Sewing Hope is a documentary about the St. Monica Girls Training School and Sr. Rosemary Nyirumbe. With locations in Gulu and Atiak, Uganda, the school works with girls who have returned home after being kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Army. It’s heavy work.
The Lord’s Resistance Army became well known in 2012 thanks to a documentary and a social media campaign about its leader, Joseph Kony, as in #Kony2012 . An organization called Invisible Children created a video that was posted to YouTube and started the social media campaign with the goal of having Kony arrested by the end of 2012. The idea was to make him so famous that those in power had to respond. Invisible Children was a very small organization, and the campaign lacked some of the professionalism associated with the major NGOs, and, well, Kony is still at large, although not in Uganda.
It’s unclear how many children were abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army, which is one of the criticisms of Invisible Children. They may have overstated the number of child soldiers for dramatic effect. Still, it was more than zero, and some of these children have returns to Uganda as teenagers. The outlook wasn’t great for those girls who had been turned into LRA soldiers/sex slaves/mothers; in some cases, they had committed murders when they were still in single-digit ages, a burden they will carry forever.
Sister Rosemary took them in, saying “If you live today, you are living tomorrow. God forgets your past.” She is part of the Sacred Heart order, which she joined at age 15. She realized that these young, female refugees needed help. They needed education, rehabilitation, and in many cases, child care. These girls often had children by their fellow soldiers, children who were treated as outcasts now that their mothers were back home. After all, everyone knew that the fathers were no good.
Sister Rosemary realized that tailoring gave these refugees the type of good, honest, and hard work that they needed to re-join society and support their children. It is precise, yet creative. It also allowed the school to support itself and a day-care center. In order to tap into the U.S. market, with greater consumer and donor dollars than anywhere in Uganda, the St. Monica’s students have started making bags out of pop tops sold online and through American boutiques.
This documentary was made in 2013. Forest Whitaker is the narrator. The scenes of Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army are recreated through searing animation. Funding was provided by Pros for Africa, an Oklahoma City charity that has support from players for the Thunder as well as members of the community at large.
I watched the movie on SnagFilms.com, a streaming provider that specializes in documentaries. It’s another option for streaming television, when you’re looking for something substantial yet entertaining
“Sewing Hope” is an interesting confluence of media: one of many alternative distributors is making available a documentary about the subject of a big social media campaign and about the people who make Etsy-chic purses. Yes, it falls into the documentary cliché of “sad story with uplifting ending”, but is that a bad thing in this screwed-up world?
No, it is not.