It was an incredibly emotional ending to our embroidery training in Gulu.
All of the blocks were completed, photos were taken, plans were made for next blocks and new designs. Then we sat in a circle and Victoria asked anyone who wished to do so to tell us (the AP team) what the experience of the embroidery project had meant to her.
I thought the training had gone well. The women seemed to enjoy it and we had become “quiet” friends – nothing loud or boisterous but just nice. I was not prepared for the responses we received.
Nighty was the first to speak and she did so for a good five minutes, explaining that being a part of this group had helped her to feel a part of something important and how she really felt she had accomplished something this week. She said she was sorry that they had nothing to give to us to show how much they appreciated our efforts.
Concy spoke next and said because of this project and the payment she received today, she would be able to pay her child’s school fees so he could continue. Then Stella spoke, very softly telling us how she had joined other groups but none that were so transparent and welcoming. She spoke about how she felt when her child died and no one was there to support her but this group of women support her and the training has given her purpose. We were all wiping our eyes by the time she had finished.
Judith told us that her daughter who is struggling to stay at university had received an eviction notice but this money would allow her to help her daughter. Margaret, proudly wearing an Obama tee shirt, called the training a miracle – that someone would care for them at a difficult time (speaking of the pandemic) and would follow through on what they had promised.
Every woman who spoke, and they all did, added to this feeling of being a part of something larger than themselves – a sisterhood, a group of people they could now call upon for help in times of need. Even sweet, shy Concy A. brought a tear when she too said how fortunate she felt to be a part of this project which had given her so much already.
And then it was my turn to speak. It was difficult to gain control of my emotions and my voice. But I was able to tell them that they had indeed given me something very valuable. Although many of my experiences during COVID, when this project with the war survivors started, were clearly different from their own struggles, I told them of how lonely and hopeless I felt but how the blocks they made for the war story quilts and the COVID quilt made me feel connected to them. I told them that working to get their blocks made into quilts had given me purpose. I told them that their strength had given me strength and their work had made me a better artist too. I told them we had established a sisterhood of strong, creative women.
I have said over and over that the embroidery we carry out through The Advocacy Project is important. The story quilts help the world to understand the struggles and tragedies of many people. The COVID quilts help others understand not just the different experiences of this horrible time, but also the shared experiences regardless of geographic location or economic situation. Generating income has become another important outcome of the projects.
However, as I’ve now worked personally with groups in four countries, I know for certain that the most important aspect of this embroidery is the sharing and healing that occurs when women come together to create and to help others and themselves. The women today each spoke of that impact on their lives and I do as well. We stitch together. We heal ourselves and we heal each other.
Posted By Barbara Fitzsimmons
Posted Jul 17th, 2022