Local crafts Lulu Tree initiative
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
While the Lulu Tree was first established in June, 2014, the not-for-profit organization founded by Blyth native Emily Wierenga is just beginning to do its most important work yet.
The project began with Wierenga, the daughter of Blyth’s Ernest and Yvonne Dow, taking a blogger’s trip to Africa with the World Health Organization early last year.
It was a short visit, she says in an interview with The Citizen, where she spent three days in Uganda and two days in Rwanda before she returned to her home in western Canada.
While in Uganda, Wierenga met a child her family sponsors. She also met the child’s mother, a peasant farmer, who had walked four hours just to meet her.
It was during this meeting that Wierenga discovered a glaring hole in the mission world.
She could tell that the Ugandan mother had been humiliated with a Canadian having to sponsor her child and it was then that Wierenga wondered about support for third-world mothers and young women.
“My spirit was really troubled by it,” she said.
When Wierenga returned to Canada, she began researching mission organizations reaching out to women in an effort to partner with them, but to her surprise, there weren’t any, so she started one.
The Lulu Project began in June, 2014 and is currently in the process of obtaining its status as a registered charitable corporation. It was created with the slogan “Preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers.”
On the organization’s website, which can be found at
www.thelulutree.com, those who are so inclined can sponsor a mother, rather than a child. The aim of the organization, Wierenga says, is self-sufficiency.
Many mission organizations, she says, come with a high level of dependency. The goal of the Lulu Tree is to create independent, equipped mothers who will learn the skills and trades to support themselves, as well as their children.
The sponsorship programs began last month and under the Lulu Tree umbrella there are already four Ugandan women who are beginning to learn the skills to be profitable in their world, with two training to be hairdressers and two training to become tailors. The expectation is that the women will have completed their training by July.
Wierenga says she’s very “anti-white saviour” meaning that with this program, not only is she attempting to equip Ugandan women with the tools to succeed, but she’s also working with a number of Ugandan women to help administer the program in Africa, while partnering with Uganda’s Remnants Haven Ministries, located in the slum of Katwe, creating, for these women, belief in themselves.
She says it was important to her for the program to involve as many local people as possible. There is, however, a Canadian board of directors and an American team working on the project as well.
As the founder of the project, Wierenga oversees the entire initiative, including hiring the Ugandan Staff Mama Esther Natakunda Tendo and the volunteer national co-ordinator Carol Masaba.
Wierenga says she’s far from alone in the project, however, especially when it comes to financially supporting the project.
On the project’s website, there is a shop that is full of products that have been created and are being sold by Canadian artisans. These items, Wierenga says, are all being donated by artisans, who, when they sell an item, donate the proceeds back into the project as the initiative’s only current form of fundraising.
The shop is currently being overseen by Jodie Vanderzwaag, a woman who owned a profitable business before shutting it down to work with the Lulu Tree.
For now, Wierenga says, the shop is a part of the Lulu Tree’s website, but it will gradually be distanced from the website when the organization is granted charitable status.
To learn more about the Lulu Tree, or to get involved, visit the website at www.thelulutree.com.