Beads to Business Graduate
Kampala, Uganda

By Irene Namaganda
At the age of 18, Sarah moved to Kampala, Uganda’s capital, with a young man, where they had three children. As time went on, the father of Sarah’s children became hostile toward her. He barely provided for his family and beat Sarah often. Moreover, Esther, the oldest child, was asthmatic and needed regular medical attention.

Ironically, the death of a prominent doctor gave Sarah hope. She went home to her village for the funeral, hoping to start a new life with her children. But when she arrived, she discovered army rebels had driven everyone from their villages. She would either have to live in a temporary camp or take her children back to a violent home.

One day before the truck set off for Kampala, Sarah found her brother in the camp and made the hardest decision of her life. She decided to leave the boys in the care of her brother and take Esther back to Kampala. She would look for work in Kampala to pay for Esther’s care and send money home to the boys.

Sarah found it hard to find jobs because she wasn’t educated and didn’t speak the local language. However, she discovered if she collected recyclables from rubbish bins she could find buyers for the goods. “I woke up as early as 4 a.m. to start collecting whatever had been thrown away,” says Sarah. She labored under the scorching sun, imagining a life with all her children close by. But the recycling money was never enough.

With her bare hands, Sarah built a house of wattle, mud, and used plastic on a small piece of land lent to her by a church. Since the house lacked a proper door, burglars broke in and stole their meager belongings several times. “My heart was never at rest as I worried that Esther would be raped or killed,” says Sarah, with tears in her eyes. Every cent that Sarah made went toward food and school fees for Esther.

Despite the hard circumstances, their bond grew stronger by the day. Sarah found Esther a school close to where she collected recyclables so she could take her daughter lunch money every day. “I never wanted to embarrass my daughter by turning up in filthy work clothes at her school,” says Sarah. She would find a private place and change into clean clothes to appear presentable.

Then Sarah met BeadForLife and eventually used her bead earnings to move into a house with electricity so Esther could study at night. Esther joined a computer school and is now happily employed, leading a team of sales representatives and earning $153/month. Although she still collects recyclables, Sarah has started another income generating project—she cooks food for laborers at construction sites.

Both mother and daughter have weathered a lot of storms together and are grateful for the turnaround in their lives. Still bound by love and trust, they are putting away any money they can for a trip back home in the hope of reuniting with Esther’s brothers and the rest of their family.

“I never wanted to embarrass my daughter by turning up in filthy work clothes at her school." – Sarah