Kelly and the Necklace Ladies
Blog archive: Kampala, Uganda, December, 2010
In 2010 Kelly and Mark returned to Uganda to see the completed water projects and meet with the ladies we supported with our fair trade venture. This is the blog post from the visit:
Today was a special day as Kelly was able to meet for the first time the ladies who she has been helping with the paper necklace fundraiser we started a few years ago. This group of ladies all met at the Mildmay AIDS hospital in Kampala and while they were there receiving their treatment they were taught skills that would allow them to earn a living for them and their children when they left the hospital. They were taught a few craft skills including how to make these beautiful necklaces out of recycled paper. For the past several years they have been making these necklaces and supporting their families. Most of the women are widows and all have children – most between 5- 8 children each. One woman had to have her arm amputated but she is still able to roll each individual bead using her own technique. Kelly and I were ordering necklaces through them – usually several hundred at a time, at fair trade prices. They would package and ship them to us and we would sell them and provide proceeds of the sales to Rotary who would match each dollar we raised and use that money to build the water projects we saw earlier
Usually their booth at the hospital is only open 2 days a week but our schedule for the week didn’t allow us to be there on either of those days so they all came together and opened their shop and brought out their best products just for us. They showed Kelly what they had been working on and even walked her through the process of how they make each individual bead. It was amazing to see the craftsmanship and the pride in which they put into their work. They were thrilled that we were there and each of them took the time to thank us for helping them sell so many of their products for them. Then we learned that things have changed recently at the Mildmay hospital and it was rare that they had guests come anymore so it was a challenge for them to sell their products so any help we could bring would have a huge impact on them. We couldn’t take many home since importing rules did not allow large quantities so Kelly picked a few dozen samples of different styles they had introduced for necklaces, bracelets and more so we could decide what ones we might carry.
They decided to give a name to each style so when we order they can know exactly which style we were referring to. One of the new styles had amazing, large beads easily 4 times the size of their traditional beads. The head of the group looked at Mark, standing tall at almost 6’5” and said they will call these beads Salongo – his African name. We all had a good laugh and it served as a reminder the impact we were having on them.