes away their dignity and it affirms that an outside force would be the only one to address their needs.” – Dr. Florence Muindi

This is exactly our focus with the co-ops we created to bring you the items in the Store. We don’t want the women dependent. We don’t want them to think they aren’t capable, because we’ve seen so many times the complete absurdity of that assumption.

Not only are our women learning and improving and bringing you great clothing, jewelry and home goods, they are starting to teach others! At our meeting in Mawanga, the main thing the women wanted to know if whether or not they could use the machines to teach other women what they’ve learned (“NOT kids” they made clear – they want to help others in their situation).

Of course we said yes – how amazing for these women, who have such a time-consuming life without power, plumbing, transportation and most of the other things we take for granted and that make our days so much easier! (When is the last time you started making lunch right after breakfast, and dinner right after lunch??)

So the storytelling IS hard. I want you to know about these great women, but I don’t want you to feel sorry or guilty. I want you to be excited! I want you to see how your purchases of the Ndoto Collection’s items empowers them. How hard they work. How generous they are. How truly amazing each and every one of them is.

Stories WILL be coming. I know it’s important. Meanwhile, know that all the money from your purchases goes straight to the work with the Ndoto Project. We aren’t taking any money (except the sales tax and shipping) for anything else, because we are determined to help these women create a sustainable life for themselves. Won’t you join us?