Sunday, October 9, 2011

Meet Akello Pamela

In fall 2009, after Stacey Edgar of Global Girlfriend visited our project, we received our largest handbag order to date. We knew we were going to need more tailors to get things done. We'd brought all of our tailors under one roof in June 2009, but the ladies from Bobi and Unyama camps weren't quite ready to make our more complicated purse designs to the level of quality we needed. One day after work, Lucy and I were talking about our predicament, discussing our options.

The next morning was a rainy one, and I knew Gulu would be in a standstill. With most people traveling on foot or by bicycle, very little happens on rainy weekday mornings. I took my time waking up, made some coffee and unlocked the workshop door. I was headed to the office with my laptop bag, but out of the corner of my eye I saw three ladies huddled on the front porch.

One of them, Akello Pamela, had her little daughter nestled on her lap.

All three women were wrapped in woolen scarves, shivering in the cool Gulu rain. I smiled and greeted them all, and quickly realized that none of them spoke English. I had no idea why they were there. Suddenly my phone rang - it was Prisca. She apologized for being late to work (Prisca rides her bicycle several miles to get to work each day), and asked if any of the ladies had yet arrived. I glanced at the three women on the porch - they avoided my eyes.

"Um, yes, there are three ladies I've never met - none of them speak English. I think they've been sitting on our porch for some time. Do you know anything about this?" I asked.

"Ahhh, sorry," Prisca laughed her short, now famous laugh. "Those must be the new ladies Lucy found - they are already tailors and they can sew well - they can help us with our order. I am coming Halle, let me come."

Pamela quickly became one of our best tailors, bringing her daughter Maria to work everyday on her bicycle. Shortly after starting work with One Mango Tree, she invited me to visit her family in the village, Awac.

Awac is only a short drive from Gulu town, but during the height of conflict in Northern Uganda, the insecurity caused Pamela's family to flee to town for safety. She lost brothers and uncles in the fighting and her family lost their livestock, which had been the base of their livelihood. After 21 years away, Pamela's family returned to their land. She stayed behind and began working for One Mango Tree, saving money for her own future and sending it to the village to help her family.

To learn more about Pamela, check out past stories here and here.
See more beautiful photos of Akello Pamela and Maria on our Facebook page.

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