Cross-posted from OMT Founder Halle Butvin's personal blog, Locus Amoenus
Dinner at Prisca's has become a routine for One Mango Tree visitors and interns. The first time you go, she'll cook for you - after that, it's time to pitch in. International Women's Day is a national holiday in Uganda, so we accepted the invitation to lunch at Prisca's, knowing full well that we'd be put to work as soon as we arrived. We headed straight into the family kitchen tukul, the last evidence of the traditional grass-thatched housing on Prisca's property.
Before we arrived, Prisca had already made her now-famous fried chicken, dodo with simsim (greens with ground sesame paste), and sweet potatoes. With the boiled matooke, we had a ladies-only feast. We filed out of the kitchen and into the two-room brick house where Prisca's family currently lives.
What seem to be normal, mundane details of a ladies lunch are actually quite extraordinary. When I started One Mango Tree, I wanted to see quick results - big changes in the tailors' lives, and fast. I'm learning that fair trade's proof comes with time - sustained, regular income is what moves people out of the poverty trap, and for good. Charles only works sporadically on construction projects - Prisca is the family breadwinner. Through careful savings and budgeting, the incremental improvements she's made have translated into big changes for her family.
tukul and the two-room home, Prisca and Charles built a large brick home. She used her 2010 savings to put in the roof, floor and window casings. Even while building their home, Prisca and Charles are now able to make spending decisions based on comfort, not necessity. Their family crowds the TV each evening to watch the news and local programs (Prisca loves the Spanish telenovelas dubbed into English - they are a big hit here). They have meat for dinner almost every night, and usually invite friends and family to join in the feast. Prisca cuts up cold pineapple as a treat for the kids when they come in from playing after school. Even the matooke we ate is telling - it's a cuisine choice from southern Uganda, and very expensive to buy in Gulu. It's one of Prisca's favorite treats - one she can now easily afford.