In the once war torn region of Northern Uganda, eighty-seven women are working their way out of poverty using a skill they learned from three young Americans: crocheting trendy hats. Stewart, Travis and Kohl, known as the Krochet Kids, may look like typical all-American guys, but they don't really fit the mold.
While still in high school, they learned how to crochet. The awesome head gear they made was soon in demand among their buddies. When Stew spent a summer volunteering in Uganda, he was shocked to learn that some residents had lived in refugee camps for twenty years, surviving solely on government hand-outs. The Krochet Kids had this insight:
"It was then that we realized the simplicity of crocheting to be its most profound quality."
Inspired by their Christian faith, they envisioned teaching the Ugandans to crochet as a way out of poverty and dependence. One year later, established as a non-profit organization, the Krochet Kids were in Uganda, teaching a growing community of women to crochet hats.
During the brutal reign of Idi Amin (1971-1979), 100,000 Ugandans were murdered. In the struggle for power that followed Amin's ouster, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony, killed tens of thousands in Northern Uganda, kidnapped thousands of children to serve as soldiers and slaves, abducted young women for sexual servitude, and displaced approximately 1.8 million Ugandans. Attacks have ceased since 2006, and conditions are improving under the current government of Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. Still, many Northern Ugandans remain in refugee camps, facing scarce opportunities for economic advancement.
That's why it's so heartening to see the faces and stories of individual women on the Krochet Kids website. Jennifer Piloya, once a captive of the LRO, aims to educate her children to the highest level. Dorcus Akello, who suffered a childhood of neglect, now plans to buy goats and start her own business. Similar losses--and expressions of hope--are shared by all the women enrolled in Krochet Kids' program.
The women are trained not only to crochet, but in the basic skills of budgeting and business management. They receive a regular salary. Funding for Krochet Kids’ program come from several sources, including donations and sales of crochet hats, accessories, and T-shirts emblazoned with a map of the African continent. The hats are simple in style, with names like "The Barney," The Margot", and "The Waldo," made of acrylic and wool blend yarn, and ranging in price from $24.95 to $31.95. Each hat is signed, and purchasers are encouraged to learn the stories of their makers at the Krochet Kids site.
The Krochet Kids organize concerts and other fund raising events throughout the year to support these efforts. You can learn about them at their website, where you can also buy hats and other products, donate to the cause, or apply for an internship or paid employment in Uganda.
The next place the Krochet Kids have their sights on is Peru, where they hope to alleviate extreme poverty in urban areas. The rich textile traditions of Peru make it a fine match for this program and the fierce commitment of the Krochet Kids bodes well for a positive outcome.