Noeline found her passion for tailoring and actively pursued it. “I've loved sewing since I was young,” says Noeline, “So when I got a chance to be in the project, I took it right away.”
Bethan and Gareth Shrubsole met Noeline on a Ugandan road in 2011 when they first moved to the Kasese. Noeline was 19 and at school in Kasese’s Acholi quarter. When fees and an unsupportive family became too overwhelming, Noeline dropped out of school. Bethan and Gareth then encouraged their new friend to apply for a free eight month tailoring course held at the local skills centre.
When Noeline became pregnant, she dropped out of the sewing course. With no support, she fell into depression. Bethan found her living in a small room without any source of income and no way to pay the rent. “No one was helping her beyond giving her the odd hundred shillings, about 2p, which is only enough to buy a banana,” says Bethan. She counselled Noeline and convinced her to resume training. “We knew that Noeline had potential in life,” she says. So, the Shrubsoles invited her to live with them.
Youth unemployment is an issue in the Acholi Quarter. “We asked the community what skills they wanted to learn,” says Bethan, “and they said tailoring and carpentry.” The Shrubsoles, in partnership with Kasese Baptist Church, helped to create a tailoring course and a carpentry course. Gareth supplies the materials for both courses, in addition to his community development and church partnership work, and new courses are so full that applicants have to prioritise based on need.
Not long after setting up these courses, they noticed another need: childcare. “There had been cases where children died from walking into cooking fires or being bitten by dogs,” Bethan says. To counter this, they started a childcare ministry which Bethan runs for the children of women, like Noeline, taking the course.
Noeline now makes purses and summer and winter baby sleeping bags, all in patterns and colours commonly found in Uganda. She is back in school and very much a member of the family. The Shrubsole children, Samuel and Jonah, are often found chatting with her in the evenings.
Bethan and Noeline spend lots of time together exchanging ideas for her business and discussing techniques that would give her products a more finished look.
Noeline has clients lined up to buy her products at home in Acholi Quarter and has also expanded her business to the UK.
In two months, she will graduate from the tailoring course and be able to spend more time on her new business.
Noeline’s drive to make a good life for herself and her baby, combined with Bethan and Gareth’s mission through friendship have changed her future. Two years ago, no one could have guessed that a chance encounter on the road would save a life and build a promising future.