I had booked my tickets; I was heading to Uganda to meet Shanley of Nakate. It wasn’t until I mentioned at a party that I was going to meet up with someone I met online that I realized how ridiculous I sounded.
I mean, meeting someone on Twitter, having idle chit chat and following one another’s blogs was one thing, but flying across a continent to meet and actually learn about her business seems, well a little crazy.
As I boarded my final plane towards Entebbe, Uganda I started to feel trepidation… was Shanley actually a middle aged man hoping to swindle all of my money… wait, what money? I shook my head, breathed deeply, and walked into the terminal.
My fears were squelched. Sometimes you can just know that this person is worth being vulnerable with. And so, as Shanley was fighting jet lag, we shared secrets at 3am under mosquito nets.
That sharing never stopped. And we became each other’s support as we went out to the village of Kakooge and learned about the challenges and joys of the women who are involved in making beads for Nakate.
These women touched me deeply. They are strong women who have experienced the very worst – AIDS, poverty, and for many they were doing it all alone. But the most surprising moment? When we should have found women crying in despair instead we found glimmers of hope.
Funny what a simple bead can do. Agnes, a Ugandan women who is Shanley’s liaison, would ask the question, “What have the beads done for you?”
That simple question would lead to stories of small businesses being opened, bank accounts started, children being fed and school fees paid for.
Just beads. Necklaces. Something that seems so frivolous in the face of extreme poverty was literally pulling them out of their dire situations.
Who would have thought that just beads could bring change?
And so through those beads I have gained perspective. A dear new friend. And some beads to sell because well, it’s the least I can do for these women, who gave me so much.