Thursday, March 29, 2012

Much Overdue Sewing Class Report

As if you hadn't already noticed, I'm a total slacker. That is why I am just now - an entire month later - filling you in on the great things that took form during my Beginning Sewing Class teacher training with Margaret and Sarah.

In case you forgot, my last post on the topic was all about the first class and how awesome it went. From that early success I had great plans and ideas forming on how I would continue on with each lesson. Little did I know that absolutely none of these early plans would actually work out. But that's ok - I can improvise! (That's Margaret showing one of our 'students', Eva, how to hand sew a whip stitch - fyi -->)

The rest of the 8-hours a day, 2-days a week, 6-week long training went a little something like the following. The first 3 weeks I played teacher; Sarah and Margaret following along in their curriculum books as 'students'. This was actually a really good way of introducing them to the material they (once done with training) will be expected to know and be able to teach. It also allowed me to show them the best ways of presenting certain information or demonstrating new techniques.

It wasn't until the last 3 weeks of the lesson that I was truly able to see how much Margaret and Sarah had absorbed and actually listened to. This is because these were their sink or swim weeks - they had to teach by themselves, alternating lessons. And they had to teach it to students that I brought in. The idea behind this was not only to make sure that they would teach each lesson exactly as it is written in the curriculum (this in itself was a BIG concern), but also to make sure that when translated into whatever language would be used for class the content still made sense - and if not, we could work together to fix it. (There's no way they can deny having at least a little bit of fun during our training - I've got proof! -->)

These final weeks proved to be the most entertaining. My friend Alex agreed to help out translating each lesson for me as well as sit as a 'student' (Note Alex proudly modeling a sample skirt I had made for the class which he continued to wear in public while we got lunch) along with a FOM friend, Eva. I was overcome with 'momma bear' pride during the first solo lessons Margaret and Sarah taught. They really were listening!!!! I was beaming and couldn't have been more pleased. However, it wasn't always smooth sailing - particularly when it became apparent that one or both of them hadn't fully grasped some of the concepts we'd gone over in the weeks before. But all in all the training as a whole went very well (especially for my first solo training ever and not knowing what I was doing)!

Completing the training however did not secure a teaching job offer for either Sarah or Margaret. That depended on the completion of the required technique sewing samples as well as 4 sample projects we went over during class. This was the part that made me VERY nervous. It would be such a shame for these ladies to go through the whole training - and prove their abilities - but not be able to gain a certificate for the training or acquire further contracts with Fount of Mercy because they didn't complete their homework. Seriously, this seemingly minor detail had me on the edge of my seat routing for my students as they, pretty close to literally, raced against the clock to get their work done.

When 5pm Friday, February 24th -the deadline to turn in all samples- rolled around would I be filled with success or disappointment? Well let's just say I was the happiest fake teacher in all of Uganda walking home with bulging tote bags full of samples to grade.

Our training wrap-up and graduation ceremony was set for the following Tuesday, February 28th - the day I would officially acknowledge all of the hard work these two amazing women had put into the class the past 6 weeks as well as the day I would leave Uganda. Talk about bitter sweet. We presented certificates, talked about Sarah and Margaret's individual strengths and weaknesses and then had lunch. It was a great day and an even greater honor to say I was able to work with Nalongo Sarah and Achom Margaret, two of the most amazing, hard-working, determined women I have ever had the privilege to meet.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Politics in Jinja Town

Political elections stir up trouble virtually everywhere in the world, and the Ugandan small town of Jinja is no exception. Throughout my time here I’ve heard about the riots that commonly accompany political elections and the entertaining stories that go along with them – at least to an unseasoned third party like me. So you can imagine my excitement and intrigue when I heard a few months back that there would be a re-election for Jinja’s MP due to accusations that the winning party didn’t have the papers needed (or probably more likely, wanted) to document his education.

Election Day was set for Thursday, February 9th with the results to be announced that evening. In the days leading up to the election this week there was enough busy anticipation to help even the dullest of individuals clue into what was about to take place. The most obvious sign was the numerous, and seemingly spontaneous, parades that marched down main street. Monday kicked things off in the morning with a substantial chunk of the Ugandan army marching down the street wielding not only guns, but large leafy branches as well. Tuesday was peppered with parades made up of cars, music, and woman wearing banana fiber outfits, finished off by one of the election candidates waving to the crowds from the back of a truck bed in which he stood talking on the phone. Huge masses of people swarming to the court house also caused quite a commotion throughout the day. Wednesday surprised me, with virtually no disturbances at all and before you knew it it was the big day, February 9th.

The day started off just like any other Thursday morning, however it ended very differently than your average weekday. At around 3pm my friend Liza and I were headed down Main Street, me to the office and her to talk with a local crafter. However, about 10 minutes after Liza left me she reappeared in the doorway “Sarah they’re going to set off tear gas at 4pm. We need to be out of town before then.”

“What?! I always miss the good stuff! Can’t we LEAVE at 4??” My response was a very stern NO, which is good otherwise I could have been in a VERY bad situation later.

As we quickly made a stop at the supermarket so I could make a hasty purchase of dinner ingredients Liza peppered me with questions in a “I told you so” sort of way - “Look how empty the streets are now, isn’t it weird?” “It’s so quiet out now, don’t you notice it?” - But I didn’t really feel, or see rather, the severity of the situation until she pointed out the huge police trucks. Two giant armored trucks were parked across the road, each filled with soldiers ready to release tear gas at any given moment. There were also swarms of soldiers on the ground, rerouting traffic and just making their presence known in general. This was definitely a different Jinja than I walked into this morning.

“Ok, now I guess I’m glad we decided to leave when we did,” I reluctantly admitted. . . but I still wish I could have seen some of that action that took place that night . . .

Apparently things didn’t get really heated until around 9pm. Tear gas was being set off all up and down Main Street as unruly citizens – undoubtedly reacting to an unsatisfactory election outcome – began throwing rocks and large pieces of wood at policemen, cars parked on the street, and probably anything else that they could potentially cause damage to. From the eyewitness accounts I’ve heard it sounded like a crazy night and I’m glad Liza made me leave when she did . . . just in case.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Not-so-Typical Saturday Afternoon

It has become the relative tradition at Plot 33 that every few weekends or so, we all pile in the van to go swimming. Yesterday was one of those days. Please enjoy a stroll through my Saturday in pictures.

The most eye catching thing I saw there was this girl's makeshift swimming cap. Note: It's a hood - man, people can be resourceful!
After we left the pool it was off to the supermarket to pick up some things for dinner. But along the way we saw a tiny little puppy crawling around near a dumpster. After a few minutes of debating whether or not it belonged to someone and coming to the conclusion that it did not (due to many sightings of the dog in the same place) we turned around in attempts to save it - i.e. take it to a woman we knew would care for it. Once we reached the dumpster Lori, Tara, Edith and Timmy hopped out to assist with the rescue . . . here puppy . . .
Meanwhile a trash bird stalked from a nearby roof, ready to swoop in should something 'tasty' catch his eye . . .
The puppy coaxing continued and soon the team was joined by a local woman who just happened to stop by to dump her garbage . . . I'm sure she never imagined to see anything like this . . . or help with it for that matter!
A lot of people slowed down their gait to get a good look as they passed by. This random guy decided to stop entirely to watch the big ordeal . . .
From the van the rest of us watched with searching eyes, eager to see the little pup.
Finally they got her! Thanks in large part to the woman in blue . . . it would have taken MUCH longer without her help . . .
Aww, what a cute little puppy . . .

Once in the car we tried to come up with good names for the little lady. My personal favorites were Trash Puppy . . .
and Dumpster Dog. Needless to say, Lori didn't like those names so much . . .After arriving at the puppy's new home Lori prepares to hand the little darling over . . .
But not before one last picture :)
What started out as a normal Saturday swimming day turned into something much more interesting. Fount of Mercy: Dog Rescue? Looks like we may have added a new service to our organizational offerings . . . haha

Monday, January 16, 2012

New Year, New Ventures . . . well, sort of – Beginning Sewing Class, here we come!

Happy New Year! With the start of a new year comes the start of new experiences, my first taking the form of three ½” thick, 100+ page copies of my completed Beginning Sewing Class curriculum. What type of new experience does this infer, exactly? Training, teacher training – and I am the one training the teachers. ‘What? Sarah, I didn’t know you were a teacher!’ – I’m sure you’re all thinking. Yeah, neither did I. Then again I didn’t know I was a curriculum writer either. But seeing as I did write all of the lessons it makes sense that I would be the most qualified member of FOM to train our future teachers how to teach the class.

In a previous post I mentioned that Sarah would be trained as our teacher for the Beginning Sewing Class. Since that post we have added on a second teacher to be trained, a woman named Margaret, and I am very excited about the idea of her teaching the course! She is so open to learning new skills and making sure that the work she does is correct (even if it means taking something apart to do it again the right way) I know she will be a great leader to teach this course. I’ve only met with her twice (as of today) and I am already very fond of her.

Today was the first day of our 6-week, bi-weekly teacher trainings and I am absolutely THRILLED about how well it went! Not only did we fly through the first five lessons AND first project, but Sarah and Margaret have already given me a ton of useful feedback that will help me to finalize the course so it is 100% ready to be taught to groups by the time I leave in late February.

To be quite honest I was a bit nervous/anxious about teaching the first few lessons. This was mostly due to the fact that they are focused on getting to know a treadle sewing machine and maintenance which, seeing as I’ve only tried to use a treadle sewing machine once in my life (just a few months ago) and very unsuccessfully, I can easily say practical application in these areas is not my strong suite. Despite the uncertainty of my abilities to adequately teach these lessons everything went smoothly. Margaret and Sarah helped me with everything I wasn’t sure of and we all learned new things in the process. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome!

Tomorrow it’s back to the office early for another full day of training. This time however, instead of me teaching the whole lesson we are all going to take turns teaching, each presenting a different section, as a way to gradually get Sarah and Margaret used to teaching the lessons on their own. By the end of the training the lessons should be a piece of cake for these women, each being able to teach any and all lessons on their own with perfection and ease.

So what’s next once the Beginning Sewing Class preparations wrap up and the class is ready for its public debut? Writing intermediate and advanced sewing classes, of course! I volunteered to work with Fount writing these courses after I return to the US. It’s my goal that these classes will provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to become not just competent tailors, but the best at what they do. I hope that after all is said and done completing the vocational sewing sequence offered will allow each student to imagine, design, and construct original pieces that will showcase their skills, attract a large customer base, and of course, help them improve the lives of themselves and their families financially, physically, and emotionally.