A SALE of African-made handcrafts will take place before and after masses in St Agnes' Parish in Andersonstown this weekend to raise money for people in Uganda.

It has been organised by Anne Cadwallader, whose younger sister Jane was a founding member of Adelante Africa, an organisation set up to support projects in Uganda.

"Fifteen years ago Jane and her family were on a trek in Uganda when their truck broke down," explained Anne. "To pass the time while it was getting fixed, Jane  – who writes children’s books – chatted with local people and visited a primary school in the near village of Igayaza, where the pupils spoke English as well as their own language.

"As the truck was ready and about to leave, she asked the headmaster what she might send from her home in Spain for the school – thinking he would say money for new chairs and desks or a blackboard.

"Instead the headmaster said they really needed an entire new school and, looking about her, Jane had to agree as the school was made of mud and logs with a leaky roof.

"Determined to do what she could, Jane founded an organisation in her home town, Madrid, and set about raising money.

"First, a new primary school was built. Then a secondary school. Then a home for abandoned children – all with the full support and involvement of the local Catholic parish of St Joseph’s."

Adelante Africa is registered and legally based in Uganda, Spain and London with supporters here in Ireland. One of the continuing projects, aside from medical and educational schemes is the Women’s Sewing Circle. Adelante Africa arranges to teach young women in the area to sew and then provides loans so they can own their own sewing machines to support themselves and their families.

Some of the women with their new sewing machines

Some of the women with their new sewing machines

The project also aims to reduce the number of forced marriages in the area and give the women an alternative source of employment other than motherhood before they are physically or psychologically ready.

Jane brings their handiwork from Uganda to Europe regularly and they hold occasional sales here in Belfast and in Donegal to raise money to sustain Adelante Africa’s work in Uganda. This weekend – December 9/10 – their work will be for sale before and after masses at St Agnes' Parish.

"If you’re looking for unusual Christmas presents, look no further," added Anne. "I did the same two years ago and it was a roaring success. We raised over £1,000. West Belfast people are so generous.

"All the goods are made from brightly-coloured, strong African cotton and last forever. 

"Shopping bags, cushion covers, head-bands, aprons, placemats and smaller bags – ideal for storing shoes or using inside suitcases for phone chargers, keys, money or tablets – will be on sale for a few pounds. The women’s handiwork is durable, colourful and long-lasting.

“In addition to supporting this excellent project, the items could be used instead of paper wrapping for Christmas presents, as an additional present and as a sustainable alternative.”

Adelante Africa also supports an annual project in Uganda whereby young Spanish surgeons and anaesthetists travel to perform operations in villages such as repairing cleft palates, hernias and the removal of tumours.

If you are interested in supporting this work but cannot be at this weekend's masses, please check out the organisation website www.adelanteafrica.org or contact Anne Cadwallader by email on anne@annecadwallader.com.