The past months have been full of colorful paper pearls for the teen girls who participate in FAIR Fund’s art therapy and economic empowerment program - JewelGirls - in Kampala, Uganda, where we share a space with the local youth shelter, UYDEL. It’s been two years since FAIR Fund’ program coordinator, Eve, flew all the way from Washington, D.C. to Uganda where she met many street involved and formerly trafficked girls. In Uganda, young girls from the rural areas are often lured into the capital city of Kampala by promises of work or education. Many are forced into domestic servitude and by the time they are teenagers, they are pushed out onto the streets where sex traffickers exploit them. I was inspired by Eve’s stories of economic empowerment and art therapy that shaped the programs FAIR Fund offers adolescent girls in Washington, D.C. , Serbia, and Russia, so I asked her to help me launch JewelGirls for teen girls in Uganda. Eve and I started out by bringing together some of the most vulnerable but strong girls I have ever met. These girls are mainly survivors of domestic servitude or sexual exploitation in local brothels. We began coming together each week to help the girls share their stories and gain strength as a group. Soon, I realized our new JewelGirls were ready to make change in their lives. So, we began to teach the girls how to create “paper pearls,” a growing eco-friendly trend in Ugandan art. Now, two years later, the Ugandan JewelGirls have created thousands of paper pearls in pinks, reds, yellows, whites, purples, blues, greens, and yellow, which have be sold in the U.S. The income helps the girls rebuild their lives and they depend on it. But the support they gain by being a part of FAIR Fund’s JewelGirls program is more than just an income, because we are a kind of family. Today, we have more than 50 girls in the Ugandan JewelGirls program, our youngest is 11 and our oldest is 21. All of the girls are creating a better life for themselves, paper pearl by paper pearl. This summer, one graduate of our JewelGirls program, Aldrine, joined us as a part-time staff person of FAIR Fund. Warmly, Regina Kacwamu, Programs Manager, Uganda
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