Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Most of you know that I moved to Jinja, Uganda in December to fulfill 2 longtime hopes of get married, and to work full-time for Fount of Mercy. In short, this time has not only been awesome [and challenging] for me personally, but has also been awesome [and challenging] for me professionally. I have seen such amazing growth in our program, and have learned so much now that I have the freedom and time to focus on making this work long-lasting and impactful.

What have we been up to? After learning from one of our groups who had started a bread-baking business, but quickly failed, we created and began teaching basic business courses as a pre-cursor to any of the work we do in a women's group. We have found that making sure EVERY woman has some basic business knowledge is key to empowering the group as a whole and for ensuring the necessary accountability among members. The women have loved the class and are being readied for starting up a small project of their choice. The second part of the course...a hands-on practicum of sorts, allows them to put their knowledge to use right away and test the things they learn in class. We are currently working in sewing, baking, and agriculture...3 household-based vocations that are women-friendly and sustainable locally.

Our advanced tailors are working together weekly in our office, developing new products and trying new designs for their local market. In fact, they sold their first children's dress from a craft shop located near our office, bringing in a profit well-above their expectations. This has inspired them to continue working hard and making more dresses. They are also preparing for a "Christmas Fair" in November, where they will hopefully sell many of their new designs.

We have hired a full-time program associate, Julius, whose work has greatly increased our capacity for reaching more women. Julius is teaching the business courses, visiting the groups regularly to monitor their progress and help them begin their projects, and doing many of the reports and research essential to making sure our program remains culturally relevant to those we work with.

We also currently have 2 long-term volunteers who are both working in our program by developing products and writing/editing curriculum. They are both here for a total of about 6 months and are greatly increasing our capacity as well!

What is next for us? Well, my job has been to plan and oversee all this work, while also organizing our program officially on paper in order to apply for grants. Receiving grants will make our work sustainable into the next 10+ years. Truthfully, it is tedious and un-sexy work, but it is VITAL for our program. These activities will continue to take my time for the next few months, as well as preparing to pass on the daily operations of our work here in Uganda to Julius. I will return to the US in the spring of 2012 to work part-time, continue overseeing Julius's work, plan our next Sewing Hope event, do fundraising in general, develop a college program, make work plans for more volunteer trips, and continue to pursue grants to fund our work.

We need your help:
As I mentioned before, we are currently in a transition phase, as we are using up our current funding, and are waiting for future funding to come from grants. As you also know by now, because I have been out of the country this year, we were not able to hold our annual New York Sewing Hope Event, which has brought in the bulk of our vocational funds in the past. We hope that despite the lack of party this year, you will remain committed to our work and will look forward to the next event, which we hope will be in the fall of 2012. But, even so, our work continues here in Uganda with more and more momentum. We are reaching more groups, doing more classes and projects, and partnering with more local organizations...and this requires more funding.

So, I am being bold and asking if you would consider donating to us as if you had attended an event this year? Would you consider giving $25? I know for most New Yorkers, this is not even a night out...yet, with all of our Sewing Hope supporters combined, this would give us what we need to make it until our next blow-out event, and even beyond it!

We currently are trying to bring in $1300 more per month throughout the year 2012. That is $15,600 total. If everyone here gave $25, we would meet that goal easily! Simple! It would keep me and my associate on salary, would provide more business classes, more sewing classes, more resources, more of everything good we are doing. And, I could continue to concentrate on grants, which will help guarantee that our work will be sustained for years and years to come.

So, won't you join us in this endeavor? Won't you donate something towards our program? If it is not realistic to give $25, maybe you can give $10...or $15. These little bits are all it takes, and they add up to lots and lots more! That is the lesson that we like to teach our using their small income wisely, it can build and add up to a lot more. Help us demonstrate this....donate now. (via Network for Good).

Tara Hawks Nyanga
Vocational Development Director
~Director of Sewing Hope~
Fount of Mercy

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Portland Sewing Hope Fundraiser was a HUGE Success

On September 17th, the Portland chapter of the American Sewing Guild held a fundraiser, inspired by our NYC fashion show events, to raise money for Fount's vocational development work. We are so grateful to the team, led by Marsha McClintock, who made this happen! It was a HUGE success, bringing in over $10,000, all of which will go towards helping make our sewing and other vocational projects long-lasting and productive for the women in Uganda.

The weekend included a seminar by the sewing celebrity Sandra Betzina, a juried fashion show with prizes, over 80 raffle items, a luncheon, and a quilt show. Liza Morgan, one of our NYC event team members, went to Portland to show our video (see the video below), sell some beads, and speak about our work from a personal perspective. Fount provided fabric from Uganda, and supplied a few of Sewing Hope's previous event garments to add to their fashion show. We hope this will inspire more groups to do the same...plan a fun event with a good cause!

Quote in response to the Portland Sewing Hope event
"I don't think anything can be done to top this. Sandra's presentation, the auction items and their lovely presentations, the tables, the meal, the wonderful fabrics and the creative ways they were used, the beautiful models.... Everything was so special. A special thanks to Barbara, Marsha, Ruthann, and Sharon for the hundreds of hours you and others put in. I think Fount of Mercy will be very excited and proud of all that happened here today. And I hope the amount earned for them will beat their wildest dreams. I am so thankful to have been there."

We are SO PLEASED!....and the money is well beyond our expectations! It will go far to progressing our work here in Uganda. A huge thank you to the Portland chapter of the American Sewing Guild!

Written by Tara Hawks, Fount's Vocational Development Director

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Involving the Community in Reopening Rock Primary

In the Spring of 2011, Care and Share's school, Rock Primary, shut its doors. Sitting down with Care and Share's director, Robert, it became apparent why. The burden of running the school was just too great for one man to handle. In brainstorming with Robert it became very clear that Rock Primary needed the communities involvement, support and ownership.

Working with his wife Olivia and Fount of Mercy, Robert has formed Rock Primary's first Community Group. In the first meeting over 12 parents from the community attended. Each member voiced their value of the school and their commitment to see it reopen. Since the initial meeting, members have elected leadership, have identified what needs to happen in order to reopen the school, how they will mobilize the community to reopen the school and have even voiced dreams for the school's future.

Working together as a community, Robert, Olivia and local parents are empowered and motivated to open Rock Primary's closed doors. The parents investment in the school demonstrates their value of education and is a huge step towards the sustainability of Care and Share's school.

Written by Michelle Averna
Fount's Executive Director and acting Educational Development Director