Leaving everything behind and moving to Africa was how Tanja Curcic found herself living in ministry. The native of Sydney, Australia, has been dedicating her time and resources to bring education, empowerment, employment and hope to villages in rural Uganda since 2010, when she founded Little Blue Shed — a project focused on women living in challenging situations.
“Often females in developing countries are forced into early marriages, prostitution, trafficking and other dangerous activities to survive,” she said. “The major cause of this is desperation due to the lack of education and opportunities.”
The spark was a two-month holiday to Uganda and Kenya in 2007, when she fell in love with the red earthy soil, the picturesque sunsets over Kenya’s national reserve Maasai Mara, and the wide smiles and belly laughs of the local people despite the raw poverty that surrounded them.
In 2010, Curcic returned to Uganda for one year to support a project that provides education for children who can’t afford school. It was during that year that she identified another pressing need. Visiting one of the villages, she came across a woman sitting by a sewing machine inside a small blue shed who requested more sewing machines for the other women in the village. Determined to help, Curcic covered the costs of the sewing machines with her personal savings and helped expand the small space, naming it Little Blue Shed. In this safe place, women could learn skills in fashion and artisanship and share their challenges and struggles.
After that year, Curcic returned home but couldn’t find a purpose in her life in Australia. “There was no passion or purpose left in the 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. corporate job. I couldn’t focus, stirring about what I could do to help. What I had been exposed to changed me dramatically.”
Curcic decided to give herself time to save money, do a Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) course, and quit her job. In 2015, she was on her way to Africa with a single suitcase, a one-way ticket, and only AU$1,000 (about US$700) left in her bank account.
“The next years living in rural Uganda were the most challenging but transformative. They opened a new-found understanding and compassion for women and girls living in Africa,” she says. When Curcic first went to Africa, she wasn’t a Christian. Now she is a baptized Seventh-day Adventist.
Witnessing the daily struggles that were bravely endured by so many women gave birth to another level of vision for Little Blue Shed. “So we began our mission to provide a solution to empower as many females as possible with sustainable programs,” she says.
The Little Blue Shed that was expanded and equipped with sewing machines back in 2010 is now a program that empowers women in different areas of life. “We teach income-generating activities such as tailoring, soap making, and baking. They also learn business skills and entrepreneurship, budgeting, numeracy, and literacy,” she explains.
With a wholistic approach, the project also provides spiritual, emotional, and physical support, including Bible studies and daily devotionals, counseling, exercise, stress management, hygiene, and sex education.
With plans for the future, Curcic is now on a mission to raise funds for a purpose-built facility to facilitate a number of skills, education, and training programs. “We have now been blessed with three acres of land where we will build the Empowerment Village.”
With plans for the new space to have an office, the project’s vision includes staffing additions and new roles such as operation manager, spiritual coordinators (Bible workers), accounting and administrative staff; public relations, marketing, and communications; counselors, and English teachers.
“We are the hands and feet of Jesus, so most of all, we want to bring more souls to Christ through Little Blue Shed programs,” she said.