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Pop-tab purses connect Oklahomans to Uganda

Ugandan nun joins with Oklahomans to unveil a line of pop-tab purses and accessories that will be sold to help pay living and educational expenses for African women who were victims of the Lord's Resistance Army.
by Carla Hinton Published: May 7, 2012

The nun said she realized that she could teach her students how to crochet the purses, and perhaps someone would buy them.

Both she and Whitten agreed that the purse project fit within the mission of the tailoring school (also called St. Monica's Girls School), to teach women to sew and produce other crafts to earn a wage.

“I never knew crocheting would be useful to me, and now it's a teaching tool for other people,” Nyirumbe said, smiling.

Whitten set about finding tabs and was excited when the Anheuser Busch metal container facility in Oklahoma City decided to make a donation of tabs to Sisters United.

Working from Nyirumbe's designs, the St. Monica's students have created tote bags, clutches, shoulder bags and belts from the tabs. The items come in different colors, including green, orange, red, blue and black.

Meanwhile, Whitten said Oklahomans are connected to the project in other ways.

A group from Tahlequah helped create the label found inside the lining of the pop-tab purses.

She said much of the material used for the bags was purchased at Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby, which she said Nyirumbe regards as her “Disneyland.”

Also, Whitten said students from the northwest Oklahoma City, Edmond and Deer Creek School District area gathered at her home on several occasions to help her remove the tabs from cans to send to the Ugandans.

“There's been a lot of hands touch these tabs between here and Africa,” she said,

Purses to make debut

Whitten said she is hopeful that the limited-edition purses will be a big hit at Thursday's unveiling. Four of the women who helped make the purses will be on hand at the event.

A crowd apparently is anticipating the purses' debut: Whitten said the event is sold out.

“This is a story of restoration and how you can rehabilitate a person and help them move forward,” she said.

See another video about the project
by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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