General Category

Favorite Photo Friday

Posted May 14, 2012 in General


Mother’s Day is just around the corner and we have some amazing mothers here at Mend! Meet one of our newest seamstresses Margret and her beautiful daughter, Lanyero Gloria.

Flying high: Mend visits a ropes course

Posted May 14, 2012 in General

Mend | Recreation Center from Mend on Vimeo.

Recently, the ladies at Mend stepped out of their comfort zone and into a series of zip lines, climbing walls and critical thinking games. As a teambuilding exercise, they participated in various ropes course activities facilitated by The Recreation Project, an organization that uses the fun experience of a ropes course to teach “the important life-skills and character-building skills needed to navigate a new landscape that for decades has been defined by war and conflict.” Through the activities, the women learned principles like teamwork, planning, creative problem solving, and building self-confidence.

“Planning is vital,” Aber Rose decided after carefully making her way through the spider web low-ropes challenge. “Before this experience, I used to not value planning. I would instead buy what I did not plan for.”

They also learned that their actions can affect others beyond themselves, whether family members or the other seamstresses at Mend. All of the women took hold of the same rope, and one pulled hard on the end. The rest were asked to describe how they felt the effect of that one person’s pull.

“Through the hard pull; I noticed that anything harsh you do directly or indirectly affects people around you,” Amono Lily said.

Whether it was overcoming their fears to step off the zip line, building the confidence to climb a wall, or navigating a spider web of ropes, the women had a great time and are already looking forward to their next trip to The Recreation Project. Watch the video to see the ladies flying high on the zipline!

Seamstress of the Month: Lamwaka Milka

Posted April 5, 2012 in General

Sitting at her sewing machine, Lamwaka Milka sings along to the radio playing local tunes, engaging in lighthearted conversation with the other seamstresses and bursting into laughter when she finds the song lyrics funny.

Early in the morning when the staff at Mend arrive to open the office, it’s not uncommon for them to find Milka already there, waiting to start work. Since she currently has no transport, she wakes up early to walk the three kilometers to Mend, determined never to be late. Even when she isn’t feeling well, she will make the effort to show up anyway. Her strong commitment made her the perfect choice for Seamstress of the Month.

“She has that interest in her work, she always tries her best to come,” says Richard, the Tailoring Supervisor.

Milka also takes pride in the work she does. For her, the happiest moments are when she gets to see the bags she made pass quality inspection. She is careful to learn from her mistakes, improving with each bag she makes.

“Mend is really a good place of work, because you are going to learn many things,” Milka explains how she describes Mend to her friends. “There are many good things taking place at Mend.”

With the money she earns she is planning to put her four children and younger sister through school. That’s a lot of responsibility for one woman, and this month Milka has saved up for a well-deserved gift to herself: a bicycle to make that morning commute easier.

Land matters

Posted March 19, 2012 in General

After enduring the stigma of returning to their communities as former LRA abductees, the Mend ladies have been working to rebuild their lives and find a sense of home. So far two have chosen to buy their own plots of land, inspiring the rest to make plans for one day owning their own property and further establishing their sense of belonging.

“Although legal constraints to women’s land ownership [in Uganda] were eliminated in the new Constitution, women are not always aware of their rights and cultural practices inhibit their access to land.”

This was from a UN publication in 2002. Ten years later, many women are still not sufficiently educated on their rights and ability to own property, and the ladies at Mend were no different. At least until this month, when the Mend staff brought in a lawyer from Great Lakes Center for Conflict Resolution (GLACCR) to conduct a two day training on land ownership.

“I want to buy land for the children that I had while in captivity, since they won’t have any land from their father,” Laker Lucy explained. “In this training I learned how to carry out a preliminary survey before buying land, and how to protect my rights once I own it.”

Lucy, who has now spent 8 months with Mend, plans to purchase her own land in the next two years. She is now armed with the knowledge to exercise her rights and make that dream a reality.

Growing Mend

Posted March 5, 2012 in General

Step 3: Buying New Equipment

Shopping for new sewing machines should be easy, right?

Well. It can be, but not always. Especially when shopping in a developing country like Uganda.

Last year, when five new seamstresses joined the Mend family we sourced their brand new genuine (Juki brand) sewing machines in Kampala…or so we thought!

When the machines reached the Mend center in Gulu – a strenuous five-hour journey from Kampala – we were a little surprised when three of the machines arrived in unmarked boxes. Still, as we took the machines out of the boxes we saw the trusty Juki logo, but Richard, our tailoring supervisor immediately identified that the logo, as well as actual motor and parts, were counterfeits.

This year, as we sourced six more Juki machines for the new seamstresses, we were much more cautious. So Richard traveled to Kampala to inspect the machines and low and behold, more counterfeits. Luckily, he was able to source a new provider that promised to supply genuine machines within one week. A week later Richard was back in Kampala and to our surprise he confirmed that the six brand new Juki sewing machines were genuine. What a relief.

In Uganda, counterfeits are common and we’ve found our fair share of them, but we’re committed to doing what it takes to make sure the seamstresses have the equipment they need because we know how much a sewing machine can change their life.

Thanks to you, we have six new sewing machines for the six new seamstresses. What an accomplishment.

Messages to your Seamstresses

Posted March 5, 2012 in General

Mend is all about seaming a personal connection between a product, its maker and consumers to form beautiful relationships between people on opposite sides of the world. Each bag carries the name and story of the woman who made it. By purchasing a bag, you have a powerful opportunity to change a life. By sending a personal message through you can send encouragement and hope to your seamstress. Your words of thanks empower the ladies to work hard and dream big.

Watch as the Mend seamstresses hear personal messages of appreciation from the people who bought their bags.

Send a message to your seamstress at mend.coWe’ll make sure they get each and every message.

Betty’s Bricks

Posted February 23, 2012 in General

Betty is building a house. A brick house.

Her family owns five acres of land where they keep a cow and grow cassava. She grew up on that plot of land until the rebel activity in the 1980s forced her family to relocate. For 20 years they were displaced, only returning in 2007 when the LRA had left the region.

Currently, Betty’s family is living in huts. The yearly renovation required for upkeep of the huts has been costly, and it has become more challenging for her to find the grass she needs for the roofs.

The solution, Betty decided, was to build a house. The new house she is planning will have six rooms, where she and her mother and brothers can comfortably live.

“Making bricks is one step,” says Betty. Once she finishes the 20,000 bricks she needs for the house, she’ll still need to buy cement and other materials.

To defray those costs, she has plans to continue brick making so that she can sell the bricks for a profit. She has also been able to employ young local men to help her, benefitting not only her own family, but the community as well.

Betty is a woman with lofty goals and a plan for reaching them!

Growing Mend

Posted February 20, 2012 in General

Step 2: The Practical Interview

After the first interviews, we had the difficult task of narrowing down the twenty candidates and only invite ten back to show us their sewing skills.

It wasn’t easy.

In fact, based on their experience, tailoring knowledge and vulnerability we decided to invite eleven back to the Mend center.

Although all the seamstresses at Mend now work on electric sewing machines, they are not commonly used by tailors in northern Uganda. This meant setting up five pedal sewing machines for the ladies to show off their talent. Once the six new seamstresses are chosen to join Mend, they’ll receive in-depth training on the electric machines.

During the practical interviews each lady was asked to make a bag within a set time and all of them exceeded our expectations! Making it even more difficult to select the top six.

Thanks to your purchase, we hope to add the remaining five before the end of the year.

Saving pays off

Posted February 16, 2012 in General

The ladies at Mend love to borrow money.

Almost as much as they love to save it.

Last Saturday afternoon the Mend family was at the center and the air was filled with rhythms of music from the radio. It was the weekend, and they weren’t there for work, they were there to celebrate the hard-earned interest on their savings over the past ten months. On a monthly basis, the ladies meet to pool a small portion of their incomes to provide each other with access to small low-interest loans. These loans have provided an opportunity for them to start small businesses on the side, like selling produce in the market, and over time they pay back the loan with interest.

At the end of the savings period, they met together to divide that interest among themselves, based on how much each had saved. Like a Hollywood awards ceremony, each seamstress’s name was announced and she came forward amidst cheers and applause to claim her reward.

Each member of the savings group earned more than 20% interest on her savings.

Now that’s a good reason to love saving money.

Seamstress of the month: Laker Pamela

Posted February 13, 2012 in General

Pamela has a lot to be proud of. During her time at Mend, she has worked hard to improve her time management skills and concentrate on developing her sewing ability. Her progress was recognized when she was named Seamstress of the Month for January.

Outside of Mend, Pamela has plans for starting up a small business selling produce using the money she has saved.

“I am leading an independent life, and this makes me so proud,” Pamela says.

Her fellow seamstresses appreciate her company as well. You can always tell what she is thinking by the faces she makes. You can’t listen to her loud, genuine laughter without joining in.

With her positive attitude and determination, Pamela will continue to thrive both as a valued Mend seamstress and as a businesswoman in her community.