My name is Angelique Kahindo. I am 31 and a mother of six children. My life turned upside down when my husband was killed in Congo’s civil war in 2009. Within hours we fled our home.
Along with other survivors, we trekked through the treacherous jungles of Congo. Many people died of diseases and others lost their way and never returned. I held on tight to my children until we reach Nakivale refugee settlement in southern Uganda.
When we arrived, we were provided with food and basic support but because so many of us had arrived at once from Congo, there wasn’t much to go around.
We had fled with only what we could carry on our backs. Our livestock, possessions, everything was left behind.
I didn’t know how to earn money or how to find work, and the rations we received were only enough to prepare one meal a day.
As the years went by, I started growing vegetables in the community garden, but this meant that I was unable to give my children the attention they needed, and they dropped out of school.
Then one day last February, I saw other refugees registering for an employment project. When I asked whether I could register, I was asked to do a skills test. I explained that I was interested in learning how to be a tailor. I had seen women just like me using their sewing machines and their talents to support their entire family. There were tailoring courses in the refugee settlement, but I had no money to pay the fees.
It was such a happy moment when I was told I had been shortlisted as a trainee for an apprenticeship.
For six months, I trained as a tailor with a local artisan. There I learned and perfected all the basic techniques of designing, sewing, cutting and repairing.
Working in a business gave me many opportunities to practice and learn about book-keeping, customer service, marketing and budgeting. At the end of the six months, I felt ready to start my own business.
I gathered all my courage and bought a sewing machine at a subsidized rate, which I could pay for in monthly instalments. The next step was to find somewhere to run my business. I searched everywhere and found a good spot in a busy area where there weren’t any other tailors.
My training and investment both paid off, as very quickly customers recognized that I had better skills than many newly trained tailors. I was creative and committed to delivering to people’s satisfaction. Slowly, through word of mouth, I got more and more orders.
During my first 12 years in the refugee settlement in Uganda, I survived with no real income. Now I make USD 80 every month.
I can now think beyond survival and finally I feel like I’m starting to recover from all the hardships and losses we experienced. We eat three nutritious meals every day, I can think about my children’s education and this is all paid for with my own hard-earned money.