On 25/05/2018, there was an event in Hong Kong, “Africa Day Hong Kong 2018”, Meeting Point International was represented in this event. This was through a relationship with Jinja limited. Find out about the woman behind this and how it all started.
Okello Marvin 02/08/2018
My name is Rosa Huang-Rierson and I am a social entrepreneur, I am building a small company, a small business here with the aim to provide employment and training, but very much by exporting products that are going to make money. Otherwise I don’t believe that in a sustainable way create some real livelihood to support in a long term for people. So, this is what Jinja Kimala limited is about and this is what have I been working upon in the past nine months to twelve months because there was a lot of preparation we were doing.
I leave between here (Kampala) and everywhere because I travel a lot. so, my husband is here with my daughters but because of the business I need to travel quit a lot to be meeting clients and to understand what the market demands. Everything that I will sell in future wont be in Uganda and not in Africa and I will be exporting to other continents. One of the co-mission of the company is to really have a lot of the value in Uganda so I want to export finished product not raw material or ingredients. I want to export product that are handmade here but designed from somewhere else and the hand made part will be here for sure, the packaging will be here possibly everything will be here as much as possible. it is a challenging business model because most people make money by selling big volume of raw material but less work but for me I want to be true to the social mission. This is a company that is not only going to be making money but making money with a purpose.
- Do you have a fixed range of products that you that you work on or you cut across?
I have two categories of products right now, one is organic dried fruits that are actually certified organic with certain farmers in Uganda. Second category home wear and other objects that are functional for the use in homes and that are using materials from Uganda. Speaking of this, Initially the design is outside Uganda so I have a designer in London hopefully in the future some of the design can also be designed here. The reason am trying to combine western design for western test with local material is to know the different choices because not everybody likes things that looks too African. and I don’t want to create souvenir that you bring back when you come to safari. I really want to have people see these objects and say wow they are beautiful not knowing where it comes from unless they really look and then understand that is coming from Uganda. So, two main categories of product.
- How did you encounter Meeting Point International?
I was introduced to meeting point by Italian friend. She was working and volunteering at Meeting Point International (MPI) and she talked to me about a bark cloth. At that time, I thought the bark cloth was very interesting and I wanted to initially do bark cloth. But after a lot of investigation and a lot of investment to try to understand what was required to make some beautiful products, I decided that I would wait a little bit because the required investment is too high and also the risk is very high too. So, I start first with paper beads and painting with MPI and I worked with MPI for almost a year initially on bark cloth and now on paper beads and painting.
- That event which you had in Hongkong were you displaying some products for MPI? What was the main purpose? Why did you choose to fund raise for MPI?
Because this Hongkong client is already commissioned for work for a mural and she’s also a close friend of mine. She believes that we could do a mural using paper beads. Initially she wanted us to finalize the mural by the end of May and I told her it was too rushed because the 24th of May is when the event happened up to 25thmay. We had not even started the design so I had to push back and I said its too early but what we can do we can be represented.
The event on the 25th was an event that she was organising with the board of investors of different African countries and Hongkong, a lot of artists, a lot of NGOs as well as refugees in Hongkong. She’s also helping a lot of African refugees in Hongkong by giving a job for them in the kitchen, help in cooking food so she’s helping a lot of the local NGO.
She reached out to me and said “okay for the mural, there is not going to be enough time but at least we can do something that introduces Meeting Point International and Jinja Kimala so that my clients and my supporters know what is coming.” and then for that we basically decided that we will make something easy. I discussed with Alberto (Technical Adviser at MPI) to reuse some of the paper beads that were already made and we did something for decoration. So, people could look touch and ask questions about it and also, they would see logo of MPI. There was a little bit of information about who is Meeting Point International.
And about how Jinja Kimala will reward MPI, we basically try to find project of product and then we the ladies basically provide the labor and the livelihood on a daily rate. All of the materials we purchase, so there is no risk and so the ladies do not need to go and buy the materials, do the design, do the further things. So, the relationship between Jinja Kimala and MPI is that MPI provide a talent pool that we trust, that we understand through Rose Busingye and though Alberto, they tell us who is good to work with us. They will be trained and all of them will be there and we understand that and we want to give more work for the ladies of MPI.
- You are concentrating more on not making so much money but to empower the person who is also working for. Why is this so interesting for you, why do you choose this approach?
I was definitely very inspired by Rose and Alberto and also the ladies that I work with that is Agnes, Catherine. They had suffered a lot but they have retained that self-respect and they have retained that desire to work hard, to earn respect and earn what they do by working well and I think it’s quite rare for an NGO because have seen a lot of NGOs that are forward NGOs. Very good-hearted westerners who come here and say ooh I can help this family that way but its very difficult because these westerners don’t often understand what the local uplifting means and I was inspired by Rose and her story of how over 25 to 27 years she built slowly -slowly this friendship and relationship with the ladies. So, it’s not an NGO that just like 1 year, 2 year, 3 years, 5 years or 10 years, it’s a whole life time.
- What have you learnt from this relationship with MPI?
The women have gone through a horrible side but in spite of what has happened to them they still have the self-respect and have a value as a human being. The women focus on the positive side of life no matter what happens. Everyone has a good side and a dark side and Rose is focusing on the beautiful side of life which is helping the women to overcome their challenges.