The LifeStitches project, www.lifestitches.org, began in 2008 in collaboration with the Ministry of Health Regional Hospital Prevention Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) program in Arua, Uganda. This is an economic empowerment project for HIV positive pregnant women and mothers with the goal being twofold. The first goal is to teach sewing skills and enable the women to earn income for themselves. The second goal is to enable these mothers to combat the AIDS- related stigma which they face on a daily basis in their communities and which is a major barrier to enrollment in the PMTCT medical programs ...an HIV positive pregnant women's only chance to prevent the spread of their HIV infection to their unborn infant.
A small sewing workshop adjacent to the Maternal and Child Health PMTCT program building on the Regional Hospital grounds is being built with donor funds and the mother’s own contribution from their sewing profits. This construction has taken place on land donated by the hospital in stages as funding became available and will finally reach completion in September 2010. The workshop members have worked in the interim out of borrowed space in the hospital laundry pending the completion of their building. Electric and pedal sewing machines, electric and charcoal irons are the mainstay equipment. Two tailors in the hospital laundry have collaborated their efforts to train and assist the mothers.
A train- the- trainer program was conducted in fall 2008 by the project director and the production of high quality cotton table products was accomplished in the following two months by the approximately twenty PMTCT mothers(now fifty mothers are skilled). The product market includes sales to a high end African Crafts store, Banana Boat in Kampala the Uganda capital and to private “napkin party “ markets in the US. Orders to Banana Boat are difficult to keep filled , napkins have ‘sold out’ the past two years in the US. More adept and skilled mothers mentor and teach the less skilled mothers. Mothers are hard working, eager, quick to learn the skills and have mastered their own systems of management and reimbursement.
This past year, mothers have begun classes by a local micro finance institution trained instructor in entrepreneurship. In September 2010, the project will be ready to move into the completed workshop/sewing school space, operate full capacity, and expand domestic and US markets. Perhaps most exciting, it is ready to open a “back door “ to the workshop with micro loans to mothers ready now to start their own sewing business in their respective villages. Enrolment began at 20 mothers it is now about 50 mothers with working training space being the rate limiting factor.
Future planned activities for the project in 2010-2011 (which will be supported by US volunteers who wish to co direct these ventures with the workshop mothers) include : (1) Establish an entrepreneur training and support program, the "back door" for women ready to start their own business. This will entail giving the mothers their own pedal sewing machine and purchasing their napkins back for resale.... the mothers will repay the loan with their napkin profits and with in kind teaching time to new members of the workshop; (2) Expand the workshop production capacity with local Ugandan contracts... school uniforms, hospital scrubs, factory workers uniforms, etc;
(3) Open a boutique knitting shop with products destined to the western markets (4) Develop a high end quilt workshop using the scraps from the napkin fabric cuts, a collaboration with US quilters.
LifeStitches project owes is growing development and sucess to two factors: the wonderful energetic, intelligent hard working PMTCT mothers in Uganda and to our many donors and volunteers who believe in the importance and potential of this empowerment project.
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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
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