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21 May May 2020 1759 21 May 2020

Creativity to Face the Hardships in the COVID-19 Lockdown

Sewing cloth masks becomes a mother’s new way to take care of her children

2020. Uganda Success Stories (Namuwongo)

At four in the afternoon of May 12th, local authorities in Namuwongo village distribute posho and beans to the most vulnerable families after a month of forced-lockdown.

As soon as Apio sees the men in uniform, she dashes out because she wants to make sure her neighbour’s seven children will not miss the ratios. Her neighbour was arrested for selling mangoes in the city as she desperately looked for money to buy food for her children.

"We try to take care of them, but it's not easy. - tells Apio - We don’t have enough to share. I got a loan of UGX 250,000 from the savings group and I have to pay it off as soon as the lockdown is over."

Apio, who worked as a housekeeper, lost her job in February because the family she used to work for is stuck in Europe due to the pandemic. She now has to utilize her sewing machine and her strong determination is to find new ways to survive.

“When my employer decided to travel to Europe, I got worried about my job - explains Apio – I knew things would never be the same again so I hurried to do a tailoring course. I liked it and now it’s saving me."

Every evening on her way home, Apio sat on the sewing machine and practiced her skill as much as possible. After the job layoff, she received a JUKI sewing machine from the workshop where she taught because no one would use it during the lockdown.

And one morning as she walked along the road, she saw faces covered with masks and she realized that she had to change her business product. The school backpacks she made would be out of demand since schools were indefinitely closed. Would masks be her new market? She thought.

She retrieves the elastic thread and some fabric and produces her first mask which she wears and walks around the neighbourhood. And there she begins to attract customers who show interest and make orders for their families.

“I started with one, then slowly the orders came. I have to keep a low price because my clientele are slum dwellers. But I still earn something to keep us going."

Apio spends her day busy on the sewing machine while her son, Ojambo, who is supported in school through AVSI’s Distance Support Program, reads his school notes. The family lacks a television to help him follow the electronic lessons provided by the Ministry of Education to keep children learning during the lockdown. Ojambo’s dream is become an engineer so that he can build a better home for his mum, with good lighting for her to work even when it gets dark.

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