The call to Be you, Bravely is concurrently empowering and intimidating. We get that. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start or identify exactly what is calling our hearts toward doing something brave. If you’re not sure what brave thing to do this year maybe it’s about slowing down to listen to your heart, or maybe it’s about trying out a few things, because sometimes it takes getting involved before we know we’re passionate. For those of you in the second category, we’ll be highlighting organizations doing impactful things in the world with opportunities to dip your toe in, getting involved right from your home. (For those of you in the first category, we hope you’ll follow us along in The Brave Collective and that the journeys of other women will inspire and orient you in your own calling.)
(*Please note, friends: This post is long. But, would you take time read it, for me? For all the precious Ugandan mamaswho need your help? And then, would you consider sharing the post so others might help too? Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.)
She walked forfour hours just to meet me.
Her soles were red from Uganda’s earth, and she didn’t break a sweat in the high heat. Her eyes shone but she lowered them, looking at her sandals. Even as I reached out a hand to touch her shoulder, I could feel the strength in this peasant farmer’s arm.
She’d lost her husband just weeks earlier to HIV/Aids, an illness people still talk about in hushed tones because of the shame associated with it.
She’d lost her children long before that to this children’s home I was visiting – because she had a sick husband to care for and a farm that wasn’t bringing in money with no way to feed her sons or daughters.
And here I was, able to pay for her kids’ clothes and education while she wasn’t. And not because I worked harder. No, she worked sun-up to sundown and had callouses across her hands and feet. No, it was because I came from a first class country overflowing with food and privilege while the rest of the world is forced to feed from our trash cans.
I smiled at her, but I felt sick.
I am a mother. Every night I walk into my boys’ room and ache for them lying there in their beds, because they’re tucked deep in my womb. I cannot imagine how humbling, or humiliating, it would be, to have to ask someone else to take care of my children. To not be able to give them food or water, to not be able to keep them under your own roof – and then, to walk four hours to meet the woman who can?
Our Father weeps. He anguishes over every single mother–because there are hundreds of thousands of them across Uganda in the same situation – who has to lose her child, who cannot take care of her children.
And He’s asking us to do something about it.
Sponsoring a child is good, don’t get me wrong. I sponsor as many children as I am able.
But standing there with this beautiful woman in her brown hat and her downcast gaze, her son’s eyes shining as he looked at me, I thought: No. Enough. There has to be more.
I want this son to look at his mother with adoration, not me – a stranger.
I want him to look at her to provide his needs, not me – an outsider who didn’t birth him without an epidural, who didn’t weep and pray over him every night of his childhood, who didn’t spend every minute of every day trying to earn enough money to buy him a bowl of Matoke (cooked banana), so he wouldn’t starve to death.
So, I went home and founded a non-profit called The Lulu Tree. I didn’t intend to found a non-profit. I didn’t – and still don’t – feel qualified to start one, I just wanted to partner with someone who was doing what I wanted to do. But no one was.
Our vision at The Lulu Tree is to work with HIV mothers in the slum of Katwe, Uganda (the worst of Kampala’s eight slums), equipping them to care for their own kids. Our slogan is “Preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers.” Lofty, I know. But you have to dream big, right? Shoot for the moon and you’ll land somewhere among the stars?
So we’re shooting for the moon.
We’ve hired a beautiful Ugandan social worker named Esther Natakunda Tendo (Esther–is there more anointed a name? She has been called to free her people from captivity). We’ve also hired a national coordinator named Carol Masaba.
Both Carol and Esther will be working with the mothers in the slum of Katwe. Our goal is to equip them holistically – spiritually, emotionally and physically. This involves connecting them with the local church, providing HIV treatment for the mothers and children, and teaching the mamas a trade – how to sew, or cook, so after two years of being sponsored, these mamas will be self-sufficient.
(You can read about how to sponsor a mama HERE).
And … we’ve got some EXCITING NEWS! If you have Christmas shopping to do, and want to help people at the same time, look no further!!
We’re launchingTHE LULU TREE BOUTIQUE today, with the ultimate goal of creating a market for these precious mamas to selling their beautiful work through, once they’ve been trained. SHIPPING IS INCLUDED IN THE PRICES. All proceeds go towards The Lulu Tree.
A friend of mine, dear Jodie Vanderzwaag, has given up her very successful business a few months ago to run this boutique. Pretty amazing.
We are also partnering with The House of Belonging, Funky Fish Designs, Krafty Kash, and Little Dragonfly Boutique, as well as a number of individual artisans who have donated their products to this shop. My dear sister Christy Stewart Halsell of Sandy Feet Media has volunteered long hours to set up this website and boutique (I HIGHLY recommend her web services!), and countless others including photographer Leanne Doell have donated time and energy to Lulu. To see a full list of everyone who’s helping us, please visit HERE.
So, let’s get shopping! We’ve got cozy slipper boots, slouchy beanies for kids and adults, little girl dresses, cowls and jackets, infinity scarves, dolls, darling Lulu headbands and artwork, jewelry, and more. See below for some sneak peeks.
Would you consider doing some Christmas shopping at our boutique, and helping us help these mamas? We would be so grateful. Click the button below, or just follow this link: http://thelulutree.com/shop/.
Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, blogger, commissioned artist and columnist, as well as the author of five books including the memoir Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look (Baker Books). She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and two sons. For more info, please visit emilywierenga.com. Find her on Twitter or Facebook.
A lightweight infinity scarf made with original African cloth. Click here for more information. Limited edition.