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Bee My Honey!

 

Yes, I know, a corny title but it got your attention didn’t it?

It’s an introduction to our latest income generating initiative of bringing a viable business to the villages in northern Uganda.

Beekeeping!

KTB hives loaded on car and ready for the village. We actually had a swarm of bees colonize a hive while we were packing for the village.

Kenya Top Bar (KTB) hives loaded on car and ready for the village. We actually had a swarm of bees colonize a hive while we were packing for the village.

A few months ago a group in one of the villages we work in approach us about bringing them a project. This is a SACCO (savings and loan) group of about 40 people. They meet weekly and each make small deposits which they pool to allow a member to take a loan. When that loan is paid then another member is able to take a loan. The interest that is repaid allows the loan bank to grow, thus allowing more loans. These folks have been waiting for an opportunity to begin or participate in a project. They are really excited about the beekeeping prospects.

One of our planning meetings.

One of our planning meetings.

We decided to work with them in developing a beekeeping project. We have proposed a 5-year program that would assist the group in establishing a modern beekeeping operation, expanding it yearly for the following 4 years. After year 5 the group would take full operation of the program and should have a viable income generating business. The profits they can make from this business can then be used to invest in other businesses.

In April they elected a beekeeping committee and we started on building a bee apiary with an initial 10 Kenyan Top Hives (KTB) installed and 5 catch boxes that are being used to transfer bees to the new hives. A chain link fence has been installed to protect the apiary as cattle likes to graze in the location we choose for the Apiary. We have planted flowers and trees to provide future food sources for the bees.

We are ready to begin our work

We are ready to begin our work

Constructing our Apiary where there will be shade and water will be close by.

Constructing our Apiary where there will be shade and water will be close by.

Constructing a shelter to provide plenty of shade and protection from rain.

Constructing a shelter to provide plenty of shade and protection from rain.

 

A natural thatch roof provides a cool and protecting roof.

A natural thatch roof provides a cool and protecting roof.

This was our live hive. Unfortunately, the bees absconded shortly after the hive was placed in the Apiary.

This was our live hive. Unfortunately, the bees absconded shortly after the hive was placed in the Apiary.

We planted some tree seedlings and some flowering plants.

We planted some tree seedlings and some flowering plants.

A stream nearby will provide a good water source for the bees

A stream nearby will provide a good water source for the bees

Meet Mandy, my pup. She was supervising the construction.

Meet Mandy, my pup. She was supervising the construction.

Last November we sent our associate, Jimmy Odongo to Kampala for beekeeping training. He has now been transferring that information to the group and everyone is being trained in beekeeping with modern hives. Once we have some active hives we will bring up some professionals from Kampala to do more intensive training.

Jimmy has been providing training on beekeeping with modern hives.

Jimmy has been providing training on beekeeping with modern hives.

 

This is a traditional hive which bees like to favour however extracting the honey can be difficult.

This is a traditional hive which bees like to favour, however, extracting the honey can be difficult.

        Uganda produces some of the world’s best honey and there’s not only income in honey production but in the by-products, such as wax and propolis. One of the best things about beekeeping as a business is that it’s a business anyone can manage, men, women, old and young.

In Uganda, honey production potential is enormous, estimated at 500,000 metric tones per year, but this potential has not yet been fully exploited. The Ugandan Beekeepers Association estimates that only between 800-1200 metric tonnes of honey is produced per year due to current lack of bee-stock.

Traditional methods of bee keeping are still predominant in Uganda where it remains an important seasonal activity in many regions. Rural people have a good knowledge of bees, plants and places favored by bees but hives are usually destroyed and colonies often killed in the process of collecting honey.

Despite the diversity of vegetation suitable for bees in the region, a shortage of bees means that beekeepers are dependent on collecting swarming bee stock. The current shortage is also limiting production of honey and by-products for which there is considerable potential. (http://www.africa-uganda-business-travel-guide.com/ugandahoneybeekeeping.html#AboutHoneyBeeKeepinginUganda)

This is where we are currently, trying to colonize our hives.

catcher-box

We’ve installed catcher boxes (a smaller version of the KTB hive) throughout the village to assist in catching a swarm.

Now all we need are bees!

Now all we need are bees!

Please pray with us that our hives will soon be colonised and this beekeeping group will soon be in the honey production.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2015 Was A Great Year!

Happy New Year folks!

As we begin a new year and I look back at 2015, I’m amazed at all we have been able to accomplish and in it all I see the hand of God at work. There has been so many blessings to count.

First, Northern Uganda Women and Children Support Initiative received its 501(c)3 tax-exempt status. A great way to begin 2015 because we worked so hard during 2014 preparing the application.

Then, I purchased a car, over the internet no less. It was an older car to boot and it came direct from Japan. Thankfully, it has been a good purchase so far. The vehicle is great on fuel and it’s a little tank over these rough roads. It’s not only used to get me back and forth to the villages, saving me from all those dusty or wet motorbike rides, but it also doubles as a taxi providing people with rides here and there You seldom travel alone here. The vehicle has also been used as a school bus and as an ambulance. One day deep in the village we picked up a woman who was in labor and walking to center so she could get to the clinic. Her water broke in the car so we might have picked her up just in time.  Yes, the car has been a blessing…

…and here are some of many others.

The women’s project and their quilts

The women continue to improve and perfect their new trade and we continue to accept and train new women in the art of hand quilting.

Meet Grace, one of our newest members.

Meet Grace, one of our newest members.

Sales have been good and we have even started taking special orders over the web. In May, 2015 some of the ladies represented the group at a craft fair in the city of Kampala and in spite of the morning rain which kept many people away, they did very well in sales.

Craft fair in Kampala

Craft fair in Kampala

In addition to special orders from the web, we are selling some quilts to visitors in Gulu. Recently, we sent some of our smaller quilting projects to the USA where a friend represented our group and products at a craft fair in Massachusetts. We hope this creates interest in what these ladies are doing.

Busy at work!

Busy at work!

 

Pauline's bag.

Pauline’s ba

 

On our way to Arua for fabric but first we had to get out and look at this magnificent creature.

On our way to Arua for fabric but first we had to get out and look at this magnificent creature.

The income from the quilts that these women make has been very important in not only paying their children/grandchildren’s school fees but also in using the money to reinvest in their small gardens/farms and purchase live stock such as chickens and goats. All of this helps in improving their incomes and standard of living. The money they earn is not only benefiting them and their families but is having an impact on their community. One women recently told me that due to a medical condition she can no longer dig in her garden and she uses the money from her quilt sales to hire people to dig for her, therefore providing small incomes for others.

Designed and created by Julia.

Designed and created by Julia.

The women themselves appreciate their new skill with many of them collecting pieces of fabric from where ever than can get it and piecing the pieces together. They are making their own bags and blankets for their babies.

Agnes' quilt

Agnes’ quilt

The look of accomplishment and pride in their faces when a fellow Ugandan looks at their quilts and makes the statement that they can’t believe something so beautiful could be made by hand in the village.

Meet Beatrice, another of our newest members.

Meet Beatrice, another of our newest members.

Christmas Party

Christmas Party

We ended the year with a Christmas party. The women received a basket that’s useful to them in their everyday life, some washing soap, salt, rice, dry fish, garlic and cooking oil. Those with the best attendance also received a gift of assorted fabric sent to us from friends in the States.  We took some time talking about the meaning of Christmas and the importance of Christ’ birth. We then took some time and praised God and took turns thanking Him for all He has done for us this past year.

Praise Time!

Praise Time!

English Literacy Program

We are still providing English lessons to the women who are interested in learning. The process has been slow but then again, so hasn’t mine in learning their language. There is progress though and they so enjoy the teaching. I have to commend the women who have committed to coming each lesson. As most of us can understand it’s not easy learning a second language and most of these women come to a lesson after spending a morning in the garden weeding or harvesting and then walking long distances to get to the meeting.  So they come tired and maybe even hungry but they are trying and making an effort.

NUWOCSI and the women are so grateful for the young man who is teaching him.

Justine teaching a lesson in math.

Justine teaching a lesson in math.

Ouma Justine is a recent graduate with a degree in teaching and although he has a full time teaching job he’s able to come and teach these women once a week. He does a great job and the women really enjoy his teaching style.

English Literacy lessons

English Literacy lessons

Dairy Goat Program

This past year in cooperation with JOY Goats Development http://www.joygoats.org.uk we began our dairy goat program. I talked some about it in my last blog. The goal is to have locale female goats breed with exotic dairy bucks and over a two to three year period, the granddaughters should be producing a sufficient amount of milk daily. This will bring some important nutritional food to families as well as another source of income. Goat’s milk is also easier for children to digest than cow’s milk and can be used to feed infants. This is important if you have a mother who’s HIV positive and can’t breastfeed.

Meet Chris

Meet Chris

Meet David

Meet David

Our 3rd goat and I forgot its name.

Our 3rd goat.

 

We have placed a dairy buck in each of the three villages where most of the quilting women come from and have designated a “buck keeper” for each village. It’s up to the goat keeper to care and feed the buck and to monitor the mating of local goats. There’s a recordkeeping system they need to follow. January, during the dry season is a high mating season for goats so it is our hope that many villagers will bring their females for mating. The villagers will pay a small fee to the buck keeper and this will compensate the person who’s caring for the buck.

In about a year’s time the bucks will be exchanged for new bucks so to avoid inbreeding.

Our Vets from The Big Fix Uganda.

Our vet doctors from The Big Fix Uganda http://www.thebigfixuganda.org.

We will be in the villages once again this month encouraging folks to bring their goats and answering any of their questions or concerns. Milk drinking is not high on people’s diets here so we want to continued educating on the benefits of it.

NUWOCSI is committed to seeing this project succeed as we monitor the care of the bucks on a regular basis and bring in veterinaries to exam the bucks for well-being. We also work closely with the buck keepers to make sure they have what they need to care for the bucks and answer their questions.

Orphanage and boreholes/wells

This past year NUWOCSI became friends with an orphanage in one of the near-by villages where we work. This is home to about 27 children. We have been able to assist them by bringing clothing and food supplies from time to time.

Some food supplies!

Some food supplies!

We were also able to introduce them to JOY Goats Development and they in-turn were able to find sponsors to provide the orphanage with a dairy buck and 2 female dairy goats. This will insure that the children will start drinking milk much sooner.

Dairy goats!

Dairy goats!

I think one of the biggest accomplishments for this children’s home has been in the installation of two boreholes/wells which NUWOCSI was very happy to play a part and assist in getting them drilled. The big heroes though is a group called “Young Men Drillers”.

A team from Young Men Drillers

A team from Young Men Drillers

They work together with another organization and they provide manual, but skilled bore hole drilling where needed in the villages. They work through out Uganda and into Kenya and the DRC.

Drilling for water

Drilling for water

The children were getting their water from a dirty, stagnant water hole that was ripe for disease. Now, they have clean, cold water to drink. The director of the home tells me that in the three months since the wells were installed the children’s health has greatly improved. There’s been a lot less illness.

This was their drinking water. Even after boiling the water still wasn't good.

This was their drinking water. Even after boiling the water still wasn’t good.

The daily walk to the water hole to collect dirty water.

The daily walk to the water hole to collect dirty water.

 

We brought one of the puppies from my dog to the children and to help guard their goats. The Big Fix vets came out with us to talk to the children about how to take care of their new dog. The children named her Josephine.

Frances from The Big Fix talking to the children about the needs of dogs and other animals.

Frances from The Big Fix talking to the children about the needs of dogs and other animals.

Meet Josephine

Meet Josephine

 

I spent some of Christmas day with these children and was delighted to bring them some “essential” gifts like toothbrushes and toothpaste and believe it or not they were all very excited in this gift. I also brought  them some non-essential but much more fun gifts like soccer balls and net balls. I couldn’t find a netball hoop so I bought a basketball hoop. I’m not sure who was more excited with that gift, the children or the director! It was a great way to spend a Christmas afternoon.

It's a Happy Birthday Jesus Party!

It’s a Happy Birthday Jesus Party!

The little ones have the balls now but you know it's just a matter of time before the bigger kids take them over.

The little ones have the balls now but you know it’s just a matter of time before the bigger kids take them over.

 

It has been a busy year, we accomplished a lot and there’s so much to be thankful for in 2015.

We also appreciate those of you who support us in so, so many ways…with your money, with your time, with sending quilting supplies and with your prayers, your encouragement, in telling others about our work. You are so much a part of this work and organization!

NUWOCSI also has great board members made up of both Ugandans and Americans that work together smoothly in keeping us effective and in keeping me “grounded” and on track. I’m so grateful for their time and efforts.

I believe together we are making a difference in people’s lives and I thank you for being a part of it and working with us.

So looking forward to 2016 being another good year.

During the year we hope to begin another income generating project in the village. I won’t tell you too much about it now but here are some photos that might give you a clue to what we would like to do.

Odongo Jimmy attending a training workshop in Kampala.

Odongo Jimmy (in the white shirt) attending a training workshop in Kampala.

beekeeping 2

Here is Jimmy getting his Certificate of Training.

These are called Kenyan Top Bar (KTB's)

These are called Kenyan Top Bar (KTB’s)

The anatamy of …what?

The anatomy of …what?

Please pray for us as we move into a new year.

Pray that people will indeed benefit from our projects and programs. Pray that we always look for God’s direction and wisdom in what we do and that through us all people will see the love of God.

A very Happy New Year to you!

P.S. We have a Facebook page for Northern Uganda Women and Children Support Initiative (NUWOCSI) that is updated more regularly than this blog if you want to stay up-to-date with what we are doing. You can even reach it from this blog site.

 

 

 

First…. it’s official!

Northern Uganda Women and Children Support Initiative, Inc. or NUWOCSI for short, has been approved by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)3 tax exempt, nonprofit organization. It was a long, daunting process preparing all their required documentation but we did it! We praise the Lord and give thanks that it was accepted by the IRS on the first filing.

My Cadillac!

My Cadillac!

Second, after 4 years, I finally have a vehicle…direct from Japan! My first on-line purchase of a vehicle so I was a bit nervous of what would be delivered but so far I’m happy with the purchase. It’s an older car but came in great condition. Even the tires look new! My dusty or wet motorcycle rides to the village will now be limited, not that I don’t enjoy all that fresh air, dust and rain blowing through my hair BUT there is a limit. I had the cattle bars added to the front and back. One never knows what kind of livestock will cross their path on these roads.

Before I get to the goats I just want to say that the quilting and English lessons continue in Tegot-atoo. We are currently preparing for a Bazaar in Kampala next month where we hope to sell some products and generate some additional interest.

Wallhanging

Wallhanging

Some of these women really enjoy the quilting and I find myself struggling to keep them in projects. However, there are a few who get tired waiting for me and they go and design their own. This makes me proud!

Designed by Agnes

Designed by Agnes

Designed by Jennifer

Designed by Jennifer

Quilt by Sarah

Quilt by Sarah

The English lessons are going better than ever. We have had a new teacher the last few months, a young man named Ouma Justin who recently graduated teacher’s college. Although, he has a full-time job teaching at a high school he’s able to come to the village one day a week and teach the women English. They really like his teaching style and have been learning quickly.

Learning to write in English.

Learning to write in English.

Common local goat.

Common local goat.

This is a local goat, common to northern Uganda and up to a couple of months ago that’s about all I could tell you about it, but I’ve been learning a lot about goats lately.

Soon we hope to be breeding these local goats with exotic dairy goats. The purpose will be to provide some much need nutrition and milk to the villages. Drinking of milk is fairly rare in the villages as it’s hard to obtain, either from goats or cows. The local goats do not produce enough milk on their own to milk.  However, when breed with a high quality milk goat, they will eventually have a goat that can produce anywhere from 1 to 1 ½ cups of milk daily. This will occur after two generations of breeding. Then, with good breeding and over a 20 year period, a goat should be able to produce 3 cups of milk daily.

The benefit of goats milk is that it is much easier to digest than cows milk and is well tolerated in small children and babies. This is important for mothers who have HIV/AIDS where the disease can be carried to the baby during breastfeeding. Goats milk, unlike cows milk, is much less likely to produce an allergy or intolerance. In addition to providing additional food and nutrition it will also be a source of income.

NUWOCSI is partnering with an organization called JOY Goats http://www.joygoats.org.uk. They have been in Uganda for over 20 years and have implemented the dairy goat breeding in several areas throughout Uganda. We are beginning this program in three villages; Coopil, Acut-Omer, and Kiceke. These are the villages that the women in our Tegot-atoo quilting project come from but the program is open and available to everyone in these villages, not just the women’s group. NUWOCSI may also be sponsoring a dairy buck for an orphanage in a near-by village that will begin a program in that village.

This week we had some training sessions in each of the villages in order to explain the program and answer questions people may have about dairy goats and breeding. People were interested!

Village of Coopil

David Dowdy of JOY Goats explains the program to the people of Coopil village.

Village of Kiceke

Village of Kiceke

Village of Acut-Omer

Village of Acut-Omer

There’s a lot work yet before we’re ready to receive the exotic dairy bucks. A buck will be placed in each of the three villages once we have built a proper shelter for it and have determined a good buck keeper. It is here at the buck station where villagers will bring their female goats for breeding. The buck keeper will have the responsibility of caring for the buck, watching for any signs of illness, keeping good breeding records and advising other villagers of the breeding process and answering their questions.

The idea of breeding dairy goats in northern Uganda is relatively a new concept and this is going to take some careful monitoring to insure its success. We’re committed to giving this program the best chance to succeed and we will be monitoring it closely because if it is successful it will bring so many benefits to this impoverished area. I’d like to ask for your prayers as we implement this program.

I would like to thank those of you who continue to support us with your monetary gifts, your gifts of sewing supplies, and with your prayers. It is because of your generosity, thoughtfulness and caring that we are now able to introduce new programs, while continuing with the quilt project. Thank you for being a part of it all!

I thank the Lord for His faithfulness and continue blessings on my life here in Uganda.

Today, in America, people are celebrating Thanksgiving Day. It’s a day where we gather with family and friends; when we prepare a big feast of stuffed turkey, gravy, vegetables, cranberry sauce and every flavor of pie you can imagine; when we eat enough at one meal to last a week; and when exciting football games between rival high schools are played.  Most important, it’s a time to reflect and give thanks to God for all He has provided during the year.

Today, homes are filled with the delicious aroma of roasted turkey and pumpkin pie and yes, as I sit here in Uganda I have to admit I am feeling a little homesick right now and missing my family and friends as I think of them gathering together and wishing I could join in on the festivities.  It’s just another day here in Uganda as this Thanksgiving Day is just an American holiday. However, one of the local restaurants in Gulu will be preparing a turkey dinner, complete with pumpkin soup for us American Expats to enjoy and not to feel to deprived.

Even though I am not home in American to celebrate this day with my family it does not mean I can not take the time to reflect and thank the Lord for all He has done for me this past year and there is much to be thankful for…

Tegot-A-Too Village center. There is no electricity out here yet so solar is the way to go.

Tegot-A-Too Village center. There is no electricity out here yet so solar is the way to go.

This year I started a non-profit organization,  Northern Uganda Women and Children Support Initiative, Inc. or NUWOCSI for short. Of course, I am not alone in this new venture. I have some great founding board members from both Uganda and the United States helping in getting this organization “off the ground” and working towards the goals we envision for this non-profit. I thank God for each of them  and for their willingness to serve. Their input, advice and work is invaluable and I appreciate them so much.

I discovered during the past year how much paperwork is involved in starting a non-profit. It is daunting how much documentation is required and at times I thought I would drown in it all, so I am very thankful for the help and expertise of those who helped in reviewing, proofreading and helping me put it all together.

Northern Uganda Women and Children Support Initiative, Inc. is a registered non-profit in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and currently our 501(c)3 tax exempt application is pending with the Internal Revenue Service. We anticipate a reply from the IRS sometime at the beginning of the new year. We would appreciate your prayers that this process goes smoothly and our application is approved.

We are currently looking into building a new website that will enable people to not only make donations online but to also purchase the quilt projects from our Tegot-A-Too women’s project. This would be part of the marketing strategy for selling the women’s products with 100% of the sale price going directly to the women and their project.

Continuing our English Literacy Program.

Continuing our English Literacy Program.

English Lessons!

English Lessons!

It’s also an exciting time as we look into developing new projects to help benefit these wonderful, hardworking women I’ve come to know and love. We have a project we are looking into that would be a benefit both nutritionally and financially, not only to this women’s group but to the whole village and community, but it’s still in the “fact-finding” stage. I hope to be able to tell you more about this at a later date.

Busy working!

Busy working!

The Tegot-A-Too quilters are still working hard and producing some great work. Please take a look at “Our Quilt” page for more photos but below is a sample of their current work. They are also continuing their English Literacy program and many now greet me in English. As they try to speak to me in English, I’m trying to respond in Acholi. It’s a continued learning process for all of us!

We  call this the Congo Log quilt. The women cut and design the squares themselves.

We call this the Congo Log quilt. The women cut and design the squares themselves. Notice the hand quilting!

Another bed size Congo Log quilt. The photo doesn't do it justice.

Bed size Congo Log quilt. The photo doesn’t do it justice.

A closer look!

A closer look!

We call this the Picture Swirl.

We call this the Picture Swirl.

One thing that has been so encouraging to me, as their “teacher” is seeing so many women now designing and making their own small projects from home, mostly handbags from the small pieces of fabric that remain from our group projects. Nothing goes to waste! There is one woman who is working on a bedsize quilt that she pretty much designed all my herself. I gave a few suggestions but she took it further. I can’t wait to show it to you as it pleases me so to see their confidence building! There are so many talented ladies in this group. Most of them just need a little encouragement and confidence building and then watch them soar.

So, as I reflect on this Thanksgiving Day I have to say thank you God for allowing me this opportunity to be here in Uganda, doing the work I am doing and to be able to serve these wonderful women. I am thankful for the comfortable home I have here, for the health I have experienced, for the protection and safety from the many boda-boda rides and bus trips I take, for the opportunity of friendship from visitors to Gulu, and for the hospitality and acceptance of the Ugandan people. As a woman living and traveling alone,  East Africa is the place to be as there is always someone willing to look after you and assist you.  I am thankful for living in such a safe part of the world.

I’d be remiss not to thank all of you who have supported me this past year with your gifts, your supplies to the project, you financial support and most important, your prayers. I am truly a blessed woman!

 

I know it’s been some time since my last update and I apologize! It has been a busy time with much going on with the ladies quilt project and I’ll try to summarize some of the activities.

A few months back we participated in a trade show sponsored by Worldwide Partners that was held in Gulu. We rented a small tent and set up our quilts for display. It was a long and tiring but fun two days where we generated some sales and even more important we made some nice contacts and gained new friends.

We had lots of people stop by our tent and inquire on what we were doing. Quilting is not common here in Gulu and people were curious. The women received a lot of nice comments concerning their work. People were amazed that they were doing this work by hand with no sewing machines and the ladies were happy to explain the process to anyone who asked. You could see the pride in their faces every time someone admired one of their quilts.

Look at the beautiful quilt!

Look at the beautiful quilt!

 

Our tent at the tradeshow.

Our tent at the trade show

People were showing lots of interest in our quilts and we were able to connect with a couple of shops who wanted to wholesale for us and we gained some special orders.  These orders kept us busy for the next couple of months but we were thrilled to get them and the women were happy that people were noticing and wanting their work.

Here’s a sample of some of their work…..

 

Also, have you visited the “Our Quilts” page . Just click the tab at the top of this blog and it will bring you right to it.

Busy..busy

Busy..busy

Agnes

We are meeting in a church building and although we are very grateful to have this available to us it is not the best location for us to do our work.  The building has no doors or windows and the women have to sit on the floor, on mats. When it rains or the winds pick up we are scrambling to cover the quilts and take cover ourselves from the rain and dust. In addition, we have the occasional unwelcome guests…chickens, goats, sheep and one day we had to scare off a bull that was getting ready to charge us. On more than one occasion intoxicated men stroll in who think there’s a church service going on and they come in looking for redemption or prayer. Alcohol abuse in the village is a problem.

Sheep!

Sheep! He comes in again and our next quilt will be made from wool!

The church is only available to us once a week. We have some craft shops in Gulu and in Kampala interested in selling our products but because we are only meeting weekly this limits our production. Sometimes a woman will take a project home to work on but then if she doesn’t come to the next meeting we end up with one less project and one group of women with no project to work on. Our biggest need is for a building of our own. A dry and secure place where we could leave our supplies and quilts. A place where the women could come on a regular basis to work quietly. A place where we could initiate other income generating projects.

This is our dream, to have place of our own that will serve as an occupational/business center and will include some space for the children to come and tutor and have access to computers but for now we are grateful for this church offering us their building.

Ochora Charles

Ochora Charles teaching in our Literacy / English Language program.

We recently started a Literacy/English Language program for those ladies who are interested and so far that is just about all of them. I have a young man whose a student at Gulu University coming out weekly to give the lessons. When his semester ends next month he’ll probably go out an extra day to teach. The women have been telling me for some time that they want to learn English and if they are to market and sell their quilts outside of Gulu they will need to know some English. We hope to teach them both to speak and write English.

Learning the English alphabet which has a few more letters than Acholi alphabet.

Learning the English alphabet which has a few more letters than Acholi alphabet.

There’s a writing program that I hope to implement once the women have had a few more lessons. I’ll be writing more about that later.

This month we were blessed with some visitors from the States. I just happened to meet Eleanor at a shop in Gulu and we got to talking. She comes from the State of Washington and is in Gulu for a short time working with another non-profit organization. When I told her what I was doing she was very interested and I invited her to come out and visit the ladies and their project. She was very encouraging to the women and since she is a retired school teacher she was able to offer Charles some suggestions to help in his English teaching.

We were also blessed with a visit from a gracious couple from Florida. They came to Uganda to tour and visit different ministries within the country and I was very pleased that my project was on their itinerary. Their visit was also very encouraging to both me and the women and we were so happy they visited.

 

Todd enjoying his boda-boda ride to the village.

Todd enjoying his boda-boda ride to the village.

 

We love visitors!

We love visitors!

Thank you so much to our visitors for blessing us with your visit and we hope you return soon!

On a personal note I am doing well and staying healthy and I think I’ve adjusted to life here in Gulu. There’s not too many comforts I miss from the States, except maybe my washing machine. I have to wash my clothes by hand and it seems I can never get them clean enough and washing towels and sheets is the worst. It’s all so time-consuming.  It’s a chore I really can do without.

I’ve also been busy working on some changes to my ministry and I hope soon to be announcing those changes and telling you more. I think it is this work that has kept me so busy.

I thank you all for your prayers and support and as always I’m so grateful and thank God for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Village travel!

Bee keeping in the village of Odek!

This month I had the opportunity to visit a small beekeeping operation in the village of Odek, a distance of approximately 30k south-east of Gulu town. Odek also happens to be the village where Joseph Kony (of the LRA) was born. I was invited to the home of Olaya Patrick Zechariah where he and his wife showed me their beekeeping farm.

Lloya Patrick Zechariah and his wife.

Oloya Patrick Zechariah and his wife.

They, along with 5 other farmers have 89 bee hives. The hives are hand-made from hard wood logs that come from either the opok, odugu, or larwerge tree. (These are the Acholi names. No one knew the English names.)  The task of making one of these hives is not easy as each log needs to be chiseled out by hand. A long tedious process.

They are aiming to have 300 hives.

There are manufactured hives that can be purchased for Shs10,000 to Shs20,000 (Ugandan shillings) which is equivalent to 4 to 8 U.S. dollars.  Zachariah says the purchased hives may produce more honey in the beginning but these hardwood, hand-made hives are much stronger and will last longer. I think it is also more affordable but I have to wonder about the destruction of so many valuable trees (which is becoming an issue in northern Uganda).

After finding the right tree and cutting it down to the right size logs the long process of chiseling it out begins.

How many hives can you spot?

How many hives can you spot?

I got as close as I could to get this shot and I was making everyone nervous. The last thing you want to do is aggrivate these bees.

I got as close as I could to get this shot and I was making everyone nervous doing so. The last thing you want to do is aggravate these bees.

There is two to three seasons for honey production per year and each hive can produce up to 20 kilograms (about 2.2 pounds) per season with a market price of Shs10,000 per kilogram. In 2000, the government of Uganda identified bee keeping as an enterprize that could get Ugandans out of poverty.

Uganda produces one of the best honey on the international market and a report shows that Uganda has the potential of producing 500,000 metric tons of honey annually.

However, most farmers do not have the needed equipment of a  pressing machine so honeycombs are pressed by hand, whereas, much of the honey produced has impurities, including wax and bee parts. Those who can invest in pressing machines produce better quality honey.

In addition to honey is some of the other by-products that could be produced such as candles, shoe polish, furniture polish and propolis, a very expensive pharmaceutical product that is anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial. There is also a company here that is producing honey wine.

The 3 men in this photo are all pastors in their village and are currently completing pastorial training in Gulu town.

The 3 men in this photo are all pastors in their village and are currently completing pastoral training in Gulu town.

Honey is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and is sold to clinics to be used for medicinal applications, including treatment of sore throats and by HIV/AIDS sufferers who take it to treat opportunistic infections.

I think this is one of the reasons I have so few stomach upsets or colds is because I’ve been eating the unprocessed honey.

Bee keeping could be a very lucrative business for village farmers, even after taking in the cost of supplies and transporting to market.

Unfortunately, most of these village farmers do not have the necessary equipment to properly maintain the bees and harvest the honey. One of the methods used in harvesting the honey is to build a fire and smoke the bees out of the hive at night. This can destroy a colony. A bee smoker would be a valuable piece of equipment. These farmers are also working without protective gear such as a bee suit, gloves or head vail.

Once you find the perfect log you next have to chizel it out by hand.

Once you find the perfect log you next have to chisel it out by hand.

Women’s Day celebration in the village of Paicho

In June our women’s group was asked to come and be part of a Women’s Day celebration in the village of Paicho.

Some of the quilts being displayed.

Some of the quilts being displayed.

This village is about 3 miles north of Tegot-atoo and about 20k northeast of Gulu. Different women’s groups and NGO’s were gathering to show their crafts and discuss their programs.  We were asked to bring and show some of the quilts we are making and to discuss our project. Our quilts were generating a lot of interest and people were ready to buy, however, before we could introduce our program and quilts we were hit with a monsoon that lasted over an hour and this officially ended the program. It was encouraging though to see so much interest in what we have been doing.

More quilts on the desk.

More quilts on the desk.

Traditional dances being performed.

Traditional dances being performed

and now back to the village of Tegot-atoo…

New Members

Our membership is limited to 60 ladies and one of the rules for members is that they have to maintain a good attendance. After a certain number of unexplained absences they risk losing their membership. When this happens it opens up the opportunity for new ladies to join. We have had 3 recent graduates that entered the program this year. I think a couple of these openings were created when we discovered we had double names, albeit spelled a little differently, on the attendance list.

New member

Recent graduate.

This week we had 4 new members start the program.

Some Changes

We are also moving our meeting place from the school to a local church and are in the process of negotiating a fair rent. The Tegot primary school has been gracious in providing us a room but they now need that room for their students. I think the church though will be ideal as there is much more room and it is much quieter. A few hundred school children can make a lot of noise! Please pray that we can make this beneficial for both the church and for our group.

So much as been happening these last couple of months!

I have been meeting with some members of the local government who have shown an interest in our project and have come to visit us during our meetings to see what we are doing. Quilting is unique to this area and people are astonished that we make these quilts by hand and use no sewing machines. The MP (minister of parliament) from Gulu may also be visiting us soon. It’s always good to have the local government recognize you.

Our visitor

Our visitor

Recently, I was introduced to a man from Gulu who has a PhD in Art and Industrial Design, the only man in Uganda to have this designation. He has taken an interest in our quilting and I hope to tell you more in the future on how this man can help us in our quilt art.

The women were really enjoying this meeting.

The women were really enjoying this meeting.

We held a special meeting where the ladies had a chance to meet this man, James, and to listen to what he had to say. I think he spoke for 3 hours but some of the women said they could have listened to him for 3 days. They were really enjoying what he had to say, giving them advice in terms of the project, encouragement for their daily living and messages from the Bible.

Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

We had 4 women come forward to give their life to Christ in addition to one man during this meeting.

Now, where did the man come from you ask? Well, he happened to be walking by the church and when he saw it full of people he assumed a church service was taking place, so he decided to visit. I have to add that the man was a bit intoxicated but he was insisting he wanted to be saved, to give his life to Christ and he vowed to give up all alcohol.

An unexpected visitor!

An unexpected visitor!

We are praying he was sincere on all accounts.

Our Projects

This quilt is going to be beautiful when it's completed.

This quilt is going to be beautiful when it’s completed.

quilt 2

Practicing our quilting first.

We have some nice projects in the works and I can’t wait to show you them when they are finished. Above is a preview of what I think will be a most beautiful bed cover. Our “basket” quilt is being quilted by our 3 best quilters. Almost everyone took a try at stitching this pattern (see photo to your left) by hand with no marking or tracing the pattern first. The top 3 ladies, Agnes, Margarete and Rose had the best stitch (even better than the teacher) and are now quilting this piece.

Below is one of our recent completed projects. This picture doesn’t do it justice though as it came out very nice and was in high demand at the Paicho celebration.

The photo doesn't do it justice!

The photo doesn’t do it justice!

Thank you…

…for reading my update, for your prayers and for the many ways you show support of this ministry/project. We have received so many wonderful supplies and “special” gifts these last few months. I am truly grateful and humbled. I’m excited in what I’m doing, I love working with these women and I very much enjoy living in Uganda but sometimes I do get a bit lonely and homesick, so I am also grateful for your cards, emails and Facebook messages as these do a lot to alleviate the loneliness.

I have some major decisions to make concerning moving this project forward and would ask for your prayers.

Also, if there is someone who could teach me some time management skills I would welcome you. I have so much that I would like to do, that I need to do, but too many days I sit back and wonder where did the day go and what did I accomplish. I know this is Africa and time moves slower here…but

Kampala!

The busy city of Kampala. There's no carnavil ride that can compare to a boda-boda ride through downtown Kampala.

The busy city of Kampala.

I write this from the city of Kampala.

As I write I’m hearing some nice live saxophone music. It’s so relaxing!

Kampala is a nice city where one can find a variety of cafe’s, restaurants, shops and malls. I know nothing of golf but there appears to be a really nice golf course here too. I don’t have my own vehicle as yet so I take a 6 hour bus trip down to Kampala from Gulu and then to get around Kampala there’s always private hires, taxis and boda-bodas. The taxis (minivans) are the most economical but the bodas are faster and you can always negotiate the price. Bodas seem to be my choice in transportation. Besides there’s nothing like a boda-boda ride in the center of Kampala to get the adrenalin flowing.

Getting a Work Permit

These last few months have found me spending a lot of time travelling back and forth from Gulu to Kampala as I pursue my work permit application. This is a process I started last May and a process that I’ve been told should take about 45 days. It is now 11 months later and I am still waiting. It has been a long and involved process and the events and bureaucracy that have transpired makes for a very long story. I’ll spare you the details.

Learning to figure out the taxi service. It is the most economical way to get around Kampala.

Learning to figure out the taxi service. It is the most economical way to get around Kampala.

My permit though has been approved and I paid the required annually fee a couple of weeks ago but ran into a “bureaucratic snag” when I submitted my passport. Praise the Lord as this has now been cleared up. This is something that could have been a major problem.  I am now back in Kampala hoping to pick up the actual permit. It’s being printed I’m told and I hope to have it within the next day or two. Immigration has my passport so I’m not going far.

Project in the making.

Project in the making.

Tegot-a too Village Project

Work continues with the Tegot village project. We spent several weeks at the beginning of the year defining the program on paper.

After several group meetings and discussions..lots of discussions…we have defined the project’s objectives, determined membership requirements and established some rules and regulations in relationship to the project funds.

Project meeting

Project meeting

The goal is to eventually see this project become self-sustaintable and managed solely by the women members. We still have a way to go but we are making progress.

Members have elected project leaders, treasurers and signatories and we have set up rules on how project funds would be used and how each member will share in profits of sold quilts.

Ladies are starting to benefit

We have  also established “microfinance” loans through project funds. These are small loans that once a member has met eligibility they will be able to apply for one and use it towards paying school fees, medical cost, home repairs and for farming/agricultural needs. This is the part that took a lot of discussion and debate but members are now in the process of applying for a loan.

Practice piece completed by our Beginner group.

Practice piece completed by our Beginner group.

The way we have constructed the loans is that 50% of the interest repaid will go to a member’s individual savings account and the other half to the project’s account. In addition to loan interest, a percentage of the profit a member may earn from a sale will also go into their savings account. In everything that I have learned about microfinance loans it is always stressed the importance of encouraging a woman to save.

Another project in the making.

Another project in the making.

Training to train

I have asked the project trainers to travel to my home for additional training, a distant of about 20k plus or 12 to 15 miles, so thought it beneficial to purchase “Project” bicycles.

Since the trainers have to attend both weekly meetings and may live some distance from where we meet, plus are responsible for transporting the supplies to the meetings, the bicycles will be a great assistance to them.

Project trainers Josphine, Agnes and Pauline

Project trainers Josephine, Agnes and Pauline

We are always getting requests from women in other villages to bring the project to them so my hope is that one day these trainers will be proficient enough to travel to other villages and train these women.

The only problem with getting them bikes is in convincing the other members that I wasn’t showing favoritism and trying to convince everyone that in the end, all benefit from this arrangement.

Rules were established concerning the bicycles including a provision that states the bikes are for project business only, not for personal use and no non-member or family member is allowed to ride the bicycle. Each trainer signed a statement that states they will follow the rules. Some members still are not convinced that favoritism isn’t involved and there has already been violations of the rules.

Project Logo/Sign

Project Logo/Sign

The women are also continuing to work on quilts of various sizes, from wall hangings, table covers, bed covers and placemats. We are also designing some ladies’ bag and have what I believe will be a beautiful bed cover once completed.

I think there’s two or three projects still being worked on but most of the women are waiting for me to cut more projects for them to begin working on…and here I sit in Kampala! It is frustrating but I am using the time to do some administrative work ..and to update this blog…so not all is lost.

Will I ever speak Acholi?

As if my weeks weren’t busy enough I decided to add 2 hour language lessons, 3 times a week to my schedule. I feel though that this is very important as 99% of the women in the project do not speak English and my not speaking thorough Acholi is a hinderance. I was taking some informal lessons but now know I need more constructed lessons. I found a man who has been giving professional lessons and it is working out well, except I struggle in finding time to do the homework. It doesn’t help when power goes off in the evenings.

Completed! This would make a nice throw cover.

Completed! This would make a nice throw cover.

Good health and packages..what more could I ask!

I continue to praise God for the good health I experience. No malaria..no flu..and no stomach upsets in spite of the fact that I usually eat anything that’s put before me.

I also thank God in the way this ministry is blessed with the donations we receive in way of sewing supplies and for the recent “care” packages. I’ve had such goodies as Tootsie roll pops, crasins, and Trader Joe’s “GF” granola. Life has been good!! Thank You!

Fabric donation

We say thank you for all this lovely fabric.

Ladies displaying some of their "American" material they received.

Ladies displaying some of their “American” material they received.

Excited about the fabric.

Excited about the fabric

Thank you!!

Many of these items, such as quilt batting, hand sewing needles and rotary cutters/blades can not be purchased in Uganda..at least I haven’t found them yet. The supplies received are such a welcomed blessing and so grateful for your generosity and thoughtfulness.

In the last few months we received some fabric from America. Some of the fabric will be used towards our projects but a lot of it I shared with the ladies. They were so thankful for it and will use it to make skirts, shirts and dresses for themselves and children. I’ve seen a couple of cute little girl dresses from some of this material already.

We have also received a box of yarn and crochet hooks. The next goal is to teach some women to crochet. I have what looks to be very easy instructions for making a pullover shawl. These would be perfect for the women to wear in their gardens and farms on a cold morning.

Table runner and placemats

Table runner and placemats

Football anyone?

Casual game of football!

Casual game of football!

We took one day to have a football (which is soccer here) match between the beginner group and the intermediate group. I’m not sure which group I ended up in and it didn’t matter because I only lasted about 20 minutes before pulling a hamstring and was carried off the field! I’m not sure what I was thinking because I no nothing of playing soccer.

Soccer 2

We were at the school where the children were excited and surprised to see their moms chasing the ball around. The women were really enjoying themselves and having a great time. I was envious as I sat in agony on the sideline.

I thank you all for your prayers, your packages, and the many ways you show support of this ministry and for reading this update. You are all so important to me and to this project/ministry. God Bless!

The music I’ve been listening to has now switched to African music. I feel like dancing!!

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