RMF launches Tailoring Shop Livelihood Program

April 30, 2013


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 Kiryandango and the greater surrounding community of Bweyale (an additional 30,000 residents) with health care, education and vocational training since 2008. 

Photo: Auma Santa, a graduate of the RMF Vocational Training Tailoring Program works on a table cloth

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 June, RMF will be purchasing 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 donatinos.  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.

Selection criteria

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. Of the students who graduated from the PVTI Tailoring program over the past two years there are many who have had to return to their villages to work in agriculture to earn a living as they didn’t have the capital available to start their own shops, and there aren’t enough apparel related jobs hiring locally. Of the 10 selected for this new program two are current students about to graduate, and 8 are ones who have already graduated and have displayed extra motivation to continue. 

The two students who are just about to graduate were selected based on their performance in the first term, their discipline and creativity.  One of the students, Nyakecho Maria, had been at another vocational training school on the other side of Uganda that had closed, and through determination and will power had found our school at Kiryandongo, traveled to Kiryandongo to meet the staff of the school and was eventually accepted into the new incoming class.  The other 8 Tailor Graduates were already working in some capacity in tailoring but were actively looking to start their own business, were regularly in touch with their teachers to learn new skills and have displayed their dedication to owning their own business.

Photos/Profiles of the 10 selected:


Anyango is a young Ugandan national, who dropped out of high school and was living at home helping her parents until she had the opportunity to join the tailoring program after RMF/PVTI had advertised throughout Bweyale with posters. She completed the courses successfully and expressed that her Instructor, Simon Mwaka of PVTI, found her a job immediately after her graduation at the Bweyale Trading Centre. The skills she learned at PVTI have enabled her to successfully continue with more training, and to meet her personal needs through her earnings by sewing customers’ garments. She is very excited to purchase her own sewing machine, and open her own tailoring workshop.


Angela is a Sudanese refugee, living in the Kiryandongo refugee settlement. She says before her studies at PVTI, she was at home being only able to do some farming to earn money. She saw the PVTI program advertised and discussed the study opportunity with her husband, and decided to apply for the tailoring program. Her husband bought her a sewing machine immediately after her graduation from his sale of maize. Angela currently has a home-based tailoring/sewing workshop, but is looking forward to having assistance setting up her own shop at the Bweyale Trading Center and purchasing more advanced sewing equipment to expand her services and become self-sufficient.  

Angella sewing her patched skirt.


Nekesa is a Kenyan refugee in the Kiryandongo refugee settlement, and before taking the PVTI classes she was at home taking care of her children and doing some farming.  Africa Action International (AAH), another NGO operating in Kiryandongo informed Nekesa of the RMF/WCF program and Nekesa applied and was accepted for training. Immediately after her graduation AAH gave her a sewing machine and a pair of scissors and most recently she has been working from home. She is already earning some money to help her family and has plans to teach her children the same tailoring skills, and how to operate a sewing machine.

She is greatly looking forward to joining RMF’s Tailoring Shop program to assist her in setting up her own shop in Bweyale and purchasing some more advanced equipment and supplies in order to expand her business.


Auma is a Ugandan national, who had previously cherished farming as the only option of her earning a living for her children.  She saw the posters advertising the free tailoring courses and decided to take a chance and apply.  After her being accepted and completing the training, she has most recently been working with the Give and Take Designing Centre where she sews/designs customers’ garments. With the help of RMF’s Tailor program she is looking forward to having a much wider supply of equipment, fabrics and her very own work space at the Bweyale Trading Center.

Auma standing in front of her designed pillow cases at the work shop, Give and Take Designing Centre

She said she was also able to pick up some hairdressing skills from the hairdressing course at PVTI and now is working a little in both and is able to provide for her family. She also has plans to open/set up her hair salon alongside her new tailoring shop.


Atto is a Sudanese refugee living in ranch 37, cluster N-Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement, and is married with 2 small children.  Atto narrated the following about joining the Tailoring Program:

“I dropped out of school from Primary 7-Star Education Centre-Bweyale, after I had a child.  2 years down the road I’ve been at home doing farming and had another child, our home budget increased and we needed jobs for both me and my husband.  When PVTI advertised I applied for the tailoring training and was admitted. After my graduation I first stayed home doing farming but later was given an old sewing machine by a neighbor (who had returned to Kenya ). I began operating the machine at home where I could sew customers’ garments and earn income to cater for the family’s needs. Unfortunately the machine broke down so I have not been sewing since then, with no income to repair/service the machine. Recently my only means of earning a living has been returning to farming. I forward my gratitude to the funders for the chance given to pursue a tailoring shop, have further training and receive some help with equipment and supplies to begin tailoring again.”

Jacqueline seated in front of her broken down sewing machine


Mariam is a Ugandan national who had moved to Kiryandongo from Tororo specifically to attend PVTI after being guided there through RMF staff in Tororo.  She is just about to finish the training in tailoring and garment cutting at PVTI. She will be returning to Tororo to set up her first tailoring shop under the program umbrella and will be monitored by the RMF staff in Tororo.  She narrated:

“I dropped out of school in senior four, stayed out for two years at home, later my parents took me to Grace Line Vocational School in Tororo town. I studied for one year, but unfortunately the school was closed and I had to hunt for another program, and luckily was able to find PVTI where I am continuing with my vocational studies in Kiryandongo district. During the first semester exams I was the second best. I have studied in PVTI, life has greatly changed because everything required for studies is there; the trainers and all the staffs around are very social and courageous. I want to thank the sponsors and donors of this program for the great work they are doing in Uganda especially in Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement.  I hope they continue with that spirit of helping more of us and advance our studies in order to compete with others in the labor market.”

Mariam in class practicing to make a short-sleeved shirt


Aryemo is a Ugandan national IDP living in Kiryandongo, married with one child, and just about to graduate from the Tailoring and Garment cutting program at PVTI.

Martha narrates:  I dropped out of school in senior two after I became pregnant, got married to the father of the child but life has been hard since then as I had nothing to do. I later agreed with my husband to join PVTI, applied, was accepted and during the first semester I was the best student in the class. I would like to deeply thank my sponsors for this new opportunity and look forward to opening my own business.”

Martha in class practicing to sew a long-sleeved shirt


Aweko is a Ugandan National living in Bweyale and she narrated:

“I dropped out of school from level four (senior four) in 2007 after the death of my father because there was no one able to pay my fees. I engaged myself in business for one year with selling papyrus mats in order to earn a living. I later settled home for one year in faith of looking after my sick mother and my younger siblings, but later my mother passed on. Life hardened even more because I had much responsibility, yet no job/business. I went to a certain woman in Bweyale with a tailoring workshop to train me at a cost of 200,000/= Uganda Shillings for only two weeks, and was told about PVTI at Kiryandongo camp for tailoring and hair dressing. I applied for tailoring, went for interviews and finally a place was secured. After the six month course I graduated and went for further training at a tailoring workshop at Bweyale Center and was able to find some small opportunities to earn some money.  PVTI is a model school that has enabled me to begin a new and promising life, that I can now pay school fees for my child and the siblings and am able to cater for my family’s needs.  I also plan to go for more advanced tailoring skill training in the future. Thanks to the donors/funders for changing my life and giving me this new opportunity to start my own shop.”   

Doreen at the workshop sewing a customer’s kitenge skirt she made


Akwero is a Sudanese refugee in Ranch 1, Cluster V, married with two children. Beatrice tells her story:

“I dropped out of school when in Primary Seven after I became pregnant, stayed home for five years doing village job-farming and had another child. Advertisements for PVTI about tailoring and hairdressing went throughout the settlement, and I applied and felt lucky to secure a place in the tailoring program.  I finally graduated and got a lot of skills from PVTI that inspired my husband wanting to purchase me a simple sewing machine through his sale of maize. He believed to improve and not to stagnate my skills.”

Akwero now has a home based workshop where she is able to serve a few customers. She plans to go for further tailoring skills training if the opportunity surfaces so that she can get more exposed to other garment sewing designs.  She thanks the donors/funders for helping her acquire skills in tailoring and garment cutting, and asks them to continue helping more students to reach their goals in getting vocational training and becoming self-sufficient.  She plans on purchasing a more advanced sewing machine with the new funds to expand the tailoring services she can offer and looks forward to having her own space to work.

Beatrice sewing a customers’ kitenge dress


Asienjo is a Sudanese refugee living in Ranch 1, Cluster C at Kiryandongo; she is married and has 4 children.

Asienjo narrates: “I dropped out of school from Senior One because of financial constraints after I had lost both parents in 2003. I got married, began serious farming in order to earn a living and now have 4 children. PVTI advertised for tailoring and garment cutting vacancies through posters all over the settlement, and I was able to join for the training at no cost.  After graduating, I rented a sewing machine that I operate with at home. I got skills from PVTI (I know how to make familiar garments for customers) that in turn earn me some income to cater for my family’s needs.”

She is looking forward to the new equipment for this program and also starting other supplementary businesses through the income earned from tailoring, and receiving further more advanced tailoring skills training.


Lillian sewing a customer’s torn skirt