Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bead-making in Kawoto

I did not have any big projects in mind when I first headed out to Uganda. I did not exactly know what the people needed and I did not know what I really could do to help. When we arrived in Lugazi, Uganda one of our first places to visit was a village called Kawoto which was on a hill that looked out over the sugarcane plantations. The people that lived in this village are all plantation workers and work for an Indian man named Meta who owns the majority of the land in Lugazi, including the land these individuals live on. He owns this land, and also controls their source of income, and he also seems to dictate their lives. They are not allowed to grow crops or build on this land—the main way to provide an extra source of income. The people live in great poverty. Kawoto was known among our group as the most beautiful village and the best boda boda ride in the town. To get to Kawoto one must take a boda boda ride of about 1,500 shillings through sugarcane plantation after sugarcane plantation, up and down steep hills and through plantation settlements until you arrive at Kawoto hill where you can look out over all of Lugazi and see the rolling plantations of tea and sugarcane, the slow moving villages and farmers and the greenery surrounding you on all sides. It really is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

On my first trip to Kawoto the people had rarely seen Mzungus (white people) before and the children were afraid of us. I approached a group of them, the older ones ran, and the younger ones screamed in fear and began crying. It took us quite awhile before they learned that we were not ghosts as they may have thought but truly close friends, even family, by the end of the summer. I met with the leader of the Women’s Group, Rose, and we discussed the needs of the village. The main activities of the group was handicrafts, mat weaving, stool and broom making, and beautiful crocheted table mats. The women would make a few a month to sell at a very low price. They wanted to grow food but Meta would not allow it and so they did not have money to feed their families or money for schooling for the children.

I met three girls that day who became close friends over the summer. They had great goals of being coming doctors, secretaries, and an engineer. As I was leaving that day they asked if we would come back. I told them that I would like to, hopefully the next week. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Promises are empty here.” I realized that many people must make promises to her and these people and then just forget about them as they get caught up in other things. I knew then what I could and would do for these people. Women in Uganda still suffer from oppression and abuse and so as we began forming a team to work on Women’s Groups in Uganda we started looking for projects that would really affect the lives of the women, things that could be sustainable and really empower and lift the women from the situations they are in now.

Kawoto was just one of many groups that we met with but it was my favorite group to work with. I ended up teaching the women how to make paper bead jewelry. It was such a wonderful project and the women did so well. At first I was concerned that they would not become actively involved. When I came the second time no one was around in the village and I thought that they had forgotten, but once they heard our boda bodas approaching all the women and children and soon even the men came from their work and gathered in the small classroom to hear the lesson on bead making. The language barrier was only slightly a problem. I had my good friend Linda, Teo’s daughter, with me always to translate English to Swahili. And the women just laughed when I learned how to say “good” in Swahili-Visuri!

On my third visit I was so nervous that the women would not have used the supplies I had left them to actually make the beads and that we would have to start over and I would not be able to leave them with the next set of supplies. But when I got there each women came up to me with her own back of over 500 beads completed, so excited and proud of her beads. I almost started crying when I saw how hard they had worked and how excited they were! I could not believe the dedication and hard work these women live their lives each day. It is evident in everything they do.

Eventually, we finished the necklace lessons and we were able to work around the “no planting rule” and we provided then with cabbage farms which are grown in bags not in the ground! (Take that Meta!) So the women are now able to sell necklaces as well as grow cabbages for food as well as income.

It was a sad day when I had to leave my friends of Kawoto Village. I love those women so much. They are so strong and so determined to help themselves. They are great and powerful women and I loved working with them.

Becca Burgon

1 comment:

Holly said...
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