Saturday, June 13, 2009

New Blog

Blessings Friends!

Thank you for supporting The Shanti Uganda Society and following the work we do in Uganda! Over the last while, we have slowly been moving this blog to our new website and hope you will join us there!

For updates and postings from the last few months visit

In light,


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Off The Mat Into The World

The Shanti Uganda Society has been selected as one of the beneficiaries of the OTM 2009 Seva Challenge - Bare Witness: Humanitarian Tour. Here is an AMAZING video of who they are and how they are making change in our world!

Here is the link to the 2009 Seva Challenge page, how the funds will be used by The Shanti Uganda Society to build our Birth House and Learning Centre, support the children we work with at New Hope School and improve the lives of the women in our income generating group. We are looking forward to having the 20 OTM participants join us in the building of our birth house - each one of them has committed to raising $20,000 by November 2009! They are an amazing group of sacred activists!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Abayudaya Fundraiser Cafe

Please visit the Shanti Uganda table at the following event!

Abayudaya Fundraiser Cafe
Help support the "Delicious Peace" Interfaith Coffee Co-op of Ugandan Jews, Muslims and Christians, The Shanti Uganda Society and other worthy projects

Sunday, March 15, 7:30 p.m. at Or Shalom
710 E.10th Ave. at Fraser. Minimum $10 donation at the door

Videos, Slides, Abayudaya Recordings,'Delicious Peace' coffee plus tea and treats, CDs and Shanti Uganda jewelry

The Abayudaya are a Jewish community in eastern Uganda. Lorne Mallin is going there in April as a Kulanu volunteer for six months and is raising money to support projects.

More info at
604-222-3379 •

Friday, March 6, 2009


This is Grace - she is a recent graduate of our training program and now has a certificate showing her membership in The Shanti Uganda Women's Income Generating Group! She also makes incredible crafts made from banana leaves - we love these beautiful wallets and recently bought a 'supply' from her to bring back to Canada. Here we are sitting on the porch of the volunteer house with the new wallets she just completed. Grace's son William is supported by the Just Like My Child sponsorship program which means unlike many ugandan boys, he gets to go to school. The foundation has decided to focus on encouraging the sponsorship parents to play a more active role in their children's education - which we LOVE!

Grace has decided that she wants to use the money she makes from her jewellery business with Shanti Uganda to pay the transportation costs to be able to visit her son at school during the year. We couldn't agree more that this is a great way to use her income!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Transform Your Life With Meditation

Blessings Friends!

Last year I was invited to be a part of an exciting project to support communities in Uganda, addictions in BC and individuals looking to improve their lives! Together with Wendy Weymann I recorded The Light Within: Guided Meditations For The Beginner And Beyond…

Our guided meditation CD has 5 different meditations/visualizations guided by 2 different voices! There are 2 silent meditations with a guided introduction where you can ease out of your relaxation to the sound of a gentle chime! The other three introduce you to the power of grounding & centering, deep abdominal breathing and a white light visualization.

A daily meditation practice WILL change your life! Not only will the CD make a difference in your own life, but a portion of each CD purchased will be donated to The Shanti Uganda Society and various addiction related charities in BC!

Reduce your stress level and ENJOY your life! Meditation knows no boundaries. Regardless of religion, age, or lifestyle, the practice of sitting 'with yourself' has the potential to heal and transform individuals from the inside out. When you strip away the outer layers and turn the focus within, you will find not only the path to self-awareness, but the beauty and truth at the core of your heart.

To listen to sound clips, or to purchase the CD visit

To purchase as an MP3 file, go to

$2 from every CD purchased will be donated to The Shanti Uganda Society and $7 from all purchases made at Shanti Uganda events will be donated to the organization.

To purchase a CD or for wholesale inquiries, contact Natalie or Wendy

In light,


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Board of Directors!

Blessings Friends,

The Shanti Uganda Society is looking for amazing individuals to join our Board of Directors in Vancouver BC. Shanti Uganda improves the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of communities impacted by poverty, war and HIV/AIDS in Uganda .

If you are passionate about sustainable community development, holistic health, conscious birth and natural building, send us an email! Board Members have experience fundraising, believe strongly in seva (selfless service) and are able to attend board meetings in BC, Canada. We are looking for individuals to be a part of our growth over the next year as we begin building The Shanti Uganda Birth House and Learning Centre in Uganda. Join us on a journey to reduce maternal and infant death rates and support women in a rural community in Uganda!

For more information about the role of a board member or to meet with our existing board, email Elections are this coming Spring.

In peace,


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Nansubuga Rose

This is Rose - she has 7 children, is HIV+ and is the most beautiful, hardworking, inspiring woman I know! Since joining the Shanti Uganda Women's Income Generating Group, her life has changed and the impact of those changes will be passed down to her 7 children - most of them girls. The impact will continue in this way from generation to generation.

She also makes beautiful multi colour long beaded necklaces. Here in Uganda, they are known as 'bubblegum' - The women in our group have named it katogo (which means mixture in luganda). Katogo is also known as breakfast matoke (a mixture of bananas, gound nuts and veggies eaten for breakfast). They all think that this is very funny and roar in laughter at the thought of calling a beautiful beaded necklace 'katogo'. If you are wearing your long multicoulour necklance, there's a good chance it was made by Rose. During her jewellery and business training she learned the value of focusing on what she does well. We love her 'katogo' necklaces and she can ALWAYS be found down at the hut working away at cutting paper, rolling beads and then stringing different shapes, sizes and colours to make the 'katogo' necklace.

Rose and I have a special relationship, because she knows that the multi colour necklace just happens to be my favourite necklace. Each buying day, she carefully unrolls her fabric pouch to reveal a new pile of beautiful, colourful paper beaded 'katogo' necklaces. I have seen them a thousand times, but each time she does this its as though I have never in my life seen a multi colour necklace. My eyes widen and a smile creeps over my face - she thinks that this is hilarious because she knows the same thing happens EVERY time! It always causes her to laugh and the two of us giggle over the 'predictability' of the whole situation!

The day before I was scheduled to leave Uganda this time, I walked out of the volunteer house to go talk to the sisters and found Rose, rolling away on our porch! The women don't often come to the volunteer house unless they have something to ask or share with us, but there she was- content - sitting there, rolling her beads. As soon as she saw me, we exchanged the typical series of greetings in Luganda, but she continued chatting away - intent on communicating to me something that seemed very important. This was well beyond my comprehension and I went to get Maria to translate.

Rose began to share with me all of the ways the project has changed her life, her new-found sense of empowerment, her ability to feel proud of who she is and her faith in the future and the future of her children. By now, she had a huge smile on her face and tears began to well up in her eyes as she reached into her fabric pouch to reveal a beautiful, colourful 'katogo' necklace. She carefully placed the necklace into my hand and we sat there with tears rolling down our cheeks holding hands on the porch. A gift. Webale (thankyou) she repeated over and over, turning her face to hide her tears. And then she left. I wore the necklace on the plane ride home - a reminder of Rose and all of the women who inspire us to trust, to have faith, to carry on.

Birth House and Learning Centre - meetings, partners & planning!

About an hour outside of Kasana in the District of Luweero, on a bumpy road into the bush, is the community of Kakira-Soweto (pronounced kacheera). Just getting there is a journey and once you arrive, you'll find the town trading centre - a few mud huts and a handful of run-down brick rooms where a local woman sells candles, soda and sugar. It is a passionate community made up of many families who tend to cattle, and rely mostly on a diet of milk. There are children everywhere - there is no school, so they run around and play and by the time they are about 12, have no education and no means to leave, usually marry and start a family. Many of the men have turned to the local home made alcohol, young boys stand around with nothing to do but drink and the women are surrounded by babies, children, and girls who will themselves soon start their own families.

Children are dying of malaria, there is no source of employment, no opportunity for children to go to school, no health clinic or doctor and no clean water. The women in the community have a very poor diet and therefor, have many complications during birth - the closest health clinic is over an hour away. By the time they reach a doctor, they have often died. Maternal and infant death is common and change is deeply needed! After meetings with the community, we found that their primary concern was health. For this reason, we are working with the community, the handful of traditional birth attendants working in the area, the sisters of Bishop Asili Clinic in Kasana and the elected leaders to create a project that can address these issues!

The Shanti Uganda Birth House and Learning Centre will do just that. The Birth House will focus on preventative care and work with local birth attendants to improve the health of women, their babies and the entire community of Kakira-Soweto! Not only are we able to work with and support a very dedicated community who are more than ready to participate and create programs that improve the health of the women and children in the area, but we have also partnered with a fantastic BC based organization!

The Earth Rising Foundation promotes healthy communities through sustainable building practices and natural building. They use natural building techniques and local, reusable and sustainable materials. With a focus on developing self-sufficient initiatives, they use local labour and are committed to embracing local customs, the environment and people in the building of projects!

Adam Perry, the founder of the organization, just happened to be in Tanzania working on another project and took the LONG bus ride to Uganda to visit the birth centre site and meet with the community to discuss natural building - what it is, how it is different and the various ways the community wants to get involved! The meeting was a huge success! We have the support and participation of both the men and the women, the traditional birth attendants AND the community leaders. The TBAs shared with us the ways they want to get involved and their needs and assured us they would stand behind the project to make sure we work as one! Even the women in the community want to get involved with the building and learn new ways to build sustainable homes!

wAteR WaTer wATer

The community we are working with has no water source or power. This means that we have to decide where, on the 228 acres, to lay out the birth house. We had the great opportunity to walk around the land with the sisters, with the Earth Rising Foundation and with the men who sold the land to search for the best possible place based on where water gathers, where its dry, where there is a potential to clear a road etc. At the end we decided on a general location which will soon be tested for water to find the best place to drill. This is one of our main priorities, not only to provide a clean source of water for the community using the birth house, our staff and volunteers, but also to have a water source available during the building process which will soon be needed!

Along The Way!

As we were driving to meet with the community for another meeting about the birth house and learning centre, there was a woman carrying yams on her bike to the market on the road. When she saw the car and attempted to move towards the side of the road, she lost her balance and the yams went rolling all over the road.

Without a second to think about it, all of the men in the vehicle jumped out to assist the woman - She had the largest smile on her face while surrounded by shanti uganda's project coordinator, the founder of The Earth Rising Foundation, the community mobilizer and the film man from the Earth Rising Foundation. The yams were carefully tied back onto her bag and she made her way towards the saturday market.

The real measure of success

We have been trying to find a way to measure the success of the women’s income generating group over time and therefore have come up with intake forms, conducted needs assessments and set in place a very organized system to monitor the success of the program.

On Monday, many of the women stopped to share with us their individual stories of how life has changed since joining The Shanti Uganda Women’s Income Generating Group.

In a town where paper beads had no presence, there is now a ‘beading buzz’. The community leaders have stopped in to visit the project [these are usually men who are shocked by the women and their very successful new business!], women in the village are buying the jewellery from the women in our group and in addition to the jewellery we sell in North America, they are busy planning ways to sell their jewellery to the local market here in Uganda.

There are stories of saving money for school fees, of investing in making house improvements and of searching for additional ways to earn an income. Lydia has bought her paper-cutting machine and for a small fee charges the other women who do not want to wait in line to use the machine we bought them at the clinic, will cut their paper for them. Ivone has shared with us that after putting her money aside from jewellery sales, she has been able to purchase the materials to cement her dirt floor, which will reduce the amount of bugs, provide a much cleaner place to eat and sleep for her family and most of all give her a sense of pride! Grace, who’s son is currently in school has decided that she is going to use some of her beading money to pay the transportation costs so that she can visit him – she knows that playing an active role in his education will improve his ability to succeed!

And so above all of the procedures we’ve put in place to monitor success, we’ve found that the best way is to listen to stories, watch the twinkle in their eyes and hold their hands as they proudly stand tall – for they are not just women with HIV, but strong, courageous, creative women who have lost loved ones, raised grandchildren, been child mothers, lived in IDP camps and now know what it means to move on, to believe and to step forward in life.

Although each bead that she rolls carries with it her story
Every woman has walked a different path
And now together they all make beads
With love
From Uganda.

For more information about the women or to learn how you can hold your own jewellery event, send us an email!

New Hope Updates

New Hope School has now finished the chicken coop, the chicks are quickly growing, the children are already talking about eating eggs and the day when they will begin to lay is fast approaching! They did a fabulous job building the coop with the funds that were donated when the project began in July and we have organized the project so that there are enough chicks to supply the children with eggs to eat as well as to sell for income for the school and to purchase everything needed to sustain the chickens and their new home over time. By April the project will sustain itself and provide the much-needed nutrients to the nutrient lacking diet the children currently have!

Anatomy of the pelvis

Last week at the staff development workshop we went over ways to encourage an active birth and avoid being flat on the back on the vinyl labour table with legs in stirrups while birthing. Its interesting because in Uganda, women are encouraged to walk around and be on their own for most of the birth process, but the moment they feel like pushing, their instincts are silenced and they are pulled up onto that big, black, metal labour table. Things usually go downhill from there.

I knew that I needed to come up with something tangible to combine with what we had discussed last week and remembered one night when we made a pelvis out of paper in our midwifery study group at home. So yesterday I bought a few large pieces of hard paper and this morning we took the paper pelvis I had brought, traced it onto the new paper and during the workshop all of the staff traced, cut, taped and folded their own paper pelvis. That was all that was needed! We all used our pelvis’ to understand the various positions we had practiced last week and point out the elements of the pelvis and how they are involved in the birth process. As I was leavings the workshop, I ran into a few of the midwives who were not able to attend and together with them made more paper pelvis’ and again we got down on the floor and compared the many ways a woman can birth. It really helped with so many of the reasons that are used in Uganda to blame the mother for any problems that come up in the birth process – statements like ‘her pelvis is too small’, or ‘she is too fat’ are often comments used to justify a cesarean section. The paper pelvis helps to show what is actually happening!

Just today Sister Ernestine mentioned a conversation she had with one of the student midwives who had had quite a challenging birth the night before, but made a comment about how she still had much of what she learned in the last few staff development workshops fresh in her mind which made a big difference in her ability to support the birthing mama!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

“In Africa You Are Never Alone”

After the workshop we got ready to visit the land where we will be building the birth house. The funding proposal we sent Seane Corn was approved by Off The Mat, so we are working with The Earth Rising Foundation to get things moving! There are no words to explain this day. First of all the land is smack in the middle of nowhere. The drive there was incredible....on what could be called roads, but more like using the power of the 4x4 to push through the dense bush. The plants and trees scraped their way along the sides of the vehicle. I kept joking with the sisters about the need for a birth house where there are no people and they assured me that they were there..."In africa, you are never alone" they said. We stopped at what is known as the town-trading centre, which was one run down shack and a small brick building with a few things for sale. The community here relies mostly on what they can grow themselves to survive and raising cattle - they grow as much as they need to survive and it pretty much ends there. In the town we stopped to pick up a few community leaders - exchanged greetings and then made our way towards the land. Along the way John emerged out of the bush - it was his land that the sisters bought which we are using to build the birth house - 228 acres.

He guided us towards the land and we all got out of the vehicle to greet his wife who emerged from her tiny mud hut. And then we walked and walked and walked. Over time what was red clay became light sand and the vegetation also began to change. We jumped over moving lines of safari ants (which, after being attacked by these little guys last week, I attempted to FLY over them!) Through swamp and cows and cow poo and then more land. John's sister in law was with him - she was waiting to birth and had come to stay with his wife (her sister) to birth in their mud hut in the middle of nowhere. After our visit, he decided that he would sell one of his cows and bring her to Bishop Asili to birth. One of the TBAs in the community had just left on a motorcycle (along the most bumpy road you can imagine) with a mama who had complications - they were trying to make their way towards the closest clinic (there in nothing in this village – which is why they have requested our presence here). Usually the women die by the time they get to the closest clinic - we never did find out if this woman was ok.

We finally convinced John and Sam, who we were walking with, that we had a lifetime to walk the land and perhaps we should head back for our meeting with the community. My thoughts that there was nobody there were proven wrong and slowly by slowly over 115 community members began to emerge – literally out of nowhere!

The meeting was incredible – they put forth the problems in the village – high maternal + infant death rates, no schools so a large amount of youth with nothing to do were turning to drinking, increasing HIV rates - the list goes on. The women all sat on one side – at least every second woman had a baby on her hip or at the breast! – and the men on the other side. We met with the TBAs and scheduled another meeting with them on Saturday to further discuss their needs and how we can work together as we build the birth house. Many of the men were drunk (there really is nothing else for them to do) – it was devastating – the women put them in their place quite fast – it was an interesting process to watch. Most of the men present had cattle which is what they spend their time doing and the women have babies which is, for the most part, what they spend their time doing. We have our work cut out for us here, but although the challenges are high, this community truly needs, wants and is ready to take part in this project!

We were here for the rest of the day, the sun began to set and we discussed creating a letter, which would be taken by scooter to one of the village leaders who we want to be present on Saturday when adam comes and when we meet with the TBAs – apparently, the only way to request his presence is to deliver a hand written letter into the bush – and after todays meeting – I’m quite certain he will appear!

Supporting The Birthin’ Mama

Tuesday morning I woke up early and ran a staff development workshop for Bishop Asili staff. I've been chatting with the man in charge of staff development about their needs and what to focus these workshops on and tuesday we looked at breathing, different ways to support a birthing mama and tricks to deal with things like sciatica, back pain, leg cramps etc. We all had fun and it was hilarious to watch the staff start to understand that these workshops will be participatory and not just being 'talked at' - the education system here does not involve any kind of participation, so its a barrier we are working at breaking when it comes to these birth related workshops

Four Sets Of Hands Are Better Than One!

Monday was a buying day - there is always an incredible energy around these days. The women ALL show up! This time we also had quite a few things to chat with them about. They all organized themselves into mini groups based on their closest friends and then within that mini group chose one person to be the official supply person who comes to kampala to purchase paper etc with Julius. We all decided that this would work better than just having one person do it and it also gives the women the opportunity to really think about who they trust to keep their interests in mind!

There are two volunteers here from Germany right now who came to help Julius and I - I'm not sure what we would have done without them because it took FOREVER and was very tiring even with 4 sets of hands! Its definitely a role future volunteers can help Julius with because having him run a whole buying day on his own will be almost impossible. We were exhausted at the end of the day!

Birth Kits and Staff Development

Since I arrived in January, Sister Ernestine and I have been talking about the continuing education workshops that happen every Tuesday morning for Bishop Asili Staff. These workshops are for all of the staff who work at the clinic – midwives, nurses, counselors etc. There is one man who is responsible for coordinating the continuing education program and will be organizing and helping us lead these workshops over the next few weeks.

One of our objectives as an organization is to improve maternal and infant health in Uganda – there are many ways we address this goal, one of them being workshops and educational opportunities for existing birth professionals in the Luwero District. Our first workshop was to discuss the birth kit project with them, which is another way we work towards this goal – We assessed needs, what they believe the most essential elements are to add to the kit and how we can set the project up with the best results possible. In January, I brought all of the birth kits that were purchased by our donors in Canada so far – each one with everything a woman needs to safely birth her baby!

I went over each item with the staff – explaining its use, answering questions and getting their feedback. Bed pads, cord ties, prep pads, gloves, vitamin supplements are just a few things in our birth kits. I also brought the donated birth related books, which have been added to the previous birth books we brought in July. This growing library will be managed by George, the continuing education coordinator.

When brainstorming birth kit contents with Nikiah, who sits on our board and organizes the birth kits, we decided that it would be important to add a reusable pad to each kit. We both agreed that this would be a special gift each woman would be able to take home and use again and again – she contacted the women at Lunapads and one of their pads is now added to each kit! The midwives were thrilled at the idea of a reusable pad that wasn’t as costly as disposables and was much more secure, safe and hygienic than the rags that many women use – this can be particularly dangerous when used by a woman who has just given birth and may still be healing open wounds that then come into contact with a dirty rag – infection is common. We practiced snapping the pads into place and learning how to teach the new moms how to wash them properly.

As the workshop was taking place, there was a woman in the birth process in the birth ward – With this $15 purchase made by one donor in Canada, we used the very first Shanti Uganda Birth Kit today!

Bead meetings and reaching goals!

Julius has started school again and although we have worked out a schedule for him to come for meetings with the women, this Monday I was one my own. I had scheduled to meet with the women in the round hut that has become our meeting place from 2-4pm but by the time I had showered and sat down for breakfast, Maria informed me that some had already come to start working and see where I was. After breakfast, I went down to the hut and found at least 6 women already working away. Watching them put so much time, commitment and care into this project is such a gift! Although it wasn’t a buying day, I had told them I’d be there to help, answer any questions and remind them about measurements, check beads etc. For the most part, they are fine on their own, but there are still a few who sometimes need a little confirmation that they are doing just great! It was a relaxing day sitting there in the hut through the sun, the rain, the grey skies and then the clearing. Each time a new woman arrived, she proudly emptied her beads for me – some carried them in empty water bottles, others in pieces of fabric carefully tucked away in their dresses. Each one with a sparkle and laugh at my exclamation of how hard they had worked and how many beads they had carried with them. Some of the women threw complete necklaces down onto my legs, laughing at my mouth, which dropped over how hard they had been working since our last meeting!
There are currently two girls from Germany who are staying at the volunteer house and volunteering in the clinic – this is part of their volunteer period in between highschool and university. Both of them took time away from their work at the clinic to sit with us in the hut, sorting beads, removing beads that were not good, praising beads that were. They enjoyed spending some time doing something different and even learned how to roll their own beads!
Ever since we bought them the large paper cutter, one beader, Lydia has been telling us her goal of buying her own machine and using it to cut paper for other women in the group as an additional form of income. She proudly announced that after our first buying day, she was able to add to her existing savings and purchase her own paper cutter. Now she will be adding ‘paper cutter’ to her new business of making beads!

Asante Sana!

On Tuesday the women began to learn how to take their beautiful beads and create jewellery and on Wednesday, they learned some of the more challenging jewellery designs and we had our graduation ceremony. They are so excited about this new project and continually dance, and clap – its beautiful to see the sparkle in their eyes and a new sense of hope return. Many of these women have walked a journey that most of us will never have to face and being a part of their unveiling and new sense of power is something I will never forget. This training period has given us the opportunity to truly get to know them – their names, their stories, the way they each smile and laugh and the amazing way they all deal with difficulties, confusion and misunderstanding – there is always one woman who clarifies everything for the rest, or steps up and takes another under her wing to help her with something that is challenging.

As we were nearing the end of the day, the women took time to thank and honour Teopista who had given so much of her time to train them. There was much singing and clapping and a special thank you where all of the women clap together and yell “ASANTE SANA!”

We began to organize their graduation ceremony. For many of them, it was the first one of their lives. They were so excited about the certificates. While we were getting ready, one received a phone call from a friend and told her all about the certificate - “and we are even getting certificates.” Before we began each woman received her jewellery package of supplies including important things like clasps, jewellery string, varnishing string and the little glass beads used on the necklaces. Julius read out the certificate in both English and Luganda – there was more celebration. Each woman was called up one at a time to receive her certificate and in order of the amount of beads they made over the 5 days, pick a prize. Each woman got a prize no matter how many beads she had made and the top 17 women received an additional package of glass beads. They all wanted photos with their certificates and the jewellery they had made and began speeches expressing their gratitude for the training and how it will change their lives.

The most exciting part of the day was our buying time. We had told them that at the end of the graduation ceremony, we would be buying their training jewellery from them. Each woman came up one at a time, Julius went over her jewellery and if it was well done, it went into the bucket and she was given money for her jewellery. I have never seen such a lively, joy-filled event – some woman danced around the room and did their own version of a victory dance, others cried out in joy, other women fell down onto their knees. The wealth of this project goes far beyond receiving their own income and can be seen right into the depth of their eyes.