Our newest beader group in Agwata began in January 2010. Like our other two groups, the Agwata group is a local community based organization (CBO) whose name Konye ki Cingi which means “Help Yourself by Your Hand”. This group has began with 80 women as members and has now grown to more than 90 members. The group is very eager to learn new skills and to undertake group projects. Agwata is a very small village of 1,000 people in the very northern part of Uganda, about 40 kilometers from the Sudan border. It is a one hour drive from the Kitgum beader group. The village has no electricity but does have limited cell phone reception. One bore hole is about 2 km away and serves too many people.
By the late 1990s, many of the Agwata beaders were forced to live in one of two nearby IDP camps during the war with the LRA. Many of their children knew of only life in the IDP camp until two years ago. The people were forced into these camps by the Ugandan government for their own protection. By late 2008, the larger IDP camps were being disbanded and the inhabitants were forced into smaller IDP camps near their original villages. At the same time food rations from the World Food Program were being discontinued. 2009 was a difficult year of no food rations and very little food from newly planted crops either along nearby roadsides or in the area of the village where they were supposed to re-settle. A failed rainy season in 2009 resulted in extreme hunger and some starvation for the community as they began the resettlement process. 2010 was an improvement with more fruitful plantings and more acreage being cultivated. 2011 continued with much hard work in hand tilling additional acreage and undertaking more group activities.
In 2010, these ladies began to learn bead making so that in the last half of the year, they began producing loose beads and paper beaded bracelets for Outreach Uganda, and as a group, they began to acquire a few goats and chickens. The group expanded its income-generation capabilities in 2011 when it began a group beekeeping project, and began growing of a few cash crops.
The biggest effort of both the Agwata community and the beader group women was to build and support the Agwata primary school which began in February 2010 with students in classes P-1 and P-2 and then quickly expanded to also included P-3 students by mid-year. The 2011 school year began with 180 students enrolled in P-1 to P-4 classes. At this same time, the school began providing a mid-day meal for both students and teachers since the children were normally only eating once a day in the evening.
The community was motivated to start this school for the very youngest students who otherwise would have had to travel up to 4 kilometers away to the nearest school which was already overcrowded and with few teaching resources.
During 2011 the group learned additional bead making skills, and the community worked hard at making bricks and making plans to further expand the local primary school which started its third year beginning February 2012 with over 230 students in P-1 to P-5. A Nursery (Pre-School) class of almost 60 students began in June 2012. See Nursery photos and activities .