Monday, October 5, 2009

Updates on Ushindi Center

Since returning to Bukavu last week, I’ve met with the women survivors at Ushindi Center three times, and I am happy to report that they are well and thriving.

The women have set up a store where they sell children’s school uniforms, shoes, and plastic kitchenware to passersby. They are better-kept and more self-confident. I have been encouraging them to speak up about how they want to run the Center, and now they are!

As always when I return to Ushindi Center, there is much singing and dancing which I enjoy as much as the women. This time they presented me with a live chicken and ripe tomatoes, saying that although they have little to give, they want to thank all those who donate to the Center by giving me these small gifts.

I accepted their gratitude and tomatoes in proxy for all you generous donors. However, I declined the chicken as I have nowhere to keep her, and I did not want to eat her. I asked instead that they bring me local eggs with the bright orange yolks. The next day I was gifted 20 little eggs, which I have to say are very tasty!

Supported by two interpreters, Victor and Roger, I negotiated a one-year lease for the building that houses the Center. The new arrangement adds an upstairs apartment, consisting of a large salon, three smaller rooms, and a real bathroom (meaning it has a toilet!), to the already-existing two smaller rooms downstairs. This addition allows the Center to move its classes and sewing machines upstairs off the street, while the rooms downstairs can be converted into income-generating retail space.

Also important was the installation of The Rules and Regulations for Ushindi Center, which the Administrator and Governing Committee asked me to write. That done and duly read to the assembled group, they are now being translated into Swahili for future reference and operating instructions.

My long-term goal for Ushindi Center is that it becomes self-sufficient. My vision is for the women to run the training center and store as a collective, sharing work responsibilities and profits. As they become more independent, I will fade into an advisory position, ultimately turning Ushindi Center completely over to the collective to run.

With love and gratitude,

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