Lorrain Kirk: ‘Mama’ wins respect in Uganda

Lorrain Kirk in Uganda
Lorrain Kirk, a 68-year-old grandmother and Adelaide parishioner, has just returned from two years in Uganda where she worked as a Palms Australia volunteer for a community organisation providing care and support to people living with HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Cancer, reports The Southern Cross.

Lorrain saw an advertisement about Palms Australia in The Southern Cross and did some research on the organisation as well as attending an information session. Previously she had spent five and a half months working with a medical team in Morocco but was disillusioned by the lack of sustainability.

It came to a head when she was immunising a baby that she was sure would end up dying of malnutrition: “I thought what the bloody hell am I doing this for?”

“We were feeding them fish rather than teaching them to fish.”

With qualifications in management and planning of human services, Lorrain’s role in Uganda was to develop income-generating programs for the clinic’s day care centre for children under five who had lost parents from AIDs. Based in Nansana, only 14kms (but a two-hour drive) from Kampala, the clinic had a holistic approach incorporating the “body, mind and soul” to health issues.

One of the income-generating programs involved the clinic’s clients making beads out of recycled payer. The first meeting Lorrain attended there was a lot of “screaming, fighting and shouting” amongst the women, so she suspended the program and worked to turn it into a real business with order forms, a marketing strategy and shop front.

Through her involvement with an international women’s organisation, she also appointed ambassadors to the program from the US, UK, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Australia and Japan.

“The people coming into the shop and buying the beads would then take them back to their countries to sell,” said Lorrain. “It is up to them if they make a profit or not.”

“We put aside 10 per cent of money to make bags out of recycled material such as paper, used tyres, magazines, old cotton, old clothes, even banana leaves.”

This is an excerpt taken from the full article at page 9 of the July 2012 issue of http://www.thesoutherncross.org.au/

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