Uganda: Vocational Training and Tailoring Shop Program

Real Medicine Tailoring Shop Program Update

May 31, 2013

Jonathan White


Real Medicine Background at the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement
The Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement in Bweyale, Uganda, is a UNHCR managed refugee settlement that provides shelter, land and support for more than 25,000, comprised of Ugandan IDPs and refugees from Kenya, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Sudan.  RMF has partnered with UNHCR in supporting Kiryandongo and the greater surrounding community of Bweyale (an additional 30,000 residents) with health care, education and vocational training since 2008. 

Panyadoli Vocational Training Institute at Kiryandongo

In April 2011, RMF initiated a Vocational Training Program at the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement after being presented by the refugee community with issues surrounding the lack of skills and vocational training for students graduating from the settlement high school. After researching which skills and programs might provide the quickest income earning opportunities for the students and the most economic investment requirements for RMF, and with the feedback from the community we narrowed the programs down to two: Hairdressing/ Beauty and Tailoring Training.  We renovated a disused building in the camp, purchased tailoring and hairdressing supplies, and funded the salaries of four vocational tutors and thus began the Panyadoli Vocational Training Institute (PVTI).   This program is part of the economic component of RMF’s overall humanitarian vision, the ‘focus on the person as a whole’.  The longer term vision for this vocational training center is to be one of several models for income generating opportunities for the populations we are supporting around the world so they eventually can be self-sufficient again. 

RMF completed its first session of classes in December of 2011, covering both theory and hands-on techniques for hairdressing and tailoring. The Vocational Institute had its first official graduation ceremony on December 1, 2011 with 30 students graduating; 13 in tailoring and 17 in hair dressing, all with good grades. Our second class of students that started in January of 2012, graduated in October 2012, with a total of 40 students, 24 in hair dressing, and 16 in tailoring, the third class started in January of 2013 and graduated in September of 2013.  The latest class of 60 students, 30 for Tailoring and 30 for Hairdressing, finished their first semester in October 2013 and started their second semester in November 2013.  The Vocational Centers are continuing to generate some income for the school by tailoring garments, i.e. uniforms for the nurses at RMF’s Panyadoli Health Center, and by offering hairdressing services to the refugee population at the Kiryandongo Settlement and its surrounding communities. 

Tailoring Shop Program Goal

  • Setting up sustainable, market based-business opportunities for the refugee and IDP graduates of the PVTI Tailoring Program.
  • Providing a platform to promote production and sale of Happy Baby Carriers for the region, where they are most needed.

Program description

Sponsorship of 10 RMF Tailoring Program graduates with their own Tailoring Shop business with the purchase of sewing machine, fabrics, threads and other equipment.  In order to be approved for the program tailoring students will be expected to donate 10% of their profits back to the Panyadoli Vocational Institute (PVTI).

During the month of July 2013, RMF purchased a sewing machine, enough fabric for a few months, threads, needles, and enough tables and chairs to set up new shop locations for each of the 10 selected. We will also be paying the monthly shop space rent for one year to help the Tailors become profitable and save enough money to continue their businesses in a sustainable fashion without further donations.  After a 3 month grace period, they were expected to donate 10% of their profits back to PVTI.  The sewing machine and any furniture provided will be lent to the tailor at no charge with the agreement that it is RMF property, and cannot be resold. Each of these tailors will sign an MOU with RMF that details their responsibilities and the expectations of being selected for this program.

RMF Tailor Shop Program launched

The official launch of the second phase of our Tailor Shop Program happened in June 2013, and by the start of July, early Q3, the program had officially launched with all 10 tailors set up for business.  Back in June, RMF Country Director Charles Lwanga, took the 10 tailors along, from Bweyale to Kampala to shop for supplies.  In Kampala, the tailors were exposed to various types of fabric and supply shops to see the variety available at the markets.  Good quality and well-priced sewing machines were found in one location and fabrics were bought from several shops depending on each tailor and their negotiating powers. 

Some of the tailors opted for Kitenge style fabrics, these are commonly known as “West Africa wear” and some opted for second-hand western style clothes, that when altered on their tailoring machines, can be easily marketed and sold.  Others, who advertised their services to local schools, bought uniform materials.

A transport truck was then hired in Kampala to deliver all of the fabrics, and machines from Kampala to the RMF offices at the Kiryandongo Refugee Camp.  The shop spaces rent was paid for by RMF staff and after the signing of the MOU by each tailor, all the machines and fabrics were handed over to the individuals, and helped to transport from the RMF office to their respective shops.

Some of the tailors are located in the main Bweyale market center with the neighboring districts of Lira, Gulu, Masindi, Luwero,and Nakasongo all coming to shop on Saturdays and Wednesdays.  Other tailors have located along the highway where they have negotiated good rates with landlords. Auma Santa, one of the tailors selected, already had a shop location before the program, but as the power supply was not regular enough she decided to purchase a small generator.

As of April  2014, in the approximately 9 months that have passed since the tailors received the start-up kit and shop space from RMF to start business in the country, all 10 tailors are doing well and all are making some kind of a profit. Each of the tailors are giving back 10% of their profits to the Vocational Institute to help with the purchase of supplies and teaching materials.

Tailor Success Stories:


Auma Santa operates an over locking machine that runs on a generator (no electricity available in her shop), sewing ladies’ skirts. She started by herself and one other employee; now she has five additional assistants as students in training. Auma is a very hardworking business woman and is progressing rapidly as seen from her product demands.

Her challenges are:

  • Machine spare parts (bobbin cases) are very expensive and consume a lot of her profits.
  • Fuel for generator is very expensive too on daily consumption.
  • Her rent has been increased to USH 100,000/= from 80,000/= per month due to increased demands for business spaces by other business owners.

Her achievements are:

  • Her profit has increased from USH 300,000 ($125) to USH 600,000 ($250) per month.
  • She also receives money from the income of her students in training.


Nekesa Rose operates two machines provided by RMF and one by AHHI and has been successful in her business operations. She began by herself, but now is training students. Each of her students gives her 3.25% of their income per activity. Her business start was tough but she is now beginning to realize profits in her business, ranging from USH 100,000 ($41) to USH 150,000 per month ($61)


  • Training other tailors and employing others in her business.
  • Paying school fees for her children is easy now.
  • Her techniques have increased in many designs requested by customers.
  • She is now saving for the future.
  • High cost of rent due to high demand of business spaces has made her rent rise from USH 80,000 to USH 90,000 per month.

Beatrice operates two machines, one over lock and one zigzag machine and works alone in her shop. She makes USH 100,000 ($41) to USH 150,000 ($61) in profits depending on the season. She is very grateful because she is earning a living from her business. She has been intermittently on and off at her shop due to a miscarriage and being sick recently.

Beatrice sewing a customer’s kitenge blouse

Anyango Polline operates three machines and has four in her shop, and her profit ranges from USH 20,000 to 50,000 per month. She is able to take care of some of her needs with this monthly income.

Polline sewing a customer’s kitenge skirt
She operates 2 machines alone, and shifted from the market block to the street opposite Bweyale town council. She says she makes between 20,000 to 50,000 of profits in a month, and she is able to cater for her family’s needs. Her children have been sick recently so she wasn’t able to work as much.

She operates 2 sewing machines, and 1 additional for a trainee, and 1 woman who would like to knit sweaters in her shop and give a percentage of profits. She also asserts that, her profits per month range from 150,000 (US$61) to 200,000 (US$82) and from this she is able to cater to her families, needs and expand her own skills. Her only major challenge is that when shopping for supplies in Kampala she hasn’t been able to negotiate lower prices. She is always busy in the shop selling both second hand and new clothes.


She operates 2 sewing machines and makes a profit of 20,000 to 50,000 per month, this enables her to carter for her family needs and add more stock in her shop.


Happy Baby Carrier Training

Panyadoli Vocational Training Institute (PVTI) “Happy Baby” baby carrier tailoring project and tailoring business progress:
“Happy Baby” baby carriers tailoring project in collaboration with RMF/WCF:

In collaboration with “Happy Baby” baby carriers, a trip to Panyadoli Vocational Training Institute in Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement in Bweyale, Uganda was made to meet the 10 RMF funded tailors to enhance their skill sets and expand their future business revenue by learning to make popular “Happy Baby” baby carriers.

This unique tailoring program consisted of training 10 tailoring students (5 Ugandan; 1 Kenyan; 4 Sudanese) and two tailoring teachers to become Happy Baby Entrepreneurs within their communities. The tailors selected to participate in the training have been funded by RMF to open their businesses in Bweyale Town. During the training, they learned the following skill sets:
How to make ergonomic carriers;

  • Practice how to instruct parents to properly and safely wear the carrier;
  • Understand the design aspects of the baby carrier, and
  • Participate in marketing the baby carrier and its benefits to become entrepreneurs of Happy Baby.

The first carrier is always considered a trial carrier for the tailor to keep and use as an example when making the next carrier. Due to lack of machines and experience, the tailors narrowly completed their first carrier by the end of the four days of training. The tailoring students and teachers were asked to complete their second carrier before selling them within their communities.








In April 2011, RMF initiated the Panyadoli Vocational Training Institute (PVTI) at the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement after being presented by the refugee community with issues surrounding the lack of skills and vocational training for students graduating from the settlement high school.
After researching which skills would provide the quickest earning opportunities and the most efficient economic investment requirements for RMF, we narrowed the programs down to:

  • Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy
  • Bricklaying and Concrete Practice
  • Carpentry and Joinery
  • Tailoring and Garment Cutting


  • To train the refugees with relevant vocational training skills
  • To prepare the refugees for the work world with entrepreneurial skills for both employment and self-employment
  • To prepare refugees with basic skills that they shall use for nation building when returning to their home country
  • To foster a cycle of improved economic stability and opportunity in the region