I have recently been humbled by the privledge to get to know twenty of this community’s women on a very personal level. Juliette was a prositute, sneaking quietly away from her home after her children had fallen asleep and selling her body to be able to put some food on the tabel for them in the morning. Veronica was brewing alcohol as a quick way to make money to support her children, one of whom was litterally dying of starvation. On days when alcohol didn’t sell, she would bring the mash that it is made from home to her family and they would swallow it until they fell asleep. She was making her children drunk so that they were unable to feel the pains of hunger. Todi, widowed after her third child was born, had recently taken in her sister’s five children after her sudden death. “What was my choice?” she asked when explaining the situation to me. “God says I look after the orphans, I look after the orphans.” The of them sleep together on the floor in a home about half the size of my giant kitchen table. Jja Jja Maria looks afer her three grandchildren thought she can barely walk due to severe back pain. Kasifa only has use of one arm as a result of polio when she was younger but uses her one good arm to pick through the trash for some food for her 6 children. They each have a story that would blow your mind.
About 8 months ago, I gathered this group of women in the local mud-and-stick church. All different tribes. All different ages. All different hardships. They had one thing in common: they were all trying to support their families and feed their children and they were not succeeding. And they all had stolen my heart. With the help of some sweet friends, I began teaching them how to make these recycled-paper bead necklaces that are all the rage in Uganda. We spent the first few months just getting to know eachother as we learned, crying with eachother when someone announced that their HIV test had come back positive and laughing with eachother when someone made an awfully mishapen bead. And through this porcess something happened that is incredibly rare in this slum community: we became friends.