Though her birth name is Esther, everyone lovingly and respectfully calls her Mama Oyet. Mama Oyet is truly a mother to everyone. The indisputable leader of Project Have Hope, she is the heart and soul and glue that make PHH work. She is respected as both an elder in the community and a woman leader. “I have learnt how to be a good leader because for all the years I have served as a leader at PHH,” Mama Oyet reflects. “I have met different people from different backgrounds. It requires a different kind of skill to handle each.” Mama Oyet expertly diffuses situations and reduces tension with her humor. She enjoys being together with others and sharing stories. She loves to travel and explore new places and share traditional Acholi culture with her children and others. “When philosophers say knowledge is power, today I can clearly understand it,” muses Mama Oyet. “For the very many years I have been with PHH, I have not only grown as a leader, but also have been exposed to a variety of things. The knowledge I have gained on how to handle life and the different skills of survival have not left me the same person.”
Married, with four children, at 45, Santina has steadily risen in the ranks of Project Have Hope through her dedication and hard work. She is always willing to help and is not intimidated by the long hours it often takes to get the job done. Through her work with PHH, Santina has benefited from computer classes and graduated from the tailoring program. Her English has vastly improved and she has honed her entrepreneurial skills. In addition to being part of the leadership team, her entrepreneurial spirit thrives in her other pursuits. She has multiple small businesses: baking cakes, making table cloths, doing hair dressing and has an established brick making business. She hopes one day to build a tailoring workshop and a hair dressing salon. She also sees a bright future for her two eldest children who have participated in our scholastic sponsorship program. Her son has completed a course in plumbing and her daughter is studying to become a nurse. She has set her sights on opening a health clinic in the Acholi Quarter where her daughter can work.
In her free time, Santina participates in drama and creating skits. She especially enjoys sharing Acholi proverbs. “Ka itye ki mom mapol,lebi bedo mapol.” lf you have many wives you also have many tongues. In time, she plans to purchase a piece of land in her home village in the north where she can build a home for her retirement.
Jennifer started as the youngest member of Project Have Hope, at only 17. She had recently relocated to the Acholi Quarter from the North to live with her elder sister. PHH helped her complete her secondary education. Jennifer is now an indispensable part of the PHH leadership team.
She credits her work with PHH in improving her standards of living. She used to rent a very small, single room home. She now stays in a much larger, double room house. The extra space is certainly a benefit since she runs a bustling business of preparing and selling roasted groundnuts each morning. “By working with PHH, my communication skills have improved,” Jennifer confidently announces. “It has helped me to know that each and everyone has a different character. With this skill, I can work anywhere with all groups of people.” As usual, Jennifer looks directly into her future - one that is limitless because of her hard work, adaptability and grace.
Lack of a formal education hasn’t stopped Sylvia from achieving her goals. She originally located to the Acholi Quarter after her husband escaped a two week captivity by Kony’s rebels in Northern Uganda and fled to Kampala in fear of his life. Sylvia was only able to study in school until primary two. Neither of her parents saw value in sending their daughters to school. Upon coming to the Acholi Quarter, she pursued a two year course in tailoring through PHH’s training program. An eager student, she has enlisted her daughter as a tutor, and studies English passionately. Since she was unable to go to school, she has made it a priority that all of her children, especially her daughters have the opportunity to receive an education.
Sylvia is an asset to the PHH leadership team. Her skills in mobilizing the women and children for programs is invaluable. She is also a respected advisor and woman leader within the community, helping to mediate and settle domestic disputes.
When not working, Sylvia enjoys spending time with her family, especially her four grandchildren.
A professional photographer, based in Boston, Massachusetts, Karen first traveled to Uganda in October 2005 to volunteer her photography services to non-profits working in Kampala. During that visit, she was introduced to the Acholi Quarter and was deeply impacted by the women she met. In 2006, she formally organized and founded Project Have Hope with the goal of helping women build financially secure and sustainable futures.
Karen travels to Uganda multiple times a year to oversee the project, create new products and designs, and to photograph the Acholi Quarter and the families of Project Have Hope. Uganda has become a second home to her, and the women with whom she works have become dear friends and a secondary family.