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Sewing machines and screwdrivers: hope for the future in Uganda

In a massively deprived area of western Uganda’s Kasese town, BMS World Mission funded skills training is transforming lives.


Nzabake Lemez

Lemez used to worry that she wouldn’t have enough money to feed her family. Aged 27 and living alone in a rented house with her two children, in Kasese, Uganda, Lemez earned her living by farming. Her income was unreliable, she struggled to pay for her rent and children’s schooling, and she was desperate for an opportunity to find work which paid more money. But with little education and no professional training, this seemed like a far-off dream.

When Lemez heard about the tailoring course at the skills centre in Acholi Quarter she was really excited. The course is funded by BMS and run in partnership with the Kasese Baptist Association of Churches’ Development Committee (KBAC DC). This was Lemez’s chance to gain a skill through which she could earn a proper living.

Learning business skills as well as tailoring, and attending Bible studies every Friday, the eight month course has transformed Lemez’s life.

You’ll now find Lemez working from home – she was able to purchase a sewing machine when she graduated, subsidised by St. Andrews Street Baptist Church, Cambridge, and provided by Tools with a Mission (TWAM), to put her skill into action. Lemez applied her new budgeting knowledge to save enough money from farming to purchase Vitenge (Ugandan fabric) and begin tailoring.
So far business is doing well.

Lemez’s whole outlook on life has changed. She’s positive and full of hope. She pays rent on time and is thankful that her family is eating better food every day. The Bible studies have had a big impact on Lemez’s spiritual life too and now she regularly goes to church.
“I’ve learned how to live alongside other people,” she says. “When people upset me I used to stay annoyed with them for maybe even one year. I’ve learnt how to forgive and treat others well.”

Skills training in Acholi Quarter, Kasese town

Acholi Quarter is one of the poorest areas of Kasese town. Pastor Alfonse of Kasese Baptist Church had long wanted to do something to reduce the high unemployment. He also wanted to address the daily neglect of preschool aged children – left alone while their single parent looked for work – and the general sense of despair amongst young men in the area. With the support of BMS workers Bethan and Gareth Shrubsole and BMS funding, in 2012 the vision for skills training became a reality.

Through the three BMS funded courses, 42 people have graduated with a tailoring skill and 14 people have graduated with a carpentry skill. 56 people now have the opportunity to earn a better living! KBAC DC also runs day care so that single parents like Lemez can attend the courses knowing their preschool children are well fed and looked after.
Muhindo Azziz and Buluku Zepha

This time three years ago, Azziz was 19 and living with his grandmother in Kasese. He had no job and no vocational training with which to get one that could pay a decent wage. Zepha was 18 and living with his parents. His only means of earning money was through digging his family’s land.

Both boys were unhappy with their lack of prospects – they couldn’t see a way to find more skilled, better paid and more enjoyable work. They felt stuck.

But today things are different. Azziz and Zepha have graduated from the carpentry course at the skills training centre. They have gone into business together, using their newfound carpentry skills to make things for customers across Kasese town.

Through the business classes run alongside the skills training, Azziz and Zepha now understand how to budget, save and offer good customer service. They’ve been equipped to make the most out of their skill.

With the money earned from practising carpentry, Azziz now rents a house and can afford to buy food. He no longer relies on his family for everything and is now actually able to offer them financial support when they need it. Azziz is encouraged by what he’s achieved, and he’s ambitious and hopeful for the future. He plans to continue saving and establish his own workshop.

Zepha now rents a place of his own too – and he put his new skill into practise by crafting all of the furniture for it himself! He’s even saved enough earnings from carpentry to buy a goat which he plans to breed to generate further income. Zepha has independence and is able to help support his family too.

Life for Azziz and Zepha looks much brighter than it did before and they’re so grateful. Without the skills training project they would probably never have had the chance to discover their potential. Azziz and Zepha have been empowered to improve their own lives and are working hard every day to do just that.

This article first appeared on the website of BMS World Mission and is used with permission

BMS World Mission, 10/03/2014
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