Friday, December 30, 2016

Teddy's story - Part 2... change is made with LOVE.

A note from Michelle, Founder, Amilia's Light:
We are so thrilled, to see how Teddy has changed her life, how she has grown, and is taking care of her young child- my namesake, Baby Michelle!  (so naturally, I'm a bit biased on this).  But reading the post below from Rachel, who interviewed Teddy a few weeks ago, I realized, that, 

Together - we are truly making a difference,
one girl at a time!   
Our numbers aren't huge, we're not saving thousands (well, at least, not yet...) but we are giving a leg up to trauma victims, whose needs are magnified, and who's level of support requires time, patience, care, psycho-social support, carefully planned reintegration and most of all... 


Blog Post submitted by Rachel Tumwine - Uganda Liaison

“When Michelle of Amilia’s Light visited, I was pregnant with my little girl but I hid it from her and Miriam, of Destiny Women because I did not want to disappoint them, and because of the pregnancy I did not go far with my education.” Teddy tells me with regret in her eyes.  Teddy chose to have her baby and named her Michelle after the woman whose kindness had transformed her life.  

The “baby’s father supports us when he can but he does petty work does not have enough money.”  Teddy shares a small one-bedroom house with her sister and their two children.  Their mother struggles to help them pay the rent, since they are not yet making enough money to be independent. “Sharing space with my sister is hard. We both don’t have much and we both have children to take care of.  I hope to save some of my pay from working at 10,000 Lights Salon and rent a place for baby Michelle and myself.”
Teddy explains how Amilia’s Light continued to support her, after completing the Destiny Women Rehabilitation Program, by providing medical care and school fees, and helping her to set a path for her future. Teddy wanted to complete her senior four (high school diploma) and go on to university study.  While in school, she underwent surgeries and physical therapy at one of Uganda’s best hospitals, specializing in corrective surgery for burn victims to repair her foot, which had been burned in a cooking accident, when she was a small child. She missed a lot of school during this time and later, during her pregnancy.  But determined to make a better life for herself and her unborn child, she was able to finish her Ordinary Level Certificate at school.

After the baby was born, Teddy’s choices were limited.  She needed money, for herself and her child, but without further schooling, finding a job was nearly impossible. “When Madam Miriam invited me to take part in the Empowerment Program, I had a small business making sandals. But the business was very hard; I did not have good skills. Now, (that I’m training, and learning while I work) when baby Michelle falls sick, at least I can have a little money to take her to hospital for treatment,” she says. 

“I also make paper bead necklaces and bangles for Destiny Women, they are the ones that are sold by Amilia’s Light so that we can earn some extra money.”   She is thankful for the opportunity to work in 10,000 lights Women’s Business Centre; “I now know how to wash customers’ hair, and also style it.  I am also learning which style best suits different face types.  It is good to be working with some people who know the business because they teach us a lot.”  Teddy says, referring to the professional hair stylist mentors that she works alongside. 

She further explains that she has also learned a lot about working together as a team and helping each other out as she works and relates with other girls at 10,000 Lights Women’s Business Center.   Teddy dreams of starting her own business some day and she plans to integrate all the skills she has learned from being part of Destiny Women.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Teddy: From rescue and recovery to a path of independence

Teddy and Rev. Phil Bauman, UCC Medfield
Phil's visit to the Empowerment Progam
October 2016

Meet 20 year old Teddy, she’s one of "our girls"," as we fondly refer to all the girls in the Empowerment Program. Teddy is a hairdresser at the 10,000 Lights Women Business Center Salon (10KWBC).  In addition to the business skills workshop that all the girls attended, Teddy was also trained to cut men’s hair. 

She is currently learning new styling techniques and professional business skills from the hairstyling professionals who were brought in to mentor the girls and grow the customer base. 

Teddy grew up in one of Kampala’s shantytown areas called Kisenyi.  "My mother was a cook and both she and my father worked hard to take care of our family." She explains, with her eyes downcast, that when her father "got another wife," life changed.  In her words, "Things became bad, and when he died I was six years old, things became even worse. My siblings and I started to collect scrap metal on weekends and sell fresh beans in the streets to earn some little money to take care of our family." With a weary and distant look and regret in her eyes she tells me more. "Life was tough. I had started selling drugs and was even starting to take them so that I could feel better about life." Teddy points to the scars on her right foot and explains how she got burnt while helping her mother with her cooking business to earn some money for the family. "I was young and did not really know what to do or how to take care of myself, but we needed the money as a family for school fees, rent and other basic needs at home."Teddy also tells me that most of her friends, even though very young, had become prostitutes in order to make money, and it was very tempting for her, too.  Fortunately, it was then that a small NGO came to her rescue; this would later be her link to Destiny Women.

 "I joined (the) Destiny Girls home and we used to start every day with prayer and they taught us things to help with character development.  We also made paper beads and we had a full-time mentor called Vicky.  Our Destiny Women mentor encouraged us and was always there for us when we needed her." Destiny Women, with support from Amilia’s Light, paid fees for Teddy to finish school.

Teddy and Michelle
Uganda Trip 2013

Teddy is one of the girls who was sponsored by our founder’s family in 2010. She first met Michelle in 2013, when the idea for Amilia’s Light was just forming. In my next blog I will introduce you to Baby Michelle, Teddy’s daughter, and share more about how Teddy’s life has changed because of her participation in the Empowerment Program

Hi! I'm Rachel Tumwine.

 I am privileged to work with both Destiny's Women and Amilia’s Light as a Liaison.  My role is to help bridge the distance between you, our generous supporters and the world of our girls, who each yearn for and deserve a chance to make the most of their lives.  I enjoy seeing the girls grow to be more responsible and how they now look forward to their futures through the lenses of the hope you give through your generous donations to Amilia’s Light. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Making Dreams Possible...from poverty to university.

Girls whose lives would otherwise be wasting away are being revived with the hope and promise of a better future. The partnership between Amilia's Light and Destiny Women is rewriting the future for these girls through the 10,000 Lights Women’s Business Centre.  The Business Centre is a salon, boutique, and crafts shop where the girls have each been assigned responsibilities in order to grow their business skills, their confidence, and to provide a safe work context.
Twenty-year-old Annet is the youngest of the girls working in the center; her warm smile welcomes and draws the customers in to our brand new 10,000 Lights Women’s Business Centre. Prior to joining 10,000 Lights Women’s Business Centre, Annet worked in a small business where the male business owner did not treat her with respect and dignity.   Knowing her worth and value as a result of the Destiny Women rehabilitation process, she quickly left the job and with her little savings started a small soap making business at home. 
Annet was born into a family of four.  When Annet’s father died, she and her twin brother were moved from home to live with her grandmother.  It is her grandmother’s home that she remembers fondly when asked about her childhood. "We used to live in a big house and my grandmother used to take care of very many people," she remembers.  When asked about life before rehabilitation, Annet closes her eyes briefly and sighs; "I used to live in a home started by a certain organization that took care of talented children." She continues, "I was taken there when I was about 10 years old because I was a good dancer. I stayed there and they paid my school fees.  As children, we would entertain people and get some money which would be used to buy food for the home. I started off going there to have fun; when they saw that I was good and doing what they liked, they took me into the home and started paying fees for me." When asked about how her family perceived the new arrangement, she replied, "The organization took me as an orphan.  My mother did not know about it, but my grandmother knew and was okay with the idea because they were paying my school fees and as an orphan I needed the fees."  Annet goes on to explain that most of the people that ran the organization did not really care for the children.  "They were not educated and so they didn’t value our education; in fact most of them were former drug addicts and had not properly been rehabilitated.  The home was basically for street children and orphans.  As a child I was not aware that I could be in danger, but now I look back and know that it was not a safe place for us.  We at some point shared a bedroom with boys that were in the same home."

When asked about her first exposure to sex trafficking, Annet explains, "Near my grandmother’s house there were garages and so many men worked in the area.  There were also many prostitutes.  My grandmother had talked to me a lot about the dangers of having sex with men to get money, so when I was in these situations I knew what the men wanted from me.  She first told me when I started to sneak out of the house at night to go dancing with my friends."  Annet sadly explains that most of the girls that were her childhood friends ended up with early, unplanned pregnancies.  "I keep asking God why He chose me, why am I different?  I think God knew me and had good plans for me.  It’s God who protects us," Annet says

Annet later met Miriam Enyaga, the founder of Destiny Women who counseled her and invited her to join Destiny Women.  Annet, desiring motherly support and good counsel, joined Destiny Women and appreciates the opportunity to be with and learn from other girls that have been exposed to situations like hers.  "Destiny Women brings us back together as a family.  It helps us stay connected and understand each other.  Miriam is like a mother to us, she looks out for all the girls and brings us back together and makes us all keep moving."
On how being part of the 10,000 Lights Women’s Business Centre is helping her, Annet says, "The project has taught me to handle different people and understand business."  

Annet, who started university this year, is studying for a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business Administration and says she is grateful for the opportunity to go to university and work to help support herself.  She admits that she could otherwise fall into the temptation of having sex with men to get money, as many students sometimes do.  "I have to take care of myself because at home there is no one to take care of me since my mother also has health complications.  But things are going so well, there’s a way in which working (at the10kWBC) has made me so responsible and confident, and the course I am studying is in line with the work that I do.  Working here has given me an opportunity to understand business and deal with both negative and positive people." 
Annet also says she has been able to contribute to meeting the needs at home.  Being the first child in her family to make it to university, she says, "I feel so proud and blessed, in spite of the fact that I lost my dad at a tender age." 
She breaks down and starts to cry as she remembers her father.  With a heavy sigh and sadness in her eyes, she continues, "And the things that people said about me and my family.  I think it’s high time I show them that no matter what they said about us, I have to stand up and be strong. At least I feel like I have to be there for my mum, be there for my siblings, and then I'll show those people that despite the fact that they didn’t see any value in us, in me, God has been so gracious to us."

When asked about her dreams and the future, Annet’s countenance shifts and with her warm smile, she says, "I want to have a happy family where I will provide for my kids.  I don’t want the life that I have gone through for my children to pass through it. I want to be an inspirational speaker mostly to the girls that have gone through these situations.  I want to witness a miracle in my family that someone can make it.  I want to run a business selling children’s toys and clothes because when I see children dressed and happy it’s my joy because that is the life I missed."

 Post submitted by Rachel Tumwine, Amilia's Light Liaison - Uganda

Hi! I'm Rachel Tumwine; I am privileged to work with both Destiny's Women and Amilia’s Light as a Liaison.  My role is to help bridge the distance between you, our generous supporters and the world of our girls, who each yearn for and deserve a chance to make the most of their lives.  I enjoy seeing the girls grow to be more responsible and how they now look forward to their futures through the lenses of the hope you give through your generous donations to Amilia’s Light.