Sharon Jr. loves dancing, especially traditional dance, and the way it makes her feel while she’s participating. In school, she enjoyed chemistry the most, especially when in the lab mixing chemicals. She marvels at the way mixing an acid and a salt together can give you something completely different.
Over the next few months, we’re excited to introduce you to each of the 11 university-bound young women who make up our Class of 2016! It seems appropriate that we start off with Liz! Liz shares her name with Sseko’s founder, a coincidence that resulted in an eruption of laughter during our last office to office Skype call. It turns out that they have more in common than just their names, as university-bound Liz also values hard-work, education, and the people in the world around her. Her list of favorite new faces in the workshop so far is too long to list, and she really values the diversity of the place with people from all ages and regions coming together.
Our favorite time of the year is here! This month, we’ve welcome 11 bright new faces into the Sseko workshop–11 young women who will work with us for 9 months while they earn an income for university and head off to school in the fall. We are so excited to introduce you to the Class of 2016!
This year’s class if full of vibrant characters. There is Linda (who lost both of her parents when she was young but is dreaming about becoming the first female President in Uganda!), Successor (who is going to university to study human rights and hopes to help end tribal conflict and domestic abuse) and Bridget (who will go on to college and study logistics and operations…but has not-so-secret dreams of becoming a stand-up comedian.) to name a few. You can head on over to our Meet the Women page to read more about each university-bound lady!
At Sseko Uganda, we are in the process of welcoming our newest class of university-bound girls to the team, so we thought it would be a good time to explain how we recruit & hire these ladies each year! In Uganda, the school year starts in February and ends in December. So towards the end of October, as the school year comes to a close, it becomes time for us to start searching for the new Sseko class. Fortunately, we are lucky to be able to partner with an incredible high school called Cornerstone Leadership Academy (CLA) to find the newest team members, which makes the process an easy one! As we continue to grow, we hope to hire more and more of their graduating class, until each graduate can find a job with Sseko if they want one.
During the last week of October, our workshop gets a whole lot younger for a day as the girls come for interviews, lunch, a little sample of the workload they might expect next year. They’ll try their hands at beading, looping sandals, and a variety of other tasks to see whether it’s work they can take interest in.
We’re often asked where our leather is sourced from, and we are proud to say that almost all of it comes from Ethiopia and Kenya! We work hard to source as many of our materials as possible (from beads to rubber!) in the East African region with the aim of supporting the local economy and community. The tanneries we work with mostly use hides from the animals of small family farmers and growing local businesses.
Leather & Livestock in East Africa
Christmas in Uganda looks a little different than it does in the U.S. For both, it’s a joyful season, but in Uganda there is no snow, there are fewer decorations, and it’s most often celebrated as a time to relax, reconnect with family, enjoy good meals, and make visits to old friends and relatives back in the village. Our Sseko ladies explain that being surrounded by family and friends, savoring the peaceful day, and enjoying the food is what they love most about Christmas.
In Uganda, one of the most anticipated parts of the season is the food! A typical Uganda meal consists of one starch “food” (rice, matooke plantains, corn-flour posho, chapati flatbread, or potatoes), and one main “soup” (beef, goat, chicken, fish, peanut sauce, or beans), and perhaps a little vegetable side. There aren’t many special dishes reserved for the holidays, but at Christmas, families look forward to variety, and often band together in groups to cook a feast that includes a little of everything. Beans, eggs, and peanuts are a more common daily protein source, and meat dishes are often saved for special occasions. Aunt Jennifer looks forward to a church service and then a big lunch of chicken, rice, and matooke.
Though the brass bangles have been a Sseko staple for awhile now, we’re incredibly excited to announce our first major foray into the world of jewelry. The Brave Bracelet is entirely handmade in Uganda, using hammered brass wire, colorful beads, and a whole lot of talent.
First, brass wire is cut to size, hammered, and then shaped into a dainty geometric diamond.
Here, Josephine taps the wires to make sure the diamond shape is laying flat.
This fall, as we ask you to seek the unfamiliar, it’s only fair that we ask the same of ourselves, both in the U.S. and in Uganda. For Josephine, this meant overcoming her fear of the water in exchange for an exhilarating new experience: a Uganda boat trip on Lake Victoria!
Despite the fact that Uganda is a land full of water, from the mighty Nile to Lake Victoria to the smooth, calm pools of mountain craters- most Ugandans don’t know how to swim. Two years ago, when Josephine heard of a few American visitors spending the day touring Lake Victoria in a wooden fishing boat, she shook her head in amusement at the risk. When pressed, though, she admitted that she’d like to try it one day- as long as there were a life jacket. Recently, she got her chance- along with several other adventurous Sseko ladies who decided to head out onto the water (for the first time in their lives) for a boat trip on Lake Victoria.
Time for another Sseko Graduation celebration! This year’s class of THIRTEEN University-Bound ladies graduated last week, and though we’re always excited about their futures, we’re definitely sad to see them go. These ladies jumped into a busy work schedule on their very first day and haven’t slowed down since, finishing up a last minute batch of samples before sitting down for an afternoon of speeches, cake, and celebration.
In March, we had the opportunity to meet not one but two new Sseko babies! Georgia and Phoebe gave birth to their first children recently, and brought them both in for a visit.
Phoebe is one of our incredibly talented tailors. She and her husband named their son Israel. She is thrilled and very proud to be a mother. Phoebe loves to watch her son when he is playing and laughing, throwing his arms and legs into the air in excitement. She hopes that Israel will grow up to be a preacher, no matter what he decides to study.
Our HR/Admin Manager, Georgia, and her husband welcomed Jeremiah, whom she describes as a lovely and sweet baby. Despite a few sleepless nights, she recommends motherhood to anyone and finds it quite exciting. She doesn’t want to push Jeremiah toward any career, she hopes he’ll grow up to discover his own passions. She doesn’t want him to spend much time in front of a computer or TV, and hopes he’ll learn to play all sorts of instruments and games and grow up to be a creative and thoughtful person.
We celebrated these precious new additions with cake, soda, and presents; and took the afternoon off to catch up with Georgia and Phoebe, who have just returned from maternity leave.
As plates of cake were passed around the room, so were the babies. Josephine and Justine took far more than one turn holding each of them.
We’re delighted to welcome these boys to the Sseko family, and hope we can watch them grow for years to come. Selfishly, though, we’re also grateful to have Georgia and Phoebe back at work, as things have been tough without them. These boys have wonderful, talented mothers, and already, their future looks bright.