Well it's been an amazing ride so far, and in this post I would like to share with you the amazing work being done in HFC's leather crafts workshop. This is where all the fabulous products you find in the Hackers for Charity booth at cons or online on this website are hand made every day.
But before that, let me just recap some of the every day life stuff that's been happening here in Jinja, Uganda.
First of all I have to say I have never come across such a fast changing weather ! You wake up in the morning to what looks like is going to be a beautiful day, and all of a sudden you walk out The Keep and you see this:
Well we had to make a run outside because we were out of airtime, so no internet. And you all know that nor Johnny nor I can stay long without some sort of connection ! So we did and to protect ourselves from the rain and sudden cold I got from the first touristy shack these two local overshirts that made us look like twins :-) Take a look:
But like I said the weather is fast changing so just 30 minutes after the rain started we were back on sunny mode.
I was also privy to an amazing thing: One of the Long's dogs, Sahara, gave birth to 7 puppies and so the family got bigger. Here's Johnny and Jen looking happy as new 'parents' are. The reason Sahara is in a cage is to protect the puppies from the other animals and wildlife.
And here's a better picture of Sahara and her newborn babies :)
And finally just before I take you on a tour of the leather workshop, we were invited by the local Indian population to attend their Diwali celebrations. The Diwali is the Indian New Year, and here in Jinja they have a big feast at the local temple, where food is served and then it's fireworks party time.
We got there a bit early so here's a panoramic shot of the main area, but it got very crowded a bit later.
And here's what we got served. It was a new culinary experience for me, but I have to admit it was a surprisingly good one.
The Leather Workshop
The leather workshop is located on the side of the Jinja House, and does not look like much from the outside. With its doors closed you would think it's just a storage shack or something along those lines. But once the doors open up, you see an amazing set-up where magic happens. There are 4 Ugandan's who work there full time every day, and 12 Ugandan's who work out of their homes. So basically the Leather operation gives 16 people steady jobs and a chance at a better life.
Here is a main picture of what you could find in the workshop if you were to walk in on any given afternoon: Johnny, Jen, Jonah, Arnold and Johnson crafting away.
Here Johnny shows me some of the leather in its basic form, they keep a large stock of leather because it is hard to find good quality. The pieces he's displaying here took them over 9 months to get.
The pink leather is calf, the rest is vegetable tan leather which is processed cow leather.
Jonah, Arnold and Johnson hard at work !
In this picture Jonah is dying the leather, so basically putting the dye design on and adding the color on one of the journals.
Here Arnold is attaching the clasp, or the closure of the journal.
And here Johnson is punching holes in the leather for the thread, which will be used to stich the pages on the journal.
Everybody works at the leather workshop, and I have to say that Jen is an amazing artist as far as crafting designs, amongst other things. Here she is cutting through the leather after drawing what is going to be this journal's design. The cutting helps refine the design and will make it stand out after the leather is dyed. I'll also take this opportunity to give a shout-out to Eddie The Yeti for the awesome designs he donated, as Jen is working on one of them in this picture.
So obviously I just had to try my hand at leather crafting, and after the guys set me up with everything I needed I started working on a journal cover using one of Eddie's designs. Well I can tell you one thing: IT IS HARD !
When you see the finished products, as I have been seeing them for years, you never immagine that it is so hard to do. Even when you see the team working in the workshop they make it look so easy. But it's not ! So obviously it was a big fail for me :)
Just to give you an idea of how bad I was at this, here are two journal covers with the same design at a first stage of production, one is mine and one is Jen's. I guess it will not take a genius to figure out which is which :)
Johnny spends a few hours every day in the workshop, and I think it's amazing that he finds the time to do so because there is so much on his plate. I just cannot figure out how he manages to do it all.
But there he is nevertheless, and he is probably the most skilled leather worker of all. A true Hacker for all the things ! (wink wink DualCore)
In the picture below he is cutting leather, which is a hard process, in order to get the right measurements for a leather bag that he is working on.
Once the leather is cut to the right specs, it has to be watered to get soft, and then applied on a mould and stretched out which will give it its final form after it dries out. The process of drying takes a few days.
Once the leather is all dried up it takes the bag shape and is ready for the next stages of preparations.
The time I spent in the leather workshop taught me a few things I would like to share with you. First of all, it really showed me how the Longs are making a difference helping Ugandan's with their lives. They teach them skills and provide a healthy work environment. For spending some time in Uganda I can honestly say that by itself it is something very commendable. It also tought me that even the smallest of feats makes a difference in people's lives and that it does not have to be technical. Even though I can honestly call the leather works 'hacking leather' :-)
I now cherish even more the journals, bottles and other crafts I have purchased throughout the years from Hackers for Charity. Not only because I have seen firsthand the good I help sustain by buying them, but also because I realised what an amazing hand-made work of art every one of these objects is, and because I have experienced the crafting process and saw how hard is was to even get through the first stage of producing a journal.
I did not even dare try making one of the bottles !
So the next time you see a Hacker for Charity booth at a con, or if you decide to buy a product online - which I strongly encourage you to do - remember all of this and know that you will be part of something great by owning just one of them. And for those of you who already own an HFC creation, after reading this post take a look at it and I guarantee you will see it with a whole new perspective.
If you would like to read more about the HFC leather creations, follow these links:
That is all for now. Thank you for reading and please spread the word. Shares on Twitter, Facebook or wherever help raise awareness.