Teaching in Gulu Uganda

Beverley and Janet’s Excellent African Adventure

It all began 8 years ago when my neighbour Toni Andrews arrived at Holy Crow Beads with boxes of paper beads. She and her husband, Rick had just returned from Gulu, a small town in northern Uganda.  While in Gulu, Toni had met a group of beaders who call themselves Lacan Kwite. (In Acholi, Lacan Kwite means “struggle out of poverty”.)
 For many years Northern Uganda had been the scene of the conflict with the Lord’s Resistance Army. The group first came together in an Internally Displaced Person camp. In the camps they had organized themselves to make and sell paper bead jewellery so they could afford to send their children to school. The conflict had taken a toll, leaving those remaining to care for large adopted families.
The Lacan Kwite was having a difficult time finding many buyers for their jewellery but Toni and Rick saw the potential for a wider market. The Andrews founded Paper Bead Works and began selling their jewellery under the name “Kwite Essential Beads”.

The Italian Aid Organization, AVSI, oversees the group and assists them with their business. In 2010 they had invited me to go to Gulu to provide the group with training sessions on beading techniques and design. Janet came with me and we had a very successful experience. They were very excited to receive our instruction and their work became interesting and creative.
Last winter I decided that it was time to review their work and develop new designs using the techniques they were now comfortable doing. I approached AVSI to see whether they would be able to give us the support we needed in Uganda. They agreed to give us the transportation that we needed, a translator, a facility, and meals for the 7 day course.
Janet and I were very excited to be able to be going back. Our departure in 2010 was an emotional one and it was wonderful to fulfill our promise of returning. We packed many small gifts from the dollar store for the women and t-shirts for the men. We had them printed with Canada, Uganda and Italia across the front and Kwite Essential Beads and Holy Crow Beads on the back. There are 8 men and 31 women in the group.
The biggest challenge is to get supplies to them. There is so little available to them in Uganda and if they are going to be able to make quality jewellery they need some basic materials. It is an expensive undertaking and so each time we take 2 large suitcases with beading supplies. I give a lot of thought to the type of project we will teach them. I want it to be something that they can be successful executing and also be able to take the design and make it their own.
I realized that in fact fabric is more readily available to them than paper and with the right tools they could be making fabric beads. They were very excited to receive these new tools and quickly went through many meters of fabric that we purchased at the local market. The new jewellery, which incorporates both the paper and the cloth beads, is really exceptional. The look is colourful and so unique.
We went to the Creative Show, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in October and were very successful. We can't wait to see what other reactions this jewellery might have. 
In June, 2013, we returned to Uganda to train the Lacan Kwite group for a third time, this time bringing the two Jenna's that once worked for me to assist us. This training session lasted two days, as it was primarily a review of past projects to master their techniques. Due to the success of training the Lacan Kwite, the Italian Aid organization requested that we train their large group of 200 beaders in Kampala, all of whom have been affected by the Lords Resistance Army, and suffer from HIV. We spent a week with them in Kampala. It was exhausting, but once again a success. 
For more information about this project you can contact me at info@holycrowbeads.com or go to www.paperbeadworks.com.

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