My absolute favorite part of my trip to Uganda is the time I got to spend with these women. In the short month I was there, they made me feel like I was apart of the Musana family. They were so kind, accepting and loving. I would sit in the workshop with them and they would teach me different phrases in Luganda (their language), tell me about their families and their lives, and would ask me about my life and my family. I consider them all to be my Ugandan moms! Not a day goes by that I don't think about them and the permanent impact that each of them has had on my life.
This is Cathy Naluyange. She is a funny woman. She has some serious sass but she works hard in the workshop! She taught me a lot of animal names in Luganda so I could call the other women those names to make them laugh. Cathy has five children, the oldest is 15 and the youngest is 11. They are all boys and there are two sets of twins! Sadly, I never got the chance to meet her children because they were all in school. Cathy speaks fairly good English, so she was able to help me understand what some of what the other women would say. She is friends with everyone in the workshop and has such a positive energy. She laughs so much and it's contagious - as you can tell by her huge smile in this photograph.
Harriet Ochieng is quiet, calm and kind. She is the artisan who came to the US for the Musana Gala, and I had the opportunity to photograph her in the states. She has such incredible strength. She has two daughters, and two grandchildren. Harriet's husband died of AIDS a while ago and soon after, she found that she and her two daughters were also HIV positive. It is very difficult to find work in the community as an HIV positive woman, but Musana has given her so much and made it possible for her to provide for her family. She is one of the most grateful and humble people I have met. I am grateful I had the opportunity to see her again.
This is Christine Nagawa. She is referred to as Mama Christine by the Musana community because of her motherly nature. Christine dropped out of school when she was thirteen to help take care of her family. She had her first child when she was sixteen and now has five children. She worked hard to be able to make enough money to put her children through school. She is such an important part of Musana with such a positive energy :). I loved getting to know her and learning from her.
This is Suzan Namulondo. She is SO much fun to talk to. She speaks English very well so I was able to become close with her. She taught me so many phrases and words in Luganda. She would always ask me questions about my family and my life in America. She was incredibly kind to me from the very first day I was in Uganda. She would always explain things to me or answer questions I had about the culture or the women. Suzan has six children. But she told me that I am also her daughter, so I guess she has seven children! :) She is friends with everyone in the workshop and is so giving and loving. She told me the day that I left that I am one of them, and that I act more like a Ugandan than a "Mzungu" (white person). Hearing that meant so much to me and touched my heart. After only a month of knowing me, she accepted me as one of them :). I miss her very much and consider her a dear friend.
This is Ruth Nakinsige. She is such an example of strength and resilience to me. At a young age she lost the ability to walk, because of a bad polio vaccination. She comes to work on a bike that she peddles with her hands. She doesn't allow her disability to stop her from working hard and getting things done. She has five children, one of which is an orphan who was left on her doorstep that she took in a few years ago. She is loved by all in the workshop, including the children of the other artisans that come to work and always run and hug her when they get there. I can't recall a day that Ruth didn't peddle into the workshop with a big smile on her face. She is happy and grateful despite her hardships. She is such an example to me of gratitude. I miss her dearly!
This is Madiina Nagawa. Madiina is essential to Musana. She started as an artisan and got promoted to be a shift manager soon after. She is smart, hard-working, loving and kind. She always makes sure that the artisans are taken care of and genuinely cares about everyone around her. She has seven children, one of which I had the opportunity to become close friends with. She is incredibly warm-hearted and giving. She does so much for Musana and the women at the workshop, I can't imagine Musana without her! I always felt loved and accepted by Madiina, from day one. I miss her warm smile and kind eyes.
This is Joyce Athieno. Joyce is a hard worker at the workshop and does all she can to learn more. She is always smiling and laughing. She is a light to those around her! She has three children, one of which she brings to the workshop each day. His name is Divine, and he is beloved by all the artisans at the workshop. Despite being HIV positive, Joyce is happy and has a love for life. She has such a beautiful smile that brings a smile to anyone's face. I loved the opportunity I had to get to know her.
This is Prosi Namubiru. Prosi is SO much fun. She is the funniest artisan at the workshop. She is constantly making others laugh and she loves to dance. She is a single mother of five boys . I didn't get the opportunity to meet any of them because they are all in school. But I can only imagine how much they must love their mother. Prosi is one of the hardest workers at Musana. She somehow finds a way to have fun and be goofy and bring smiles to other people's faces all while getting work done and being productive. Talk about multi-tasking! When I was taking portraits of the women, I would bring Prosi along to tell jokes to make them laugh so I could get the most natural smile for their photos. She really is the life of the party and I miss her every day. Hopefully I will get to see her again soon :).
This is Resty Kisakye. She is fairly quiet and shy, so I didn't get the chance to really get to know her well. But I was able to observe that she is friends with everyone. She is kind and loving. She is very close with Cathy and Speci- her two best friends who she always sits with at the workshop. She is a mother of six, all of whom are in school because of her hard work. She is a good mother, a good friend and a good worker. She has a beautiful smile and she shows it often. I admire Resty and enjoyed getting to see the impact she has on those around her.
This is Allen Nayinda. Allen was preparing for her introduction (traditional Ugandan event where the groom is introduced to the bride's family and friends for the first time) during most of my time in Uganda so I did not get to meet her until my last week there. But I sure am happy I was given at least a short amount of time to get to know her. She is happy, fun and friendly. She is very close with all the women at Musana. Many of the artisans were bridesmaids at Allen's introduction, which shows how loved she is by the Musana family. She and her husband are expecting their first child and she is so excited about it! I hope when I go back to Uganda that I will be able to get to know Allen even better :).
This is Immaculate Babirye. I did not get to know her quite as well to begin with because she is a little shy at first. But once you get to know her she is fun and loud and goofy and loves to dance. She is intelligent and engaging and caring. She is friends with everyone at the workshop! She works hard and is the mother of four children. Because of Musana she is able to enroll her children in school and provide for them. I miss Immaculate, and I miss making her laugh by pointing my camera at her.
This is Sharifah Nagawa. Although she is not one of the artisans, she is an important part of the Musana team! She is the cook for the interns and makes such delicious food. She was also a great friend. Sharifah is 19 and was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints just about a year ago. She has since been called to be the Young Women's President in the branch in Lugazi. She is a hard worker, and she is strong. She laughs a lot and she is very close with all the Musana women. She comes to the workshop and helps look after some of the women's children so that they can focus on working. She is very giving and wants to serve a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I'm so glad I got the chance to know her :).
Tina and her beautiful baby Abby! Abby is loved by all the women of Musana because honestly, she's the cutest thing ever.
A few of the women making clay beads for the new fall line! Eve is of course cracking up as usual.
Here Suzan and Eve are assembling the jewelry from the finished beads that they have made.
Immaculate, Rosette and Monica are painting the clay beads that have been fired for the new fall line!
Here the women are looking at a video I took of them singing and dancing. They love to see the videos and photos that I take of them.
Namusisi and Fina are working hard forming clay beads for the fall line!
Prosi and Joyce N are inseparable. They are the best of friends and they always sit together in the workshop. I took this photograph of them and then told them they were like sisters. They laughed and nodded their heads and agreed!
Here are some of beads right after they were painted, hanging out in the sun to dry.
Namusisi is assembling the beautiful Verona necklace for the fall line.
These are some of the clay beads before they have been fired.
Betty, Immaculate and Cissy are working on the clay beads for the Goddess necklace in the fall line. They are almost always smiling like this as they work and talk with each other.
This is Jonah. I absolutely adore everything about him. He is Betty's son. He has the cutest dimple and most perfect smile- if you couldn't already see that from this photo. Getting to see him everyday at the workshop was one of my very favorite things. He doesn't talk a ton, but he is adventurous and curious and he loves his mom so much. Not a day goes by that I don't think about this little boy.
This is Nicole. She is probably in my top 5 favorite things about Uganda. She is Eve's daughter. She is the sassiest, silliest, happiest girl I have ever met. She was constantly dancing around the workshop, ordering us around and singing songs in her language. She is definitely the ringleader of all the kids that come to the work shop. She can be quite the little trouble maker. She might walk right up to you and slap you; and then start giggling, and of course you instantly forgive her, because she is Nicole. She is also cuddly and loves to sit on your lap. She loves when you play music so that you can dance with her. She likes to make silly faces and talk in silly voices. She has stolen the heart of every person she comes into contact with. Not a single day goes by that I don't miss this girl.
This is Jonah and Nicole. They are inseparable. They go everywhere together and do everything together. We always joke that the two of them are going to get married one day. Even though we joke, we all actually hope they will get married one day!
These are some of the artisan's children. There's Nicole and Jonah; and then Eve's other two sons- Jorum and Jovan. And then there is Joyce's son, Emma. These kids had so much fun playing together at the workshop while their mothers worked. And of course I had a blast getting to play with them.
This organization and these women have changed my life for the better. I think about my time in Uganda every single day. I am reminded of the gratitude, humility, resilience, strength, happiness and love that each of these women possess as a result of Musana and how their lives have been changed because of it. I want to go back soon and see all my friends again and tell them how much they've changed my life. But in the mean time I am going to work hard on trying to be just as grateful, humble, resilient, strong, happy and loving as these women here, so that one day I can change someone's life the way that they have changed mine.
This was the first wedding in which I got the opportunity to be a bridesmaid AND photographer. So, for any of the bridesmaid shots, I just set up the camera and had someone push the button once I jumped into the shot. Kind of a crazy day, but I absolutely loved getting to be apart of my dear friend's wedding day and see first hand how happy she is with her wonderful husband, Colby.
It has taken me a while to finally get a post up about my time in Uganda but today I've got the first post up! (I will be posting soon about the women of Musana, so stay tuned!). I wanted to share what the people of Uganda are like. I spent much of my time walking around the streets of Lugazi photographing people- some strangers, and some friends. I love these people. They made me feel like I was home. Everyone asks me how the culture shock was when I first got there, and I can honestly say I didn't have much culture shock. Because even though Uganda was so different from anything I have ever experienced, the people were the most friendly, loving and accepting people I had ever known.
These three kids became my buddies in Lugazi. I liked to explore down the street from the workshop some days and met this cute family. They would walk down to the workshop to say hi and ask me to come back to their house.
I saw this brother and sister skipping down the road holding hands on my way back from the rainforest in Mabira.
This man repairs and makes shoes every day right across from the Musana workshop in Lugazi.
School kids at the Lugazi Community Library (founded by Musana).
This adorable girl lives right across the street from the Musana workshop and as you can see, LOVES having her photo taken.
Working in the fields near the railroad tracks. We passed this way every day to get to the workshop
This woman sells bananas all throughout Lugazi, and I stopped her in the park for a photo.
This adorable baby girl was always sitting right outside the shop down the street from the workshop where I would buy Novida every day. (Novida is this AMAZING pineapple soda they have in Uganda).
Left: Mom and her baby that live near the workshop as well. Right: Son of the mom in the photo on the left- he really loved having a photo of himself. Its amazing how much they cherish photos there because most people don't have them.
Another mother and daughter that lived across the street from the workshop.
This woman lives down the street from the workshop in a little one room house with her family. She can't walk and has no teeth. I walked up to her and asked "How are you?" in her language. She was so happy and smiley.
I took a polaroid photo of her with her family. This is them looking at the photo. The woman had tears in her eyes and said "Thank you" and "God bless you" in her language. It was one of my favorite experiences. It's so humbling to see how little these people have, and how happy they are despite that. They are so grateful for everything they have.
These are some of the neighborhood kids that lived right outside of our gate. They were always playing outside in the yard.
One of our artisans walking home from the workshop with some friends.
These were our next door neighbors that lived within the gate. From left to right: Abigail, Emma, Jeshua and Daniel. Emma would always sit on our front porch in our doorway and just watch us. Apparently he found us very fascinating.
This is how the people in Uganda carry water from the well. This girl saw me taking a photo and started laughing. The structures in the background are homes and businesses.
These women are either sisters or best friends. But they were always together and lived right across the street from the workshop. One day they offered us some of what they were drinking out of that straw and we assumed it was soup or something. Nope, it was their local brew.
Another little boy who lived across the street from the Musana workshop.
This boy is carrying jackfruit- a fruit found in Uganda that is really sweet and pretty chewy.
We walked out past the sugar cane fields and explored and found the cutest community there. So of course I had to photograph some of the people there.
The neighborhood kids watching their friends play some soccer!
This is Francis and his wife Skovia with their two daughters and Skovia's mother. Francis and Skovia were baptized and I took this photo immediately after. They were glowing with happiness :)
This man..... oh my. He works down the street from the Musana workshop, and he was always trying to talk to us about American politics even though he hardly knew anything about it. We used to call him the crazy man. Because... well he's a little crazy.
Musana's very own Librarian. Nixon runs the community library in Lugazi and is one of the kindest happiest men I have had the pleasure of knowing.
This is at an "Introduction" which is a traditional Ugandan event. It is where the groom is presented to the friends and family of the bride. It is not an actual wedding but it is a much bigger even than a wedding. This is the groom being presented to the friends and family by the bride's aunt.
Two beautiful mothers carrying their daughters. Babies are always carried on their mothers backs like that.
On my nightly walk around Lugazi past the sugar cane fields I run into these kids who always ask me to take their photo. Some of the goofiest happiest kids I have met!