new horizons, UGANDA
Although the income from the sale of the Paper to Pearls jewelry is invaluable, we felt we could do more. The result is Paper to Pearls'™ "New Horizons" Program.
Through New Horizons the majority of the net revenue from the sale of the
necklaces was returned to the camps in the form of education, training and
Now that our beaders were earning substantial income, it was important that they
learn how to manage it. In order to help them stabilize the income they received
from our purchase of their beads, Paper to Pearls provided micro-finance training
in the form of basic savings and cash management that is essential to the
creation of sustainable businesses.
Since most of the beaders lived in rural areas without ready access to banks,
each cooperative maintained a communal savings program. Beaders contributed
money each month, which was kept in a lock-box and served as a source of
loans the cooperative made to individual members in need of funds. Meanwhile,
we encouraged beaders in or near Gulu town to open individual bank accounts
and commit to regular deposits on or immediately after market days, when funds
were most readily available.
In January, 2010, the ceasefire with the Lord’s Resistance Army entered its
fourth year. Signed on August 22, 2006, the cessation of hostilities was initially
viewed with a combination of guarded hope and skepticism and for a long time
no one left the refugee camps.
As the peace talks dragged on in Juba, Southern Sudan, people waited. Eventually, many began to move to satellite camps, closer to their homesteads but still providing the relative safety that the open land did not. Finally, with rebel leader Joseph Kony and the remainder of the LRA hold up in eastern Congo, the government began applying pressure on the Acholi people to "go home."
In many cases, of course, there was no home to go to or resources with which to
begin again, but the government was intent on quickly emptying the camps. The
desire for returning things to "normal" hung in the air.
But normal is hard to achieve after more than twenty years of war and displacement. This fact was reflected in our beaders' stories about their lives in a post-conflict world that is only minimally able to provide the support they needed, if at all.
From farm tools to supplies with which to rebuild their homes, from conflict
mediation to psychological support (many suffered from post-traumatic stress),
people automatically looked to the international organizations that provided aid to
them for so long. Many of these were gone, feeling their work ended with a stable
ceasefire; others were feeling strapped for funds; some were only beginning to
come to terms with what was needed and their appropriate role.
Through our program, women in the camps learned about their rights, child
mothers (those abducted and raped by the rebels) were taught how to start small
businesses and displaced youth received vocational skills training. These were
just a few of the ways in which we helped foster the skills that individuals and
families could use to remake their lives while they were still in the camps and
provide stability and security once they returned to their homes.
Having an income generating activity is a first for most of our beaders. As stability slowly returns to the region and they are beginning to go home, the women are taking their beading skills with them and will continue to bead and develop their businesses. As beader Rose Oyok says: "Paper to Pearls is part of our lives. We consider it our second garden."
We are convinced that our beaders and their families, and indeed the larger community, are best served by a broad array of opportunities that increase access to both income and independence.