Uganda: Vocational Training and Tailoring Shop Program

Tailoring Shop Program Supply Purchase and Setup

September 02, 2013

Naku Charles Lwanga and Jonathan White

Photo: RMF Country Director, Charles Lwanga and 8 of the 10 Tailors


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.  With the generous support of World Children’s Fund, 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, and the third class started in January of 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 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 will also be 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.

Program launch and July Progress report

First phase: Selection and preparation of tailors

The selection and preparation of 10 tailors participating in this program was the first phase of this pilot program.  This started with the interview and selection of the 10 tailors out of the many who wanted to participate at the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement.  The criteria used for selecting the 10 tailors were: classroom performance, level of interest expressed in school/ further training after graduation, and location to Kiryandongo/Bweyale. As the selection process was clear and transparent to all, all those that applied and the overall community at Kiryandongo was happy with the results of the selection.

After the selections were made, several meetings were conducted with the tailors, and RMF’s expectations and plans were shared and MOUs were signed between RMF and each of the 10 tailors.   During these meetings, individual budgets and business ideas were shared and guidance was given by those already in the tailoring business.   A search for shop spaces to rent was then conducted, with some found in the Bweyale market center and some further out along the main highway to Kampala.  The tailors also started talking to their friends and family, marketing their tailoring services and researching their customers’ needs.

Photo: The team celebrates in Kampala with a lunch while on their buying trip

Second Phase Announcement and purchase of supplies

The second phase was the official announcement of the program to the community and the purchase of the sewing machines, fabrics, and other supplies in Kampala.   On 13th of June 2013, the Panyadoli Vocational Institute sponsored by RMF conducted its graduation day for students of the Tailoring Program.  All of the 10 selected tailors were invited to attend this function, and were introduced to the community that had gathered and given an opportunity to market their services.  The next day, a mini bus was hired by RMF to take the 10 tailors along with RMF Uganda Country Director, Charles Lwanga, and RMF Program Manager, Scholar Among, 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 Butengi 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.


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