You may know about one of our latest partnerships with The Ndoto Collection, but have you heard the incredible testimony of the founder Jennings Wright? Read the story of how The Ndoto Collection came about and how our partnership was made!
“My name is Jennings Wright, and I am the founder of Ten Eighteen, Inc., a nonprofit working in Uganda. This is our 6th year there, and we’ve been so blessed to see God’s hand in growing and shaping the ministry.
Our latest project got us connected with ROWAN through, of all things, Instagram! In September, 2014, after a lot of prayer and seeking the Lord over our funding (our largest donor wasn’t able to contribute at all in 2014, leading us to have a budget 1/3 the size of previous year’s!), my daughter and I started a for-profit “sister” company called The Ndoto Collection. The idea was simple – the Ndoto Project uses cooperatives of women in Uganda to make clothing, jewelry and other items, which we sell here in the US. We pay them a salary for their work (this is important – we are not paying by the piece, we are paying a living weekly salary). Once the items sell, Ndoto contributes 30-50% of its profits to Ten Eighteen to help fund the work there. But the actual project wasn’t simple! We already had a group of ladies in the slums of Namuwongo, Kampala who would make up our first co-op. When I originally presented the idea to my friend in Kampala, we made plans to go to Arua where another friend has started a new work, and start a co-op there.
In the meantime, I’d found ROWAN on Instagram. Kelsey had asked if anyone would be in Uganda in October or November that could bring some things back to the States, and I’d offered to do it. The next day (because that’s how God works sometimes!), our trip to Arua fell apart. That left me with just one co-op, which was not terrible, but would limit our initial offerings, and make a longer trip necessary at another time . I was already going for 3 ½ weeks, which is a long time to be away from my husband, and really wanted to get everything as far as setting up the project accomplished on that trip. The following day, during my quiet time, I thought, “Hey, I wonder if ROWAN has anyone who sews or would want to?” I went online and looked at the website. I didn’t see any quilting circles, but it seemed a possibility, so I asked Kelsey about it. She talked to Pastor Paul and David/Wafu, and we spoke for over an hour the weekend before I left on the trip. The bottom line? ROWAN had been gifted some sewing machines from a ministry in the UK. They didn’t know how to use them yet, but there were women who’d like to learn. Game on!
I spent a week in Kampala working with our ladies there, searching out fabrics, experimenting with some jewelry designs, and interviewing candidates for the job of supervisor. Without an on-site supervisor, I knew this whole project wasn’t going to work, no matter how much either side wanted it to! After one REALLY bad (really really really bad!) interview, we found James Jemba. Wafu asked me while we were in Mawanga, “How did you get him? He is a very accomplished person!” Honestly, it was God. There is no other explanation that a man who has toured the country with the education minister, who administers national vocational exams, who has been a teacher for 20 years, would not only agree to work for a start-up project like ours but be EXCITED about it! But he did, and it has been a wonderful relationship so far.
The next week, we met in Mawanga and “Teacher James” as they call him got started. He taught the ladies how to make patterns, how to use their hand-powered machines (yes, HAND powered machines!), and how to service them. We spent two days on that trip, and the transformation in the ladies was just amazing! They were learning a skill. They were going to make a salary. And this skill was something that couldn’t be taken from them.
When we left, we made arrangements to convert the machines to foot power by having tables with treadle pedals made. James has gone back regularly to do more training. The women have received their pay with great joy. And their pajama shorts are SO CUTE!! I’ll be back in February, and can’t wait to see how far they’ve come since that first trip.
The Ndoto Collection is off to a slow but steady start. We’re growing by word of mouth (so we’d love for you to let your friends and family know about us!), and our products have been well received. People LOVE the stories of our ladies. We feel so privileged to be working with the great, great people of ROWAN, and all the ladies in their program who have jumped in so enthusiastically with the Ndoto Project. We can’t wait to see where God is going to take us all!”