The Lulu Tree Boutique! (& Giveaway!)
*Please note, friends: This post is long. But, would you take time read it, for me? For all the precious Ugandan mamas who need your help? And then, would you consider sharing the post so others might help too? There’s even a giveaway at the bottom! Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. – Tricia
She walked for four hours just to meet me.
Her soles were red from Uganda’s earth and she didn’t break a sweat in the high heat. Her eyes shone but she lowered them, looked at her sandals, even as I reached out a hand to touch her shoulder, and I could feel the strength in this peasant farmer’s arm.
She’d lost her husband just weeks earlier to HIV/Aids, an illness people still talk about in hushed tones because of the shame associated with it. She’d lost her children long before that to this children’s home I was visiting–because she had a sick husband to care for and a farm that wasn’t bringing in money and no way to feed her sons or daughters.
And here I was, able to pay for her kids’ clothes and education while she wasn’t.
And not because I worked harder. No, she worked sun-up to sundown and had callouses across her hands and feet. No, it was because I came from a first class country overflowing with food and privilege while the rest of the world is forced to feed from our trash cans.
I smiled at her, but I felt sick.
I am a mother.
Every night I walk into my boys’ room and ache for them lying there in their beds, because they’re tucked deep in my womb. I cannot imagine how humbling, or humiliating, it would be, to have to ask someone else to take care of my children. To not be able to give them food or water, to not be able to keep them under your own roof-and THEN, to walk four hours to meet the woman who can?
This woman (me) who flies over in her airplane with her suitcase full of clothes and her bag full of lipstick and her wallet full of money, and says it’s all in the name of Jesus–a God this farmer worships more reverently each day than I ever have in my life?
Our Father weeps.
He anguishes over every single mother–because there are hundreds of thousands of them across Uganda in the same situation–who has to lose her child, who cannot take care of her children.
And He’s asking us to do something about it.
Sponsoring a child is good, don’t get me wrong. I sponsor as many children as I am able.
But standing there with this beautiful woman in her brown hat and her downcast gaze, her son’s eyes shining as he looked at me, I thought, No. Enough. There has to be more.
I want this son to look at his MOTHER with adoration, not me–a stranger.
I want him to look at HER to provide his needs, not me–an outsider who didn’t birth him without an epidural, who didn’t weep and pray over him every night of his childhood, who didn’t spend every minute of every day trying to earn enough money to buy him a bowl of Matoke (cooked banana) so he wouldn’t starve to death.
So, I went home and founded a non-profit called The Lulu Tree.
I didn’t intend to found a non-profit. I just wanted to partner with someone who was doing what I wanted to do. But no one was.
Our vision at The Lulu Tree is to work with HIV mothers in the slum of Katwe, Uganda (the worst of Kampala’s eight slums), equipping them to be care for their own kids. Our slogan is “Preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers.” Lofty, I know.
But you have to dream big, right? Shoot for the moon and you’ll land somewhere among the stars? So we’re shooting for the moon.
We’ve hired a beautiful Ugandan social worker named Esther Natakunda Tendo (Esther–is there more anointed a name? She has been called to free her people from captivity.)
Esther is a 29-year-old married mother of two who has received education in Sex and Gender Based Violence, computer application and project planning and management from the African Population Management. She has volunteered for years through the children’s home where she was raised, and has extensive work experience both in banking and in communications. Esther speaks several dialects, and is a strong believer in Jesus Christ. Her heart beats passionately for women and children suffering from AIDS, and it is her heart’s desire to help those who are impoverished find hope. As her name suggests, Esther has responded to the call to set her people free from poverty and despair.
We’ve also hired a national coordinator named Carol Masaba. She is the national coordinator both for The Lulu Tree and for the African Evangelistic Enterprise in Uganda. She partners with churches across the country to bring the hope of Christ to various parts of the nation. Carol has over 20 years experience in integrated community development work, during which she has worked with poor and marginalized communities to improve the well-being of children and youth. She is in charge of hiring and mentoring Lulu staff and volunteers and overseeing the ministry as a whole.
Both Carol and Esther will be working with the mothers in the slum of Katwe. Our goal is to equip them holistically–spiritually, emotionally and physically. This involves connecting them with the local church, providing HIV treatment for the mothers and children, and teaching the mamas a trade–to how to sew, or cook, so that after two years of being sponsored, these mamas will be self-sufficient. (You can read about how to sponsor a mama HERE). And … we’ve got some more exciting news!
We’re launching THE LULU TREE BOUTIQUE!
…with the ultimate goal of creating a market for these precious mamas to selling their beautiful work through, once they’ve been trained.
Shipping is included with the prices. All proceeds go towards The Lulu Tree.
A friend of mine, dear Jodie Vanderzwaag, has given up her very successful business a few months ago to run this boutique. Pretty amazing. We are also partnering with The House of Belonging, Funky Fish Designs, Krafty Kash, and Little Dragonfly Boutique, as well as a number of individual artisans who have donated their products to this shop. My dear sister Christy Stewart Halsell of Sandy Feet Media has volunteered long hours to set up this website and boutique (I HIGHLY recommend her web services!), and countless others including photographer Leanne Doell have donated time and energy to Lulu. To see a full list of everyone who’s helping us, please visit HERE.
We’ve got cozy slipper boots, slouchy beanies for kids and adults, little girl dresses, cowls and jackets, infinity scarves, dolls, darling Lulu headbands and artwork, jewelry, and more. See below for some sneak peeks.
On behalf of women like Harima, below, who is our first Lulu Mama–THANK YOU! For helping us bring DIGNITY and LIFE to these dear women!
Bless you! Thank you!
PS. Friends, if any of you wants to get involved with The Lulu Tree, we’d LOVE to have you. We are a non-profit that exists only due to the generosity and compassion of people like you. Please visit HERE to find out how you might change a life today through Lulu. Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, blogger, commissioned artist and columnist, and the author of five books including the memoir Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look (Baker Books). All proceeds from Atlas Girl benefit Emily’s non-profit, The Lulu Tree. She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and two sons. For more info, please visit www.emilywierenga.com. Find her on Twitter or Facebook.
To celebrate The Lulu Tree, I’m doing a giveaway!
Ten winners will receive a copy of my book“Life Interrupted.” One grand prize winner will receive “Life Interrupted” and a Lulu Doll! Only those in the U.S. are eligible to win. Winners will receive an email and be announced next week! a Rafflecopter giveaway