Sewing Skills in Uganda

My parents, Christopher and Jane Sturdy, have recently returned from a visit to some young people who are learning new sewing skills in Uganda.  I thought you might be interested in their trip and the story of their visit.  They have belonged to a Worcestershire based charity for over 30 years called FOAG (Farmers Overseas Action Group) that works in Uganda helping farmers and in the sponsorship of the education of poor and disabled children and young adults.
Sewing Skills in Uganda
I wanted to find out more about their trip so asked them some questions:
What takes you to Uganda on a regular basis and where do you visit?
We have always enjoyed seeing the ‘results on the ground’, in meeting the individuals that have been helped and the inspiring locals who run the care homes (mainly Leonard Cheshire Homes), schools and technical colleges and farming projects supported by FOAG.  These are mostly in rural locations in eastern Uganda, such as Jinja, Mbale, Soroti, and the delightfully named Nkokonjeru.

Why did you choose to support the FOAG charity?

We had both done VSO in the ’60’s and have always been interested in overseas development work.  As farmers ourselves, we became involved with FOAG in the ’80’s.  The charity was founded by Worcestershire farmers in response to the famous Michael Burke reports of the devastating famine in Ethiopia.

Who do you meet when you visit?

We visit sites where FOAG is helping in agricultural projects and meet young disabled Ugandans supported through secondary and tertiary education by FOAG donors.  Being physically disabled and poor in Uganda is a serious problem, because without an education, prospects are very limited.  The aim is to equip them with a qualification, either vocational or professional, enabling them to support themselves.

This year you took some of our Liberty fabric with you for the tailoring students. Please tell us more!

We visited farmers, Cheshire Homes and many young sponsored students, some in secondary schools and others at Technical College and University.  Two of these students, Doreen and Helen have been helped through sewing and tailoring courses to become teachers.  They loved receiving the brightly coloured Liberty fabrics donated by Alice Caroline, especially because we also took some paper dress patterns, which they had never used before.

Doreen was born 1990 with a club foot; her family took her to Butiru Cheshire Home in Eastern Uganda where the Little Sisters of Mary help children with disabilities to have corrective surgery.  She attended the local primary school (which is free in Uganda) but went on to receive sponsorship from FOAG’s UK donors through her secondary education (which is not state funded).  Doreen was always interested in sewing and tailoring and the sponsorship continued allowing her to complete a two year course in Tailoring Mbale Technical College.  She has now moved to an advanced tailoring course at the Alpha Training School, Kumi.  The students learn the skills of creating their own paper patterns using a tape measure and inches, tackling really complicated items such as jackets and trousers.

Doreen (cream blouse) with friends at the Alpha Training School, Kumi

Sewing Skills in Uganda

Doreen’s dream is to teach tailoring and to own her own sewing machine. During her holidays from College she would like to rent a space in the market in Busio (her home town) and set up a stall with the sewing machine, to make and repair clothes. She would like to generate enough income to help her siblings, who have had to leave school due to lack of funds.  If you would like to help FOAG buy the sewing machine for Doreen then please contact [email protected] and we can send the details.  We can imagine Doreen’s ecstatic delight if this were to happen – we have known her for many years!

Helen (in hand-cranked wheelchair below) at the St Francis Rehabilitation Centre, Soroti, (one of the homes supported by FOAG) where Sister Margaret Awar (behind Helen) has set up a knitting machine business, making jumpers for different schools, helping to generate income for the Rehabilitation Centre.

Sewing Skills in Uganda

Helen, who is now 33, contracted polio as a child. She was rescued from very impoverished circumstances by the Sisters, who gave her a home and supported her through education and eventual training to become a teacher of sewing and tailoring. She is now employed by the home and passes on these skills to other students, to a very high standard. Helen spoke with pride about her ability to earn an income, giving her the means to set up home in the nearby village and pay for the education of her daughter.

What were the highs and lows of your trip this year?

Highs: to see the life-changing benefits of educational sponsorship to disadvantaged children and (now) young people. Lows: the huge unmet need, that is ever-growing along with the Ugandan population.

Some rather beautiful Frangipani flowers from the gardens.

Sewing Skills in Uganda

If you would like to know more about the FOAG charity then you can view their website here.

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