On Tuesday the women began to learn how to take their beautiful beads and create jewellery and on Wednesday, they learned some of the more challenging jewellery designs and we had our graduation ceremony. They are so excited about this new project and continually dance, and clap – its beautiful to see the sparkle in their eyes and a new sense of hope return. Many of these women have walked a journey that most of us will never have to face and being a part of their unveiling and new sense of power is something I will never forget. This training period has given us the opportunity to truly get to know them – their names, their stories, the way they each smile and laugh and the amazing way they all deal with difficulties, confusion and misunderstanding – there is always one woman who clarifies everything for the rest, or steps up and takes another under her wing to help her with something that is challenging.
As we were nearing the end of the day, the women took time to thank and honour Teopista who had given so much of her time to train them. There was much singing and clapping and a special thank you where all of the women clap together and yell “ASANTE SANA!”
We began to organize their graduation ceremony. For many of them, it was the first one of their lives. They were so excited about the certificates. While we were getting ready, one received a phone call from a friend and told her all about the certificate – “and we are even getting certificates.” Before we began each woman received her jewellery package of supplies including important things like clasps, jewellery string, varnishing string and the little glass beads used on the necklaces. Julius read out the certificate in both English and Luganda – there was more celebration. Each woman was called up one at a time to receive her certificate and in order of the amount of beads they made over the 5 days, pick a prize. Each woman got a prize no matter how many beads she had made and the top 17 women received an additional package of glass beads. They all wanted photos with their certificates and the jewellery they had made and began speeches expressing their gratitude for the training and how it will change their lives.
The most exciting part of the day was our buying time. We had told them that at the end of the graduation ceremony, we would be buying their training jewellery from them. Each woman came up one at a time, Julius went over her jewellery and if it was well done, it went into the bucket and she was given money for her jewellery. I have never seen such a lively, joy-filled event – some woman danced around the room and did their own version of a victory dance, others cried out in joy, other women fell down onto their knees. The wealth of this project goes far beyond receiving their own income and can be seen right into the depth of their eyes.