Wrap Up Africa*
Rita (program administrator) & Letha (Founder) in Uganda, photo by Tilly Temperly
I've known my dear friend Letha since 5th grade. When I look back on our colorful history together as friends, I am filled with warmth and pride. We stayed ever so close through Madonna, florescent socks, first kisses, bi-level haircuts, break-ups, broken hearts, moves across the country and the list goes on.
She was a friend in my life that always inspired me to seek within for what I am passionate about. She encouraged me in my quest to remain unique in the choices for my life. At a very young age she was sharing with me how she wanted to somehow make a difference in the world. A huge difference. At that time she wondered if it was working in marine biology. I remember her talking to me about this in her room covered in paintings she had done of dolphins and mermaids and sea life. There was always such a power in her step and her goals...like you had absolutely no doubt she would arrive wherever she dreamed.
She married a very gifted doctor and although at times it felt like his career is what steered their lives, where they lived, how long they stayed...she somehow made those experiences about her dreams as well. She finished art school and her paintings hung in galleries and coffee shops with a long list of commissions. When they had to move back to Seattle, she started her own business selling her clothing designs. As soon as that started picking up, they received the news that they would be moving to Africa. This was a huge dream for her husband who studied international medicine and wanted to be part of discovering a cure for malaria.
The idea of moving to Africa blew her away. She didn't want to just be there as a wife, supporting only his dream, although she was so very supportive of it. She wanted to make a difference in her way, with her gifts and this was her opportunity to figure out a way to save lives along side her husband but with a creative twist.
I write this with tears in my eyes when I see how very hard she has worked this last year. My dear friend Letha amazes me to no end. She has a huge, sensitive heart and seeing so many patients that she has grown to love pass away over and over has taken its toll. It has made her quest to help save lives even greater. Rather than feeling overwhelmed and helpless, she has channeled that energy into creating change.
She founded Wrap Up Africa which is an organization that helps provide jobs through local partnerships where the profits will be funneled back to community support programs through non-profit partners. Wrap Up Africa collaborates with the Uganda Cancer Institute in Kampala, Uganda to help with the growing and often unrecognized needs of the patients.
Letha has designed wrap skirts to fit any body type. She then trains local Ugandans (many of them are parents of cancer patients) to sew the skirts...providing them with a job that not only helps their family live a little more comfortably but helps care for their dear child who has cancer (see photos of this here). She gets so much joy out of seeing these parents feel as though they have a sense of purpose now because sitting around and waiting was just too painful.
Wrap Up Africa also supports education, nutrition, therapeutic art and play and other basic needs of the patients.
If you want to help support her cause, do check out her Etsy shop...knowing that if you purchase a skirt, you are helping to save lives. So powerful. So real. So important.
I feel so blessed that she chose Boho Boy and I to do the website design. It provided us with a close-up to all that is unfolding over there because until then, it all felt so far away.
I want to go back in time to that moment when we were curled up on her bed in high school and she was passionately declaring her dream to help save the world. I want to go back there and hug her tightly, gently grab her face and say, "you did it honey...you did it."
As challenging as it is to live in Uganda, she has fallen in love with the people and landscapes. Her son has adjusted to the local school and her husband is where he has always felt he belonged.
I'm so proud to be her friend.