Up until now, we got to play “tourist”. But starting thursday, we got into the “real” work. We went to the soap workshop on thursday morning and were greeted by one of the girls, Paullah. When she saw my mom, she gave her a big hug and started sobbing with gratitude and joy. Last year she had a difficult pregnancy and my mom payed for her to get a c-section. This saved both her and her son’s life, and her two older kids were spared a life as orphans. Seeing her with her kids was so humbling and encouraging.
The soap workshop is in a nicer neighborhood, what would be considered middle class. The rooms are very small (ca. 9m²/90ft²), but there is electricity and running water, and the building is on a well-protected property with an enclosed court yard.
Each of us had different tasks, all to get the workshop in good condition and to help the women market their soap: some folded packaging envelopes, some worked on the nursery for the working moms, some got to work on a pallet shelf. This work stretched over the course of both days.
I spent the first morning painting a little mural in the kid’s room. It was fun to do something that could be “just” fun. And in the afternoon, the pallets were delivered. Unfortunately some of them were chemically treated instead of heat treated. This should be avoided wherever possible, since the chemicals are poisonous. But we worked with what we had. The workshop needs storage more than anything right now, so a sturdy shelf became top priority. We took apart about 6 of the “bad” pallets for this, because the beams would not come in contact with much else than storage boxes. One thing I noticed is that the kids in the courtyard were anxious to get the wood scraps to play with. I even had to distribute the scraps evenly, because they were fighting over them. They clearly have very few toys or “things to do”. I hope their situation improves as their moms become more sucessful.
The next day we were “on duty” from 7AM to 7PM. We went to the craft market where the women sell their soap once a week. They have a pretty small, spot, behind a wall and toward the very end of the market place. But even in that location, we were able to help them improve their display: We got them a table runner and some small baskets in an “African” style. We also had clear boxes to display the soap in and packing envelopes. And by the early afternoon, we could get them a fold-up tent custom-made (that’s normal, here). I was only at the market for the morning, but I could already see how some people were buying soap. I hope the girls were sucessful!
While they were at the market, I and a few others continued work on the pallet shelf. My throat hurts from the contaminated wood-dust, my legs are sore, and it’s still not done. We still need to add crossbeams and all the shelf boards. But I am happy: it’s mostly finished. I enjoyed working with the men and women there. I taught them how to use power tools so they can build things on their own. Later I heard that one of the neighbors was shocked that a girl would be teaching men how to do a “man’s job”. It is indeed not common here for girls to build furniture. And it’s even less common that men would let a women teach them about it. So I was a teacher, and I was proud of my students. I also liked their attitude: When I made a mistake, they would not roll their eyes because of the imperfection. Insted, they would just smile and say “There’s room for error”. Uganda is not a country of perfectionists, and I like that!
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