Monday, March 15, 2010

Roadtrip to Gulu!

Last week I needed some girl time as well as a distraction - Tom had left for the US on Sunday and I was faced with an empty apartment just at a time when I didn't feel like being alone.  Just in time, my friend Kate from Lawrence, who has lived in Kampala for the last three years, invited me to accompany her on a trip up to Gulu, in Northern Uganda.  Gulu District shares a border with Sudan, and is most well known for the insurgent fighting by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which caused over 90% of the population to be displaced, leading to the establishment of scores of IDP camps where rural peoples, sometimes entire communities, have taken refuge and attempted to carry on with life.  In the last couple of years the violence has lessened, and families are beginning to leave the IDP camps to return to their villages in rural areas.  At the same time, the town of Gulu is awash in development and aid organizations that have moved in as the violence has reduced - I was a little weirded out by the quantity of white development professionals I would see just walking down the street! You have to understand, there are very few white people in Mbale, so when I see one here in Mbale I generally find myself staring at him or her as if they were an alien (and this is when I myself complain incessantly about feeling like an alien living here :) ).


Besides wanting to get out of town, see Gulu (now that it is safe to travel there), and spend some time with Kate, I was really excited to see the women tailor group that Kate works with through her business Awava.  Kate has been working with a group of women tailors, some of them from the IDP camps, for a couple of years now to develop and produce beautiful bags and accessories (even men's ties!) made out of African wax-print cloth.

Can you say Amazing Women! I accompanied Kate on her visits to the tailors in the market stall where they work and also sell products and cloth.  It was truly impressive to hear Lucy, the head tailor, talk about everything she has learned in the last couple of years, all of the skills she has developed in training other women how to sew, how she is able to pay school fees; things are still hard, she and everyone else are still struggling to survive, but the work she does for Awava, and the other opportunities that have come out of that work, are helping little by little.

Check out Awava's website and see the cool work that the seamstresses in Gulu are doing, as well as the cool ways that Awava is supporting their livelihoods and improving working conditions.  Help support these amazing women - the products are awesome, so go ahead and order some! (Order Awava Products!)

I actually didn't take many photos of Gulu itself, but I did take some on the drives there and back from Kampala, because really, who can resist baboons on the side of the road?

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