Sitting at her sewing machine, Lamwaka Milka sings along to the radio playing local tunes, engaging in lighthearted conversation with the other seamstresses and bursting into laughter when she finds the song lyrics funny.
Early in the morning when the staff at Mend arrive to open the office, it’s not uncommon for them to find Milka already there, waiting to start work. Since she currently has no transport, she wakes up early to walk the three kilometers to Mend, determined never to be late. Even when she isn’t feeling well, she will make the effort to show up anyway. Her strong commitment made her the perfect choice for Seamstress of the Month.
“She has that interest in her work, she always tries her best to come,” says Richard, the Tailoring Supervisor.
Mend is a social enterprise geared toward facilitating financial independence and development for vulnerable women in northern Uganda. These women produce high quality bags designed to seam a personal connection between products, their makers and consumers. The 22 seamstresses supported by Mend are former abductees who were forced to become child soldiers or wives to the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel commanders. After escaping, they went through rehabilitation and were trained in the skill of tailoring.
Milka takes pride in the work she does at Mend. For her, the happiest moments are when she gets to see the bags she made pass quality inspection. She is careful to learn from her mistakes, improving with each bag she makes.
“Mend is really a good place of work, because you are going to learn many things,” Milka explains how she describes Mend to her friends. “There are many good things taking place at Mend.”
With the money she earns she is planning to put her four children and younger sister through school. That’s a lot of responsibility for one woman, and this month Milka has saved up for a well-deserved gift to herself: a bicycle to make that morning commute easier.