Sunday, October 11, 2009

Meet Florence

Searching for the right tailors was more challenging than I’d expected. We spent an entire day popping in and out of the shops that made up the marketplace labyrinth. Row after row, kids played and women chatted over the tickering hum of their sewing machines. I appointed myself the official headhunter and quality control inspector. The objective: to commission five tailors and then pick one or two based on their final products—a one-size-fits-all wrap skirt and a small, simple handbag.

I’ve hired quite a few people over the years, but strangely this felt more like interviewing a babysitter rather than an employee. I mean that in the best of ways. Finished seams, button holes, and zipper pockets became secondary to discerning whom I’d entrust to teach our precious girls. I was unexpectedly protective, even a bit concerned; that is, until I met Florence. Her gentle disposition eliminated my worries. I thought her sweet temperament would be a perfect asset and I could easily picture her working with the girls at the house.

I asked Florence to make me three wrap skirts, each with a slightly different design. She did a super job. After explaining the POH/TI project, she also agreed to teach our girls the basics of tailoring with the wrap skirts being one of their first real design projects. This is set to commence in the next month or two. Whether Florence will stay on indefinitely or works with the girls just long enough to teach the basics, I don’t know. We’ll have to see what works best for everyone. Regardless, I’m happy that we found her and I’m eager to work alongside her in just a few short weeks.

If you are interested in supporting the girl’s training as well as Florence’s small business, you can order one of her skirts for $35.00.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sarah's Story

Sarah’s Story

*Sarah was abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army in Northern Uganda while collecting firewood for her family. At the age of 13, she was forced to be a sex slave, or as the LRA euphemistically calls it—a "bride". As Sarah recounted her story, she told me how grieved she was to learn that the soldier she was given to had two other wives. This meant she was guilty of polygamy. She explained how prior to her abduction; she was a virgin and "inexperienced in such wifely duties". The soldier would severely beat her after sex for not pleasing him properly. He once beat her so badly that two other soldiers came to her aid. They told him to be patient and show her what to do rather than beating her. "For this," she said, I was very grateful."

One night, opposing forces opened fire on their camp. During the ensuing chaos Sarah managed to escape and fled into the bush. She was met by another abductee and together they cautiously trekked across Northern Uganda back to Sarah’s home village.

Upon reaching her hut, she discovered her entire family was dead save for the “auntie” that refused to take her back. Sarah was told she was now "ruined" and would bring shame to the family name and community. Looking for a place to sleep, she went into town where a group of teenage girls took her in and fed her for a few days before insisting she start earning her keep.

Starving, rejected, and already “ruined”, Sarah believed her only choice was to sell her body if she wanted to live. After several months of prostitution, she no longer cared to. She swallowed some batteries and a handful of aspirin hoping the amount of acid would be fatal. Thankfully it wasn't.

Sarah met Pauline, a POH counselor, last year and was recently selected to move into The Total Impact House. Every day for the past year she would think, “Unless Pauline tells me it’s all a lie and no one cares about helping us…until then, I will choose to believe someone really is building this home and there’ll be a place for me to go.” When Sarah and I met this past September, I got the chance to tell her how much people do care and how proud I was of her for holding out hope. She is an amazing example of triumph over tragedy and she ended our exchange by saying, "I now see why I wasn't allowed to die."

*Her name has been changed to protect her identity.