Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Flowers Galore!

I mentioned in my last post that I was organising income generating training for local communities, well below are lots of photos of the first HCU flower-making training. It was held in Rugazi, a parish in Bushenyi district, about 1 1/2 hours drive from Mbarara. The training took place in a room at the local health centre. It was well attending, 38 participants in total, all of whom were really motivated so much so that they didn't want to leave at the end of the day and many of them carried on making flowers at home or sitting on the grass at the health centre.

There are 2 small visitor's houses at the centre and I stayed there for the 5 days training - I'd been a bit worried what the accomodation would be like but it turned out to be fine, there was even an electric cooker so I could boil water for a hot bucket bath each morning. Patricia, the admin assistant at HCU took a week's holiday just so she could come on the training, she also said she was missing me not being at the office (I'd spent the previous week in Kampala doing motorbike training...now that's another story!) It was great to have her for company and to have someone to converse with in English, we got on well and she enjoyed having lots of DVD's to watch on my laptop in the evenings. Where the training was is pretty remote, and the only 'restaurants' were small little dining rooms, which served matoke, matoke, matoke or matoke! So not a huge deal of choice and as I'm not a huge fan of it my food choices were pretty limited, though the really nice owner of one place did cook potatoes and an omlette for me one day. Avocados are plentyful in the area, they're gorgeous, but by the last day I'd had my fill of them.

The training went really throughout the week, though I did have a few concerns about the trainer as she kept changing her mind about things, such as payment for equipment and buying the finished flowers. Myself and Teddy, the project manager had agreed with her that she would purchase the finished flowers at the end of the training, which would allow the participants to recoup some of their costs. But unfortunately, on the last she had a change of heart, I don't think she'd found a market for them and was a bit spooked by the volume of flowers that had been produced and didn't want to be out of pocket. Some of the participants were annoyed by this, as was I, it put a real damper on what had been a really good week. In the end, after sitting down at a table and putting her head in her arms and crying (!), causing a bit of a scene it was agreed that she would take the flowers back to Kampala and would pay the participants once theywere sold. It was a really weird situation, I fretted over it all weekend as I didn't know if i'd done something wrong and wondering if it was some kind of cultural issue.But when I was back in the office on Monday morning I found out that everyone, like me (though I'd kept it quiet) thought she was mad and totally unprofessional! I was relieved, it had been a long week and being surrounded by people who only spoke Runyankole for 5 days had left me a bit jaded. The next training is during the first week of August and needless to say, I've made a number of changes to the way we work with the trainer.

Some of the finished flowers on the last day

Very pleased participants

More happy flower-makers

Patricia and I hard at work!

Many of the women sat on the grass like this for hours on end

This 'mzee' or old man is 74, he was the oldest participant. He really struggled to grasp making the flowers on the first morning (look at the concentration on his face!), so he didn't go to lunch but kept trying instead and by the afternoon he was on a roll. In fact he was the first to produce a complete stem.

Patricia, modelling a corsage or head piece that I made from the maize husks.....orders for Ascot or weddings kindly accepted!!

Production table! The maize husks are dipped in water to soften them, as well as making them more pliable

This is Gertrude, she's 61 and a real character. She arrived every day with a sack full of banana fibres balanced on her head. She's also been a CORP for over 5 years.

Lydia, the lady in the head scarf, was really good, so I asked her to be a trainee trainer at the next training session at the beginning of August.

This is Apuuli, he's a really hard working HCU employee - he's a field assistant and was responsible for mobilising all the participants as well as sorting out the logistics of the training

What a smile!

The CORP's in each parish have their own anthem, which is all about the work they do. We started each day with a rendition of it, t's a lovely song but they were always so serious when they sang it.

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