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Christmas Bikes

In December we were given a large donation from Greenscape Capital. In addition to funding our water & solar project, we decided to use some of this funding to purchase bicycles for the 28 women in the Shanti Uganda Women’s Income Generating Group.

Many of the women live quite far and either have to walk long distances or pay to ride on the back of a bike to get to work or to come for Shanti Uganda meetings. We wanted to find a way to give the women more independence and also make it possible for them to make their way to the birth house once complete. Currently our women’s group is working out of Bishop Asili, but have requested their own space and secure place to store our sewing machines and supplies. Once the birth house is complete, they will all be working from there and will now have new bikes to make their way to work!

We began by trying to find 28 bikes, which apparently is quite the task in Kasana. We went to the town-crier (aka the men you pay to make announcements who ride through town on the back of a pick up with a microphone and music) Shortly after this attempt, we realized that the best way to do this was to make cards for each woman and have her find her own bike that we would then buy.

Last week a volunteer and I stayed up making these 28 Christmas cards letting each woman know that she was receiving a bike for Christmas this year. The power was out, so we hand made each card by candlelight.

Last night, the women gathered all together for the first time since I arrived. It takes quite a bit of effort to coordinate getting them all in the same place at the same time as many of them travel far to come. They brought their children, came dressed up and we shared in our typical arrival celebration. We went around with updates – everyone had something to share.

The women were all given their cards and let out cries of joy when they realized what was written inside. (we also drew a photo of a bike for the women who aren’t able to read) They were clapping, yelling, singing and jumping.

There were questions of course – how would they learn to ride if they didn’t know how? When we explained that we would have bike-riding lessons, they laughed.

Kiguli got a very serious look on her face and started ranting off in luganda about how despite her age she would learn how to ride a bike. Seeing the determination in her eyes was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

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