The Road Ahead

January 7, 2020  

As the Paper Fig Foundation moves into its 7th year, we are looking to focus on the wins and grow our successes. The road to building a foundation in Uganda has not always been smooth, but it has been dotted with celebrations and victories that keep our small team forging ahead. When the Paper Fig Foundation started, it was in the larger African cities where we were helping to launch fashion platforms like Collective RW in Kigali, Rwanda, and Kampala Fashion Week in Kampala, Uganda.

As we spent more time in the region, we started to explore the more rural areas, far from the hustle and bustle of the large cities. Kasese is a large town with a population of about 100,000 people, most of whom live on subsistence farming. Laurie DeJong, the Founder of Paper Fig Foundation, fell in love with the people of Kasese, and it became clear that her heart would remain in the region. 

We started looking into the needs of Kasese and found that there were large areas that lacked basic access to healthcare and water, and also that education and skills training were not readily available. Through the formation of the Paper Fig Foundation Health Center and the Paper Fig Foundation Skills Training Institute, we have sought to solve these problems. 

Much has already been done to fulfiull this goal: The Health Center has already treated about 7000 people, the Skills Training Institute has graduated over 300 students, and we have built a clean water tank and pump system that provide clean water to all who seek to access it. 

This year, our focus is on building on this strong foundation. At the top of our list is improving the services at the Skills Training Institute and supporting graduates and alumni as they seek to support themselves. 

The Paper Fig Alumni Association, formed by 75 graduates of the Skills Training Institute and led by a President, a Secretary, and a Treasurer, will receive much support this year through a loan program and Master Class series. Members of the Alumni Association are invited to apply for loans from our seed lending fund so they can purchase materials to start their tailoring/design businesses. 

The Master Class program is growing, and its purpose is multi-faceted. On the one hand, we bring in skilled designers from Kampala to teach new and useful skills to the members of our Alumni Association and teachers from the Skills Training Institute. They empower our staff and students with advanced techniques so they can create new, marketable items and can refine the items they already knew how to make.

In addition, the Master Class program supports four designers from Kampala who are struggling to make it in their industries. All four of these designers have proven themselves in terms of skill, teaching, and attitude and align with the mission of empowerment through fashion.

Finally, two members of the design team from Kampala bring together the whole community for a fashion cypher, during which anyone can join in to turn trash into art, and to collaborate on a fashion-driven project together. 

The goal of this program is to empower everyone it touches: the students, the teachers, the alumni, the designers, and even the larger community of Kasese.