- Christen Kinard
it's about more than baskets. it's about healing and transformation.
Seven months ago, a group of eight women in Kampala, Uganda gathered for their first lesson in basket weaving.
Two are Ugandan. Five are Congolese refugees, and one is a refugee from Rwanda. Six of them are moms and most became moms at a very young age. All of them are vulnerable and have experienced severe trauma.
This first lesson was the start of a training program partially funded by a grant from The Off Ramp in partnership with Amani Sasa.
Amani Sasa hired an experienced basket artisan to teach them how to weave baskets. The end goal was to give them a skill they could then use to support themselves and their families.
They took lessons four days a week. Through Amani Sasa, they were also given free lunch and childcare and the opportunity for counseling. In total, they learned to make 11 different types of baskets of all different sizes, shapes, and designs.
The training was intended to take only six months but ended up taking seven due to COVID restrictions. The group of women recently graduated from the program.
In a Zoom conversation earlier this week, Amani Sasa founder Missy Angalla told us that the women were grateful to have learned a tangible skill. They expressed the most gratitude, however, for the community they feel they now belong to and the friendships they've made.
At their graduation, they referred to the trainer as "Mom." She has become not just a teacher but a maternal figure for them, something most of them haven't had.
Missy also noted they found the use of their hands and engaging in creativity to be therapeutic—healing even! And they took very quickly to weaving which is a difficult skill. This made them feel empowered!
Now, we are working with Amani Sasa to establish a cooperative so the women can sell their baskets. The Off Ramp has gifted them with start-up funds for this purpose.
The launch of a cooperative wasn't the original plan but due to Covid the current levels of tourism in the country cannot sustain solo entrepreneurs. Amani Sasa plans to open up a small store at their facility to support sales and to help them market their wares.
We appreciate Amani Sasa's willingness to pivot and support the current and future program graduates in this way. Indeed, we are already working to fund another round of training for an additional group of women who would then have the opportunity to join the cooperative as well! This time, Amani Sasa, with The Off Ramp's financial support, intends to hire the trainer full-time.
Missy is returning to the United States for the holidays. She will bring with her some of the baskets the women made for us to sell via Threads by Nomad.
Not only will we purchase these baskets from the cooperative (we do not operate on consignment) but a percentage of what we sell will go back into a fund directly supporting the basket-weaving program.
We are so humbled to have witnessed the healing and transformation of these remarkable women in addition to their ability to generate sustainable income.
This—ALL of this—was made possible thanks to your support of The Off Ramp. You ARE change-makers!