Bikes for the World

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Stitch In Time

Nalongo Nagobi Joweliya was a single mother of three who had just turned 40 when she was imprisoned for aggravated assault. She served two years before being released.

In Uganda, prison sentences are particularly hard on women, many of them wrongly accused. Prisons are overcrowded and inmates are routinely cut off from family visits due to travel complications.

Many are single mothers like Joweliya. They need to rely on the generosity of family or friends who look after their children while they are incarcerated. Visits become a burden many of these 'foster' moms cannot bear.

When women are released from prison it's like starting over. They may not have a home to go home to. The world has moved on without them. Their kids are scattered and resettled in other families, most are struggling to get by.

Training programs, like the sewing project sponsored by the Prisoners Support Organization in Uganda, are vital to helping ex-offenders get a leg up once they are released.

Kevin Okoth, seen here, participated in a life skills program while incarcerated at Jinja prison.  In the program she learned about business and computers. She also honed her tailoring and knitting skills.

Okoth was sent to prison after a neighbor accused her of robbing him at gun point. Without the funds to pay for lawyer Okoth was sent to the women's prison after being held for a week in a local holding cell. Finally, after three years in prison, the case was dismissed and Okoth was released.

During her sentence her children were cared for by family members. During that period none of the children were enrolled in school, unable to pay for books and school fees. They also had to pick up odd jobs to help financially in their temporary home.

Okoth was definitely one of the lucky ones. Upon her release, the program offered her a sewing machine which she put to immediate use. Okoth began her own tailoring business making clothes for women and uniforms for students. She had money coming in, got her kids back in school, and her spirits rose exponentially.

For nearly a decade, Bikes for the World supported this project with bikes and sewing machines which helped create new lives for ex-offenders eager to start over. We contributed over 60 sewing machines to the Women's Prison Support Organization since 2007. Each donated machine helped provide valuable training classes, equipping young women with life skills to mend their lives.  They also provided the means to start new small businesses to help these struggling mothers rebuild their families after years apart.

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