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

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