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The power of community in Kawempe, Uganda

Kawempe is a sub-county on the outskirts of Kampala, the capital of Uganda. The area is home to many disadvantaged communities that struggle with an incredibly high youth unemployment rate. It has the highest crime and HIV transmission rates of all the divisions of Kampala, making it an incredibly tough place to grow up in.

3 women standing in colourful dresses.
The Kawempe Tailors proudly showing off the dresses that they made.

Living in such a challenging environment, many have no hope of ever improving their situations and finding a job, turning to crime, gambling, and alcoholism instead. However, some people realise that in order to transform their lives, they need to take the first step.

That is exactly what the Kawempe Youth Development Project represents: a decision by members of poor communities to take their future into their own hands to improve the lives of their families, and of everyone in the community.

Once the project was up and running, they needed some tools and machines to train with. That is where TWAM came in. We sent them 6 sewing machines for use in tailoring classes, as well as carpentry workshop kits, including pillars drill and industrial lathes, allowing them to set up their own carpentry workshop.

Women sitting in a classroom with sewing machines.
Tailoring students learning how to use their TWAM sewing machines.

They chose these two skills, carpentry and tailoring because they are the most useful trades for men and women in poor African communities. Women often turn to tailoring to secure lucrative contracts to make school uniforms for local schools or sell their clothes at local markets. Men will usually choose carpentry as it allows them to take on a wide variety of projects, and they often make furniture that is sold to schools as well.

For the tailoring course, locally-appointed leaders choose women who they think will most benefit from the training. Those who are invited on to the course have not been able to finish their education, so their career prospects are very bleak. They train 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 11 months, including 3 months of revision where they can catch up on parts of the course that they haven’t quite grasped.

Their dedication and commitment to completing the training is a testament to their hard-working spirit. The demand for these courses is so great that they are planning to build a bigger training centre and offer this transformative training to even more people who need it.


Kawempe Carpentry Workshop

Here is Eddie, a trainee on the carpentry course, telling you about his experience with the Kawembe carpentry workshop:

Man brushing lacquer onto furniture.

I finished school when I was 18, but there was nothing for me to do afterwards. I couldn’t find work and did nothing for 3 years after I left school.

I knew that I couldn’t live like this forever,

so I decided to try to find some real work. I grew up in Kawempe, so I heard of the carpentry workshop.I saw people making furniture and realised that carpentry is a great job, it was something that I wanted to do.

I approached them myself and started my training. This course has changed my life and given me the chance to earn a living. I can feed myself and my family, I couldn’t do that without these tools.’’

The Kawempe Youth Development Project is a truly inspiring example of a community-driven push to transform the lives of those who are not given the opportunities that they need. It is a true display of the power of community, and the power of tools, and it is made possible by your support.


Could you provide a sewing machine for a group like the Kawempe Youth Development Project? £25 would enable us to collect and refurbish one sewing machine, ready to be shipped off to a community in deep need of support and training.


We'd love to tell you more about the impact that we're having. If you'd like to see even more stories of livelihood creation, sign up for our email list and we'll keep you updated.

Quick Links

We take a wide variety of tools. Click the button above for the full list of accepted tools, and to find your nearest local collector or drop-off point.

Our work is mostly done by volunteers, whether that's driving around collecting tools, refurbishing them, or helping out in the office. Have a look at our roles.

Support our work by covering the costs involved with putting together a tool kit, as a donation, or an alternative gift on behalf of a loved one.

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