Tualatin Rotary Sews Up Hope in Uganda

Kigezi women display a few of their garments destined for sales in neighboring towns and export to the United States. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
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Tualatin Rotary

The Tualatin Rotary Club is known for its impact on the lives of people in our local community. Club members support efforts to encourage scholars, provide food and dental health for those in need, distribute books for school kids, and seek out educational advancement for all. 

Rotary is an international organization, with over 1.2 million members in some 35,000 clubs worldwide. Tualatin members have supported projects in Cambodia, Brazil, Ethiopia and India. Last year, the club’s influence spread to Uganda in East Africa.

Tualatin Club member, Gian Luca Gamberini, and his wife, Dr. Olivia Kamayangi, founded a project targeted at the advancement of women in rural Uganda. The Kigezi Women Initiative was created after a group of women made a bold request for help. They wished to increase access to education, health, and economic mobility. So, Luca and his wife worked together to answer that request by improving family income, education and health in Uganda. 

(Left to right) Luca Gamberini, Dr. Julie Spaniel and Dr. Olivia Kamayangi in Uganda. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Economic advancement is key to the progress of rural women in that country. So, the project focused on supplying them with sewing machines and quickly caught the imagination of Rotary members. Kigezi women were skilled at making clothing for their families but sewing garments by hand was time consuming and did not provide an opportunity to create income. Therefore, gifting a group of women with sewing machines was a game changer. Garment production increased. Creativity soared, and fashion took hold. The women were using their talents to bring unique garments to life. 

With funds from Rotary, the women were able to purchase supplies and material. Outfits were transported into nearby towns and sold. With each sale, the cycle of possibility began to grow. The women had incomes and opportunities. Every advancement allowed them to improve the lives of their children and their community. 

One 15-year-old village girl was mentored by an older seamstress. She became skilled in sewing techniques. She began to design outfits that were highly creative. Her dresses sold quickly in a nearby town and the Gamberini family has brought some of her designs to the United States. Without sewing as an impetus, this young lady may have become a very young wife and mother. Thanks to her newly developed skills, she now has enough income to attend school and purchase the supplies needed for her education. In five years, she could be a world-renowned designer. 

Electricity is not a common household occurrence in rural Ugandan homes. So, the sewing machines the women use are powered by foot pedals. Without indoor lighting, however, the ability to sew is decreased by darkness. So, a lone solar panel became another economic advantage. The Kigezi project installs and maintains solar panels in the village, and the single light makes it possible for children to study, women to work and families to progress. 

Dr. Julie Spaniel (left) provided over 250 dental visits for village families. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Luca and his wife visit Uganda often and have now served over 1,000 people. They put their treasure and talents into the advancement of the Ugandan families in many ways, including sustainable farming education and literacy classes. Medicines have also been provided, and information has been delivered for increased sanitation and clean water wells have been established. Finally, funds for school supplies and tuition have been donated.

Dental health has been provided by another member of the Tualatin Rotary, Dr. Julie Spaniel, and her organization, One World Brigade. Spaniel joined forces with the Kigezi project and provided over 250 dental visits for village families. 

Ongoing support is needed, however, and fundraising is forever on the mind of Gamberini. There are opportunities for everyone to join in this project. Visit kigeziwomen.org to learn more or donate. To learn more about Rotary visit www.tualatinrotary.org.

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