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Paper: recycle, reuse, renewal

January 2009

Our thoughts were to leave our initial meeting and then later learn the secrets of purchasing supplies, the best place to buy them and purchase enough to bring back for the women towards their initial start up supply. Well, our meeting turned into a full day experience because she wanted to go straight from there to purchase the supplies. There are so many things to think about when making the jewellery – scissors, pencils, rulers, glue, varnish, a pin (to roll the paper over), strings to hang the beads while drying, strings to make the jewellery, clasps for the necklaces and most importantly PAPER to make the beads.

We were introduced to what seemed like every possible corner and market in Kampala, back and forth ALL over – I kept asking Julius if he needed to write down the places we were visiting, but I suppose after a lifetime of living here, what seemed like the world’s largest maze to me was his backyard. Each supply was found in a different place – by the time we got to our paper search, we were so loaded down with bags of varnish, pins etc. and were drenched in sweat. She guided us through a well known market in Kampala, past the squabbling chickens, over bags of beans, through a maze of spices, dodging the men carrying heavy bags of beans on their shoulders and finally to the paper market.

I have never seen anything like this in my life. It was the largest barn imaginable with stacks taller than us of paper – books, magazines, old scraps, old calendars. Perched on top of each stack was the woman selling that particular stack. Our trainer moved through the stacks with a wisdom that can only come from years of jewellery making, sorting through colours, showing us what to look for, what to stay away from and what colours to look for on the papers to determine the colour of the necklaces.

The process was far more difficult than I ever imagined. The women thought my presence there was quite funny and would continually grab handfuls of their supply to offer me. Paper is purchased per kg – there were scales hanging from the beams.

One of the difficulties of keeping our spending on track is that the concept of a receipt is obviously nowhere in the picture here. However, it is required in order for us to maintain our finances. I have come up with our own version for these situations and pulled it out for the woman to sign. This caused quite the commotion because all of the women wanted to sign something and were quite upset that we had bought paper from just one woman. Laughter filled the barn at this very ridiculous requirement! After spending an eternity there and ‘purchasing’ the paper that would soon be used by the women in our group, we left with both paper AND receipt in hand. I’m not certain how we managed to carry all of those supplies back to Julius’ house, but I can say that I had no difficulty falling asleep that night!


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