Uganda: Vocational Training and Tailoring Shop Program

Success Stories: Start-up Kits

January 09, 2016

The RMF – JICA outreach programme through the Government of South Sudan initiative from December 2014 to March 2015 saw 96 trainees successfully complete the course after the assessment from DIT (Directory of Industrial Training Nakawa-Kampala). This was followed by another intake from May through August 2015 that also saw 131 trainees successfully complete the course.

A survey of RMF’s Vocational Skills Training Programme 2015 indicates that so far 227 trainees have benefited from these two intakes of 2014 and 2015’s skills training by successfully completing and attaining the Directorate of Industrial Training Certificate from the four departments of hairdressing, tailoring, building, and carpentry, managed by RMF at Panyadoli Vocational Training Institute.

The table below shows a summary of placement of the programme’s beneficiaries

No % of beneficiaries No of beneficiaries Current activity
1 40% 91 Gone back to South Sudan and through our former South Sudan instructor Abalo Grace, we have confirmed that many of these trainees who went back to South Sudan are working. For the few who went back to South Sudan and we cannot access through Abalo Grace and friends, it is assumed that they have taken the skills with them and they are utilizing them for self-reliance.  During the third intake graduation of 15th Dec 2015, we invited one graduate who went back to South Sudan and is working there to give a testimony. It was very impressive as you will read below.
2 31% 70 These are still within the settlement and seeking opportunities to start their own businesses.  Some would have been employed but face language barriers, and limited capital to rent working space and buy materials.
3 29% 66 These have been employed while others have created their own businesses and currently are able to meet their personal needs and those of their families.
  100% 227  

The table above indicates, 40% of the students so far that have completed training at Panyadoli Vocational Training Institute from Dec 2014 to Aug 2015 show that they returned back to South Sudan as they no longer reside within the settlement; this was evidenced by the verification exercise.  According to our former instructor Abalo Grace and the former trainees’ president, most of the trainees who went back are in Juba, and in Nimule. Their reasons for going back to South Sudan are many as they shared with their former president of Panyadoli Vocational Training Institute of the January intake as they include:

  • Ready market for their products considering the fact that their country is still virgin as few people are having these skills and producing such products, therefore pushing them back to seize such opportunity.
  • Some went back with the view of finding quick UN competitive opportunities so that they can support their families.
  • The other factor is the slogan “east or west home is the best”, and the pushing factor with this slogan is that language barriers here in Kiryandongo and Uganda at large were a problem for them to blend into the market.

For the 31% of the population of the students that are still in the settlement and are not yet engaged in any skills activity, the majority of these are from the carpentry department. They say they have the tools as they were given start up tools but lack capital to rent a competitive space to set up a workshop, and money to buy materials for production. Some who started businesses at their homes like tailoring could not find customers due to their location and had to close their business. We reported early on how almost everyone was struggling to do something with the skills they had acquired and only a few were not employed, this reporting period the number of the unemployed is growing.

29% of the population of the students has at least engaged in the acquired skills or has been doing business using these new skills such as selling clothes or sewing clothes and right now the demand is available in this festive season. Some of these students have got loans from SACCOs (village saving groups) to start businesses and they believe that life can change greatly.  Some of the recommendations put forward by all the groups include:

  • To those who have not yet started doing something for themselves, we recommended doing any casual job to get some income to help them take care of their start-up in form of rent and buying start-up materials.
  • As our students strive to utilize the available resources, it is recommended that they form small groups whereby they can be helped by well-wishers and they can also borrow money from SACCO as a group.
  • It is recommended that those who have not yet started applying their skills should be able to join others that have already started so that they can learn and also be able to acquaint themselves to the skills they qualified in.
  • To those who have started doing business, they should adopt a saving culture whereby they will be able to save and invest, thus developing their business.


“Friends helping Friends helping Friends” has been RMF motto to see to it that people are able to improve as a whole, in line with skills training at Panyadoli Vocational Training Institute; the skills that have been passed on to the refugees and the host community have greatly improved their livelihood as some have resorted to going back to their countries where they can also add value to their country through the skills acquired. Although some have not yet started applying their skills, there is hope that they will do so in the near future. Therefore, it’s important to recognize the value of skills training as it’s a practical idea of improving people’s lives.

Therefore, from the follow up exercise conducted, some of the students that exhibited progress in what they are doing as a result of the skills they acquired at the institute include:

Mayen Samuel

Samuel is one of the very successful tailors who trained at Panyadoli Vocational Training Institute and graduated as a tailor in the first batch.After acquiring his start-up kits given by JICA/Government of South Sudan, he chose to go back to South Sudan and started his business.He says that very few people in his location in South Sudan know how to sew, he is almost the only person sewing in the whole sub-county and he gets a lot of customers and he gets overwhelmed by work.Customers bring torn clothes for repair, their second hand clothes to adjust to fitting; some bring their new materials to make free ware, and so forth.He feels he is making a lot of money and will soon start his iron sheet house construction.He encouraged those that graduated to go back to South Sudan as there is more demand than staying in Uganda where competition is very high.He says he is dreaming to start farming with the profits he earns and he will soon be an employer. He encouraged his friends, especially South Sudanese, to go back to South Sudan.

Aber Pauline

Pauline is among the first 2015 graduates; she graduated on 15th March 2015 with a Certificate in Tailoring awarded by the Directorate of Industrial Training. When she was a trainee at Panyadoli Vocational Training Institute she showed a lot of interest and took her training seriously. After her graduation and even before being given the start-up package, Pauline took the initiative to hire a sewing machine at UGX 10,000/month which she put to good use for designing cloths for customers. This earned her a profit that ranged between UGX 50,000 and 70,000/month. With these humble savings plus the additional start-up kit that was provided to her, Pauline gained the ability to meet the basic needs of herself and her child and also is also able to contribute UGX 10,000/week towards her savings in a village group saving of 50 people.

Pauline has a number of challenges, but they don’t keep her from moving forward, including: the limited work space within the market. She has space for selling but not for keeping her goods, so on a daily basis she carries her goods from home. When it rains, it makes her operation impossible. She also lacks the desired capital to rent/hire a room, buy more materials and also buy a designing machine.   

Okot Richard Peter

Richard is settled in Kiryandongo Settlement Cluster B. After his three-month training, he graduated in March 2015 from the Department of Bricklaying and Concrete Practice.  Immediately after his graduation Richard embarked and concentrated all his efforts into looking for construction opportunities and as luck would have it, he found a place to work. Currently he has been participating in the construction of buildings in the settlement and outside the settlement. This has enabled him to acquire more skills as he has been in the field full time since he graduated. His entrepreneurship has enabled him to purchase 3 goats and 4 pigs from his earnings from the different construction sites that he has been involved in. With regards to the start-up kit he acquired from the institute: Richard says that these tools have made him easily get employed as people want to employ someone who has the tools already to do work, as a result Richard has gotten many opportunities of earning a living, thus improving on his livelihood.  Richard is proudly putting up this house below.

Manet Atelek

Manet is one of the beneficiaries of RMF’s Vocational Training Skills Program that graduated in March 2015 from the Department of Bricklaying and Concrete Practice. From his graduation to the compilation of this report, Manet has worked at six sites where he has been involved from the setting of the foundation to the roofing level. This has enabled him perfecting his building skills and from the savings he made from each site, he has been able to open up a small retail shop which earns him extra income per day. This has also enabled him to buy a solar panel which he uses for charging people’s phones, thus earning him extra income. Manet saves and invests his savings properly so that he is able to improve his livelihood.

A challenge Manet mentioned to us is that of bad debtors that get his services and goods but do not pay in return.

Anena Juliet

Juliet graduated in Tailoring and Garment Cutting with the August intake 2015, and with her start-up kits, she works from home. According to Juliet, this has enabled her to earn and save about UGX 5,000/week.  Her continued practice helps her to stay in touch with the skills she acquired during the training. While at home, the community or her clients bring her clothes for repair and whenever she gets materials she designs simple children clothes which she sells. This has enabled her to contribute towards basic needs of her family comprised of her mother, sisters and brothers. Juliet looks forward to an opportunity to attain capital to be able to rent a shop space and to buy materials for her anticipated shop.

Juliet’s dream is a big shop of designing clothes that can compete favourably in the market. Like any other person who starts a business, Juliet has experienced ups and downs where she says that during rainy season, people are in the garden, and the rain disturbs her since she works at home in a compound under a tree shade.  When rain comes she cannot work.

Nadongo Robinah

Robinah is amongst the August 2015 graduates and she works at home under her house’s veranda.  She is located along Munobwa Street in Bweyale trading center. With her sewing machine, she is able to earn and save about UGX 1,000/day and to date she has opened her bank account where she has savings over UGX 70,000/=. 

Robinah hopes to save enough money to buy materials, and open up a shop in the future.

She is working under a veranda and clients do come, being in town and near the road it has made it easy for her to access customers for those who come just to see her and those that pass by because, she is always there at her work place to be seen. However, she still hopes for more customers.

An enthusiastic young lady, Robinah hopes to see many good things to come her way, as the saying goes ‘patience pays’, and Robinah is quite optimistic to grow.


Haula Safina

Safina is one of the students who graduated in August 2015 and with the gift of the start-up kit, she located herself at the veranda of her sister’s shop which is located along Dika road. Her initiative contributes about UGX 10,000/week, and with these earnings, she is able to contribute towards her home’s basic needs; she has been able to buy a blanket, bed sheets, shoes, clothes for herself and for her sisters and brothers.

The site of her business is not all that comfortable, being located at the entrance of her sister’s shop, and often sunshine, rain, and dust disturb her business. However, she is still very thankful to RMF-JICA for the training opportunity she acquired as she is able to provide herself with basic needs as she is no longer depending on her sister and is able to provide also for her family.

Anena Janet

Anena graduated in August 2015 in Tailoring and Garment Cutting, something that she had
always dreamed of to do as a child. After acquiring the skills, she engaged in active work by working with friends who were having sewing machines until she received start-up kits and started her own work from home.  The community appreciates her commitment and availability at working and finishing customers’ work in time. Most of the time, her clients bring her clothes to repair and she has also made dress designs for some clients.  With the growing clothes designs she makes, Janet sees getting more customers since we are in the festive season where newly made clothes are desired.

Her biggest challenge is the increasing prices for the clothes in the market whereby the cost of making a dress has also increased, sometimes discouraging customers who would have come to buy.

Denis Geria

Denis graduated in August 2015 in the Building Department, and lives in Bweyale. He has been very keen at finding building opportunities around the settlement. Recently, he has been involved in setting up the World Food Programme Food Store and currently, he is involved with AIRD in setting up the stores that are being built. As a site helper, he earns UGX 15,000/day and with this, he has been able to improve his life where he can afford basic needs like buying good food at home and also save for another day where he expects to invest his money in any productive activity that he will find after the work he is doing.

Geria appreciates the skills he acquired at the institute where he has been able to get a job which has helped him improve his livelihood.

Rachael Yar

Rachael graduated in August 2015; she started by thanking Real Medicine Foundation for making her a Tailor.  She is getting clients and she is saving UGX 2,500/day. Rachael is located at the reception centre and being the only person providing such a service to the people around, she has many customers.  She makes skirts, blouses, and she embarked on making design table clothes. As she wakes every morning to put her machine under a tree, rain, dust and sunshine have not hindered her from acquiring what she wants in her life. She is planning to save some money to buy materials for her work.

Ajok Sunday

Ajok graduated in August 2015 from the Department of Tailoring and Garment Cutting; she works under a tree in their compound where her clients find her. This has enabled her to keep in touch with her tailoring knowledge that she got from the training as well as earning some income, so she is able to meet her basic needs. She shared that she is at least able to save about UGX 5,000/month which is brought about by the high cost of living.  She has now saved about UGX 40,000/= with a nearby village savings group. She hopes that if she accumulates enough money, she would love to buy more materials, rent a shop and also get in trading materials and be able to market to South Sudan in the near future.

Aker Deng

Deng graduated in March 2015 from the department of TGC. She works from home and is a mother of 8 children including adopted children under her care. She does not concentrate so much in the tailoring work because of the multiple family needs. This forces her to spend lots of hours in the gardens to provide for the family. She however at times does repairs brought in by clients; this helps her buy family basics like soap, food and even medical treatment. Deng is now thinking of making students uniforms next year, 2016, to expand her business.

Sarah Adior

Sarah graduated in August 2015 from the Department of TGC and was equipped with her start-up kit. Sarah works from home, making designs, Bitenge, bed sheets, pillow clothes, and other types of clothes.  The money she gets assists her in buying food at home, and in covering other materials and other needs at home.  Sarah is one of our students who have picked up aggressively in the business as her attitude towards her work is positive, expressed in the way she receives customers. Young as she is, Sarah is quite optimistic that with the rate at which she is growing, she will be able to develop and to have her own shop somewhere one day.  She said that the only problem she has is capital to buy materials.

Roda Yar

Roda graduated in March 2015, and then she could not do anything as she didn’t have any start-up capital so she resorted to doing pet work for people until the start-up kit was provided to her. Since then, Roda has worked hard to see that she can earn a living with her own hands as a result of the skills she attained from the institute. She is able to perform basic repairs and design a few clothes, mainly for children. She is optimistic that with the experience she is getting every day, she will be able to expand on her production so she can sell during Christmas and will have savings that she can use to buy materials.

Achiro Jennifer

Achiro Jennifer graduated in August 2015 from the Department of TGC. Equipped with the start-up kit, Jennifer joined with her friend Kevin, borrowed UGX 200,000/= from a friend, and they rented a small shop in the Bweyale market. From the earnings that they have been making, they have been stocking their shop with more Bitenge materials and while designing other clothes as desired by their clients. They are not worried about the limited space in their workshop but rather are happy that this has provided them with an opportunity to get exposed and known by their clients. They are optimistic that by the start of next year 2016, they will have saved enough money to shift to a better location and expand on their business.

Kilama Ronald

Ronald graduated from the Carpentry and Joinery Department in March 2015. He was linked to his current workshop by a friend who admired his carpentry skills. Ronald has been able to get a few orders of his own, making chairs, benches, stools and in some instances he has joined other colleagues at the workshop completing big orders where he is paid a percentage as his commission. He says that this has enabled him to take care of his elderly mother and also contribute to desired basic household needs like food and health care. He has also contributed to payment of his siblings’ fees this term. He is very grateful to RMF-JICA for the training opportunity.



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