When we first met the women in Uganda they were in a rundown building behind an AIDS clinic that had been established to help fight against the virus that had ravaged through the country for years. This particular clinic was helping to support all the local villages. The women, many of whom were displaced, widowed and themselves stricken with the HIV virus, were sitting on mats strewn about on the exposed dirt floors. The building (which hardly was a building) looked like it was in a state of disrepair. Exposed brick on walls that had not been finished, no windows or doors, dirt floors with no seating and the women had even piled bricks up in a heap to serve as stairs in and out of the building. We learned that building was not falling down but it was actually a start up that had run out of funds to finish. It now served as a make shift place for the women to come and meet together to make their beaded jewelry. It was a place of comfort for them as they came together and shared with each other their hardships, needs and dreams for their children. It was indeed a rundown dilapidated structure, but a necessary place of refuge for them.
We knew as they became increasingly excited about the possibilities of starting a new business with us making beads for footwear that we could not leave the building in the current state it was in. So before one new bead for shoes was ever rolled we started the process of repairing the building. We finished the walls completely and plastered and painted them to a beautiful finish. We had doors and windows installed and a new concrete floor was laid which included a proper foundation and steps in and out of the building. The roof was completed and we had made (by hand!) new tables and chair for them to sit on…no more sitting dirt floors!
Our first meeting back with them after the building was finished was wonderful… much singing and dancing by the women. It filled our hearts to see them so happy and grateful. At the same time we were humbled that in our minds such a simple and common (to us) act had meant so much to them.
Over the next two years since the Buyamba Women’s Resource building was finished the women met daily there to work on beads, fellowship together, share their heartaches and hopes for a better future. Many were still being treated for the HIV virus at the clinic next door. The building served as a place of refuge and hope for the women and their children.. That is why when we got the news earlier this year that the building was needed for the expansion of the aids clinic it hit us hard. We knew that the AIDS clinic had been very successful in the treating of people with the virus and was helping to educate many about the spread of the disease and how to stop it. However, the successful treatment of many people helped to spread the word through the villages and the need to help more people has grown so fast that more space was needed to help fight this dreaded illness. We knew that we had no choice but the building would have to be turned over and donated back to the clinic to help others. We were heartbroken for the women as we knew the resource center meant so much to them… but at the same time we were encouraged that the HIV virus was being successfully treated and more people were gaining access to help at the clinic..
What can you do in these types of situations? The answer to us was very clear… we had to build them a new resource center… We are proud to announce the construction of the NEW Buyamba Women’s Resource Center currently under construction.. We are excited this project and even more excited that the women in Uganda, that make our beautiful beads, will now once again have a place they can call their own. Our message hasn’t changed…. our vision continues to be about restoring HOPE for many that were without hope…Hope changes everything….. Pass it on!