One of our amazing designers, Kalin, went on WEND Africa’s Vision Trip this past month. She is finally back and we are so excited to share a glimpse into who WEND is, the design work she did on her trip and what she learned from the experience! Keep reading to learn more.
What is WEND?
“WEND is a nonprofit based out of Gulu, Uganda. WEND provides opportunities for employment, education, and empowerment to war-affected women in Northern Uganda. The women supported by WEND were all directly affected by the war in Northern Uganda. Many of the WEND ladies were forced to become child soldiers or wives to LRA commanders. During war, nearly all the women were abducted, raped and abused. For thewomen who were lucky enough to escape, many returned HIV positive and with new children. After returning home, these women and children were ostracized due to their former affiliation with the rebel army. Because these women were taken captive at a tender age, many lacked a basic education or a means to support themselves and their families.
WEND employs these war-affected mothers as seamstresses to utilize skills training and education to improve their quality of life, invest in a sustainable future, and grow as leaders within their families and communities.”
What kind of design work did you do with WEND?
“We came up with exciting new designs for WEND merchandise (lots of canvas and leather!), and created a new WEND ambassador program where we will be hosting WEND events and pop up shops throughout the states. We had a WEND fashion show and fundraiser night, and we also held a night of relaxation and pampering for the ladies- we treated them to manicures, pedicures, and face masks!”
What non-design related work did you do while in Northern Uganda?
“Our team worked on a variety of projects throughout our time in Northern Uganda. We built friendships with the WEND women, listened to their stories and visited their homes, and were given the opportunity to see what WEND is doing in their lives firsthand. In addition to our work with the WEND ladies, we also spent our days doing different community outreach projects throughout the area. We cleared the land and unloaded bricks for the new WEND headquarters to be built, we taught the importance of education, empowerment, and girl power to 6th grade girls at Idobo Primary School, and we visited a center for children with Nodding Syndrome.”
What did you learn from the experience?
“WEND’s founder, Jolly, said “the change people want to see in Africa starts with empowering women.” This is one of my greatest takeaways from my trip to Uganda with WEND. Whether it’s talking to 12 year old girls about the importance of education and staying in school, or empowering war-affected mothers to dream big dreams for themselves and their families – I really believe that the future is female in Uganda. Despite the pain of the past, I have seen so much overflowing joy and strength that comes from empowerment.”