In a country like Uganda where there is massive graduate unemployment, the need to have practical skills cannot be emphasized enough. The girls are engaged and actively participate in a number of vocational projects, and the products are consumed at home, sold to meet local demand, and are even sold abroad. All the girls, irrespective of age, are mobilized to participate in a variety of vocational activities.
The integration of skills development programs at Grace Villa was also driven by the need to create a sustainability and income generation aspect into the running of the project affairs. It fast became apparent that Grace Villa could not exist in the capacity we wished by simply fundraising.
Another wonderful side effect of our skills development programs is, the girls are empowered by the knowledge that they contribute to paying part of their own school fees! The following are enterprises that have been borne out of skilling the girls.
The Kikazi Tailoring Project
When we found it expensive to dress and buy uniforms for our 100 plus children, we brought in a tailor to teach the girls how to make our own. This took on a life of its own and has grown into a fullfledged profit making clothing and accessory line called Kikazi. Kikazi is now a part of the growing fashion industry in Uganda. Kikazi is currently Grace Villa’s most successful income generating project.
The girls make beautiful, unique pieces with a touch of African kitenge cloth print. Examples are laptop bags, table mats, jewelry, sandals, we cover pillows and even chairs, design clothes. We do not want people to buy things just because vulnerable children made them. So we stress quality and creativity. As a result, our product is beautifully made, stylish and sought after.
In addition, the girls make their own uniforms and clothes, bed sheets and bed covers, pillows and accessories for our home, as well as reusable sanitary pads. Kikazi tailoring project runs on eight sewing machines and a variety of tailoring equipment and furniture
Production and marketing of mats made out of local material like reeds. Mats are popular in homes, for beach outings, picnics and outdoor events. We are happy to see this age old tradition being passed down to our girls by the lovely, patient Teacher Mary.
The girls collect the reeds and leaves, dry them, then weave them into various designs and sizes. As of the end of 2018, the production capacity was one mat per week. We plan to step up production this year, as well as create new designs like Yoga mats.
All the equipment was donated by Airtel Uganda to the project in 2017. Airtel was brought to our home by our supporter Canon Bruce Kyerere
Grace Villa received a generous donation of a commercial coal/wood burning oven from Airtel Uganda. We were already baking, having been taught by volunteer Priscilla Mugerwa of Cilla’s Oven in Kampala. She spent a little over a week with the girls imparting baking skills. The new oven stepped it up from home consumption to commercial status.
Today, the girls bake cakes and cookies that are sold at Kwanzi. Production is up to 200 cookies and 5 assorted cakes per week.
The girls grow sweet potatoes, irish potatoes, beans, maize, cabbage, egg plants, avocado, guava, vegetables and herbs. Most of the peripheral spaces in the compound and sports field have also been harnessed as vegetable, herb and fruit gardens. These are now reliable sources of food for the girls. We sometimes even have extra harvest that we either sell or give away to someone less fortunate.
Music, Dance & Drama
We are steadily developing the talents of our girls so that in future they can also eke out a living through these performing arts. Throughout 2018 the girls in our care, protection and providence worked hard to hone their skills. They are now proficient in most of the traditional dances of the region.
As a result, we received several exciting invitations for the girls to perform at events through the year. One of these was an invitation to perform on the Milege World Music Stage in Entebbe.
They performed so well that one of the attendees sponsored a recording session for them at the National Theater in Kampala! So the following week, the girls traveled for a recording session with one of Uganda’s top producers, of our 3 beautiful songs “Kangyerengyere”, “Emicwe” and “Ziririre”.
All 3 songs are based on folk tales, creatively evoking nostalgia among the old, while intriguing the young listener. A beautiful way of preserving our heritage.