I want to start this post of with a throw back photo from my time in Uganda, with a wonderful young woman I met and lived with while I was there. Her name is Melissa, and she was such a blessing to me in such a time of change, inspiration and healing. She is the one who gave me my first set of knitting needles, introduced me to M. Ward and one of my favorite books of all time, Walking on Water, by Madeline L'Engle. So many of my wonderful memories of Uganda involve Melissa. One of my favorites was the time we met this amazing man named Samuel, who had escaped the LRA as a child. He took us all the way out into the Northern Ugandan bush to look for a tiny village, where we would try to find Betty's grand mother, on the back of a very tiny motorcycle. That was one of the most beautiful and awe inspiring moment of my life, riding on the back of that motorcycle, going so fast through such tall grass, Melissa holding on to me and me holding on to Samuel for dear life.
Here she is in the home of one of the ladies we worked with, rolling and sorting beads. Melissa is one of those people whose love is tangible. I could see intensity in which loved these Ugandan women by how much time she would spend simply being with them, quietly enjoying the presence of another person, having a sense of silent camaraderie. Melissa stayed in Uganda for quite some time after I left, more than a year. Her now husband, Joe, came to join her, and they were later married over looking the Nile river. She and Joe are now leading up their own endeavorers empowering Ugandan women to support themselves and their families through crafting gorgeous hand made accessories. I am so proud of what she is doing, and inspired beyond words.
I am so excited to share with you, new readers, this Pretty and Fair post.
K: When did fair trade become important to you? How did that effect
your life and the way you viewed your purchasing power?
M: Fair Trade became important to me after my first trip to Uganda in 2007. I saw people working so hard to make enough money to barely get by each month. After realizing this I started researching different groups that were making fair trade items that I would usually buy from a big chain store. I started feeling better about my purchases and hoped that this would help me be a better steward of my resources.
K: How did that evolve into starting a business empowering women in Uganda?
M: After my second trip to Uganda it really became clear to me that there was a huge need for young women to receive jobs. Especially young women who were going to school for tailoring. The tailoring market in Jinja, Uganda is completely saturated - which means recent tailoring school graduates were unable to get enough work to provide for their families let alone help them have the opportunity to grow in their work environment. I began forming relationships with these young women and their families and it was obvious that I had to do something.
K: What are your dreams for Tukula, where do you want it to go?
M: I love the small family group we have with the Ladies in Uganda I would love to grow it but to also connect other small family groups of women around the world. My dream is to work with about 40 women from different countries - connecting them with each other and also with international markets so that they can provide for themselves and their families. I get really excited when I think about Sally (tukula tailor) connecting with a lady in Thailand who may also make bags. I think connecting the consumer with the artisan who makes their product is so important but connecting artisans around the globe... I can't stop smiling about that.
K: How has developing relationships with the Tukula artisans impacted you?
M: I can't imagine life without Bennah, Esther, Sally, Susan, Lydia, and their families. They have taught me a lot about courage, determination, and joy - which I hope to pass on to others.
K: Is your favorite Ugandan dish still "Small Fish". I could not bear to eat it while I was there but I think I might enjoy it now...
M: Haha oh small fish! It definitely doesn't taste as horrible as it smells...but yes I would say that it is one of my favorite ugandan dishes as long as it is served in g-nut sauce!
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1. Check out the shop and come back to comment on your favorite item.
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Please make sure to comment with each entry. A winner will be picked at random by next Friday. Good luck! And Thanks again to Melissa and the ladies of Tukula.
thanks for reading,