Vicky Collins Online

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Deed for Life

Ndagire Sarah walked the red dirt carpet in her perky hairdo and a beautiful blue and white gown. She carried herself like a rich lady in a gomesi, the formal dress of women in Uganda. When I saw her I was overcome with tears of joy. I had met Sarah in 2006 when she was so sick with HIV/AIDS that she could hardly breathe. She lived in a slum in Kampala and was poor beyond belief, a widow who could not afford to feed her family or send her children to school, one of the hundreds of millions of women who live around the world in extreme poverty. But that was then. Today, just four years later, Sarah was being honored, with 21 other women for an incredible achievement. She had paid off a home that she built for herself in the village of Mukono, and was being awarded the title to the land she sat on. Sarah, who just a few years ago thought she would die and leave her children with nothing, was now a homeowner and one of the very small percentage of women around the world with land in her own name.

Ndagire Sarah in 2006

Sarah’s transcendent moment came because of her partnership with BeadforLife.  For many months she rolled beads out of recycled paper and saved her money for a down payment.  Beads became bricks and a ladder out of poverty.  She didn’t eat the profits, worked hard, and became an entrepreneur who also raised poultry. Sarah was the pioneer in Friendship Village.  She built the very first of 130 homes, even though the men who helped her thought she would not live long enough to sleep in it.  Today she is the proud owner of a brick house with a tin roof.  She has a lawn, a garden and 1000 neighbors.  The women roll beads to pay off their mortgages and not a single one defaults.  On this festival day, Sarah and 21 others call themselves brides, and they march from home to home.  Each woman is given a certificate and dances with it on the porch she dreamed about.  “This is really a day of glory for each of you,” BeadforLife founder, Devin Hibbard, proclaims.  She tells Sarah and the others to close their eyes.  “Think about where you were and think about where you are now and my challenge to you is to create your next dream as you become homeowners today.  What do you want to accomplish in the next three or four or five years?  Can you picture yourself and where you will be if you accomplish your next big goal? Because this is not the end of the path.  This is only the beginning for you.”

BeadforLife

Ndagire Sarah in 2010

In November another 60 women will become homeowners and receive the titles to their land, and in March the last deeds will be given out.  The women will sing and ululate and shout “BeadforLife Oye” as they parade through the village.  They will celebrate with their neighbors and dance until midnight.  They will never fear that they will be thrown out of their home again.  They will never worry that they will die and have nothing for their children.  They will have an asset they can sell or carry from generation to generation, and a garden so they can feed their family.  For when you have a home you are never poor.  “Being a homeowner means the pride, the success, the light in your eyes, knowing you have worked hard and you have accomplished great things,” Devin reminds them.  “Being a homeowner means the confidence and pride to carry yourself like a big woman.”  Today Sarah is a leader in the village.  “Because of BeadforLife I’m so happy and so proud.  Sometimes when I sleep in my bed I say every person never lose hope.  Let me be the woman determined to win.  Because of BeadforLife I have my own house.”

For more information on BeadforLife visit http://beadforlife.org.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.

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Out of Africa

Just returned from a three week trip to Uganda where we did more video production for BeadforLife (http://beadforlife.org.)  The highlight was seeing women who were dying of poverty just three years ago celebrate paying off homes they saved for and built themselves.  In a joyous ceremony BeadforLife presented 22 women with the titles to the land they sit on.  The women paraded from home to home dancing and ululating, and from what I heard they partied late into the night.  Women owners are extremely rare in Africa and BeadforLife’s Friendship Village in Mukono is an example of what’s possible.  Housing ministers from all over Africa came a few days later to see Friendship Village for themselves and other countries throughout the region are looking to emulate this poverty eradication success story.   

This trip we also visited Murchison Falls National Park to see the animals and also learn more about the oil drilling that’s going on there which is quite shocking in such a pristine place.  It is all happening very quietly and needs to be exposed.  We also visited Worldvision’s Children of War Rehabilitation Center in Gulu.  To hear the testimonies of young men who were abducted in grade school, held captive for 15 years, and forced to be child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army is extremely sobering.  One boy was forced to kill his own brother, another had 22 gunshot scars and a third, thankfully, was now back in school and in his village.  I will blog more about this all later but my friend Mark Jordahl, who was with us on our trip and is a prominent conservationist in Uganda, has written a very powerful blog about the child soldiers.  I hope you’ll read his very moving account of the experience. 

http://conserveuganda.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/what-if-it-was-my-son/

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Friendship Village

Ever since I traveled to Kampala, Uganda in 2006 I have wanted to tell the story about the village BeadforLife (http://beadforlife.org) was creating with its members.  On our first visit we learned that affordable housing was a dream for the women who were trying to lift themselves out of extreme life crushing poverty.  Almost all wished for a home that they would own rather than rent.  They said if they could accomplish that they would no longer be poor.  The staff was still looking for the right piece of land during that visit.  When I returned to Kampala two years later my eyes popped.  A village had risen up outside of Kampala and women were saying goodbye to poverty forever.  HDNet’s World Report  (http://hd.net) aired our story about Friendship Village and in case you missed it I wanted to share it with you.   Paul Hillman of Seattle was the cinematographer, Godwin Opuly of Kampala was second camera and also ran audio, Bliss Bishop of HDNet was the editor and Jennifer London narrates.   

 

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com