This is the Acholi Quarters Rock Quarry, where the women who make our jewelry used to spend long hours every day, pounding stones into gravel. On a good day they could bring home $1. Walking past it every day is a sobering reminder of how far we’ve come and how much work we have left to do.
This past weekend I took the leaders of our partner Co-op, NUPECA, on a leadership retreat to the shore of Lake Victoria. It was an incredible couple days. The goal was to give the leaders a space to cast a vision for NUPECA, and to take ownership of that vision and the organization. And did they ever.
They created a five-year vision that includes 100 members, four programs (including support for orphans and adult literacy) and a committment to innovation. Then we went to the zoo and got to pet rhinos. Great weekend.
I got some great news when I visited our Ugandan partners this morning. The co-operative that we helped them found, called NUPECA, just rented their first office space! They got a two room office on the main road through Acholi Quarters where they’ll be able to handle all of their projects. And as with most things Ugandan, it’s colorful!
Below, Christine and Otto, two of the co-op’s top leaders, stand by their new office.
On the back of a motorcycle again. A little one, whining its way through Kampala’s pock-marked streets. Small raindrops poke the opposite of sparks into my cheeks, my forehead, my closed eyelids. I am breathing.
A man that I just met is driving, a random stranger warding off the high-60s cold with a coat made for Alaska, who may or may not know where we are going. But I know. This is my seventh time to Uganda. I know where I’m going.
The Cokes this time in Acholi Quarters are room temperature. On hot days they are cold, sometimes with ice blocking the glass bottleneck. And on this cold day there are the Ugandan version of donuts, which look like fried dinner rolls and need the Coke to disolve them before swallowing.
There is smiling talk in Acholi, and laughter that I observe and appreciate but cannot share. And there is planning and checking of progress. Always checking progress. Always straining for more progress against the slow ironic calm of poverty.
But we are making it. We are far, far better than we were a year ago. So far that the past seems silly, a wonderland for the Alice of our family, with fantastical colors and bad surprises. And so much joy.
This year is going to be better yet and again. An exponent of previous years, an extreme makeover of an already beautiful world. This year the flower will bloom.
I lean and step down hills covered in the kind of mud that God makes when he blows his nose. Mud that sticks to things it never touches. My shoes collect the orange mud and keep it. It weighs them down. It makes them real. Everything I own is made real in this way, collecting the warm colors of Ugandan soil and bringing them into the American light.
Ugandan colors. American light. This year the flower will bloom.
The monthly rush to finish quality control and counting in time to ship out the latest order! The room looks roughly like DC after the recent snowstorm, except the snow is rainbow colored and made of paper.
We hit the ground running in Kampala. Full days of welcome parties, scouring Ugandan markets, and meeting with the co-op leadership to plan next steps. Enjoy the photos. More to come soon!