Alice doesn’t feel well the first day we meet. She suffers from hypertension, diabetes, and joint pains and should be home in bed, but she is eager to ensure that we will have more work for her village, so they can feed the many children in the community. Alice is one of our beloved Fashion & Compassion artisans and lives in the small and frighteningly poor village of Acholi, Uganda. She is an elder in her community and widely respected, but her life is so very different from yours and mine. She lives in a tiny, dusty home with two small rooms. Her home is made of clay and has no water, electricity or modern conveniences. None. She lives on less than 30 cents/day and struggles for her basic needs. Food. Water. Medicines. Hygiene. Comfort. Alice’s husband was killed in guerilla fighting in Northern Uganda, her former home. She was forced to travel to what is now called Acholi with her children, and brought her husband’s body with them. He is now buried in the small courtyard in front of her home, right next to her fire pit where she cooks her meals. She misses him and wishes she had his help in solving life’s many problems.
Alice walks with us to the Acholi community center, a bare room about the size of the typical American living room with open windows, clay floors and a few wooden benches. There, her fellow F&C artisans greet us with hugs, dancing, drums, singing, and whistle blowing! It’s a celebration beyond my imagination - such is their joy at our arrival. Such is their hope that we can change the trajectory of their lives.
Our artisans in Acholi live in the deepest poverty that we can imagine. Their future is not bright. And yet, there is still so much joy within these women! They face each day with gratitude and faith. Gratitude for the blessings God has given them, faith that God will continue to provide, and prayers for a different future. I’ve never seen poverty look as beautiful as it does in Acholi, as the women’s loving, joyful and welcoming spirit is the essence of a beautiful life. They have a perspective towards life that is inspiring and heartwarming, while their physical needs are heartbreaking. These women amaze me and I long to be more like them. I cannot wait to see them again.
Alice and our other artisans are experts at making paper beads. It’s a simple skill and one that has made a tremendous difference in their lives, providing an income to their families and the entire community. Now, we are working with our Acholi artisans to learn new skills, so that we can bring you fresh and updated designs, all while creating economic opportunities for the people of Acholi. Knowing the stories behind our jewelry is game-changing, and wearing ethical fashion is one simple way we can show them how much we care.
At Fashion & Compassion, we envision a world where formerly vulnerable women live abundant, purposeful lives, with the resources they need day in and day out. It’s thanks to you that we are able to help Alice and the other women of Acholi envision a brighter future, and we are forever grateful.