"Class of 2020" Graduating Senior Organized Club to Support Ugandan Women

By Barb McBreen

Selling handmade baskets to support Ugandan families doesn’t seem like a big deal, but for the women receiving the funds, it’s life changing.

After spending her 2019 spring semester in the Semester Along the Nile program, Katie Stringer, a graduating senior in global resource systems, looked for ways to expand market opportunities for the women of the Tusubila crafts group in Uganda.

“My goal was to increase market access for the Tusubila crafts group, and we found the best way to do that was to market to Iowa State and Ames,” Stringer said. 

In July 2019, she started the Uganda Alliance Organization, which helps about 60 women in the Tusubila crafts group sell handmade baskets and jewelry. This gives them funds to pay school fees, start small businesses and purchase food, household items and livestock.

“It’s a way to break the cycle of poverty and help them maintain nutritious and healthy lives,” Stringer said. 

The Tusubila crafts group was organized in 2018. “Tusubila” means “hope” in Uganda and that hope comes in the form of income from the sales of the handmade baskets and jewelry. Each basket comes with the name of the woman who crafted the item. Stringer interviewed 57 women and wrote bios for each artist, which are posted on the Uganda Alliance website.

“When you get a basket, you get a personal touch about the woman who actually made it,” Stringer said.

The women in the Tusubila crafts group are graduates of an Iowa State University-Uganda Nutrition Education Center. The centers assist and educate women about the nutrition needs of children and their nutritional needs during pregnancy and when they are breastfeeding.

Stringer, who grew up in Dubuque, is disappointed Iowa State’s spring graduation ceremonies are canceled, but she’ll be watching the virtual ceremony with her friends.

Stringer plans to spend the next year serving others in the AmeriCorps program in either Montana or Colorado. She then plans to attend graduate school with a focus on international human rights.

April 21, 2020