Attending: Kyambogo University
One can’t help but feel comfortable around Caroline. When you sit down for a chat, she moves her chair close and leans in to listen intently with an empathetic ear. Caroline admits that before she started working at Sseko, she would wake up late to find others already dressed and moving. She decided she needed to manage her time differently so she didn’t miss out on anything. Her shift in daily perspective repeatedly landed this punctual lady on Sseko’s monthly perfect attendance list.
At Sseko we love to see people harness their creativity and let it surprise them. Caroline came to Sseko with little formal work experience but has since discovered that she can easily work with people of different ages in different stages of life. She has been inspired by Liz and the Sseko story to believe that when she has an idea, she, too, can try it. We’re excited to see where this future accountant uses her gifts.
Attending: Makarere University
Studying: Computer Sciences
Rose is no stranger to hard work. Since she was a child, she worked alongside her parents in the rock quarry to earn money for school fees. Working in the quarry is arguably to most arduous work here in Uganda. However, instead of lamenting the hard labor of her childhood, she is grateful for what the experience taught her about persevering through difficulty.
It is this ethic of determination that has carried her through her high school degree and will serve her immensely during her time in University. Rose has learned at Sseko that everyone is equally important. She says, “You can’t do something well without someone else. We teach each other and we need each other.” Rose knows that age plays a very little part in your ability to have a voice and an impact.
She has discovered that being quiet at times is quite alright and in fact helped her to live with other people well. These tangible experiences have equipped her with the confidence to make new friends at University. Rose’s advice: “You can never stop learning about people and enjoying the time you have with them.” She gets it and we like that.
Attending: Makarere Business School
Studying: Commerce…and then law school
Robinah is a story-teller. When there is a lull around the workshop, Robinah is always willing to share a story from her past or a folk tale from her tribe. Somehow, the first conversation I ever had with her managed to evolve into a hilarious tale that ended with an embarrassed son-in-law running through the village covered from head to toe in baking flour.
Her ability to captivate an audience will serve her well in the courtroom, which is where she will spend much of her time after she finishes her degree in law. Robinah also has a mind for business. With what she has learned at Sseko, she hopes to start her own small business before finishing University and going on to law school. Robinah is seeing her dream come true as she takes the next step toward a career in law.
We appreciate Robinah’s honesty in admitting that she was challenged and discovered that she knows a lot of things but not everything. Her teachable attitude has allowed her to see the benefits of being interdependent. She explains that when working on a team, she often needs the piece that someone is finishing in order complete her part. With confidence, she states, “So much more can be accomplished working together than alone.” Her goal is to use her skills and education to advocate for those in the justice system who otherwise fall through the cracks. We have no doubt that Robinah’s goals will evoke a contagious change.
Attending: Gulu University
Studying: Development Studies
Betty is certainly not your average recent high school graduate. Serious and contemplative, Betty’s calm and strong demeanor quietly demands that you take her seriously. And serious she is. When it comes to working hard, achieving her dreams and overcoming hardship, Betty has proven herself to be a woman of strength and courage. Betty lost both of her parents during her childhood. With no one to pay her primary school fees, she arrived early and stayed late at school to clean the grounds everyday to pay off her school fees. When she moved on to secondary school, she could not find employment and there was no way she could afford to continue her education. She scoured Uganda for a job opportunity, and like most women her age, failed to find employment.
But where most would give up, 17 year-old Betty decided to move to South Sudan, where she heard there were more opportunities. A terrifying journey for a girl who had never left her village, Betty succeeded in her pursuit and taught nursery school in a foreign country for a year to earn enough money to finish her high school degree. Since she was a young girl, Betty has proven herself as determined and committed. She will go on to university to study Developmental Studies to further her passion of community relations, specifically in the area of cross-cultural relationships.
Betty has a talent for observing a technique and mastering it almost immediately. We have seen her strive to understand people’s differences and work in harmony with others. Because of that, she easily moved among our production teams and was in high demand.
Betty says, “If you work when you are not happy, you cannot do what is expected.” She found her joy in working and socializing with her coworkers from all parts of Uganda. Through working at Sseko, Betty has experienced the importance of being a team player when big goals are on the horizon.
Attending: Kampala International University
Studying: Clinical Medicine
Always impeccably dressed, with long curly hair that flows down her back, Teddy usually looks like she just stepped off the pageant stage. When this girl walks in to the room, you might be tempted to think that she is all beauty. But take one look at her resume that fills the page will impressive titles like Class Prefect and Health Minister, and you’ll quickly realize that her impressiveness doesn’t stop with her stylish digs. When Teddy was in the 5th grade, her father died from a respiratory illness. Although the condition was quite easily curable, there simply were not enough doctors in her village to tend to him, leaving Teddy and her 8 siblings fatherless. This is where her dream to pursue a career in medicine was born.
When we asked Teddy what she learned at Sseko, she told us that you can’t make other people be like you. And it’s easy to communicate the right thing in the wrong way. Teddy encourages us to respect differences when it comes to style and to communicate in ways that supports cooperation. We knew that Teddy was a smart cookie.
After graduating from Sseko, she will pursue a course in medicine at University. Working at Sseko helped this stylish shopper learn to manage money and be able to save. She loves her Sseko’s and will wear them proudly as she moves forward to University as a confident decision maker and future medical professional. If someday Sseko is big enough to have a resident physician on campus, Teddy will be our first pick!
This week we closed up shop and 27 of us piled into 2 taxi vans to visit Toepista and her newborn daughter Happy Deborah. Yes, “Happy” is part of her name chosen by the Sseko crew! It is our custom that when an employee is pregnant, she receives a new name and in this case, Toepista, was called Mama Happy. That name is now passed on to Deborah. We adore the little things that are becoming Sseko traditions!
On the way to Toepista’s home, our van was filled with fierce competitors claiming victory in our road trip games. If you’ve ever been to Uganda, you know that even routine trips can become quite the adventure. We’d rather have fun with the adventure than avoid it!
The rowdiness died down as each one held precious Happy Deborah in awe. We welcomed a new Sseko sister into the world today. We couldn’t be more proud of her mom and thankful for a safe and healthy delivery. We can’t wait to be a part of Happy’s life as she grows into the strong, beautiful, smart woman we know she’ll become.
The Summer 2012 Interns have arrived! They are joining us from all over the country. Texas! Los Angeles! San Diego! New Hampshire! And they all made their way to God’s Country, er, the Northwest for a summer of challenge, fun and popcorn. This summer is going to rule.
Meet Sharon. Sharon is the manager of the Strap Team and our most recent Employee of the Month. Sharon began working with Sseko last July (2011).
Sharon is a trained seamstress, who has become an expert strap maker in her time at Sseko. Sharon was chosen to be a Team Leader because of her dedication, positive attitude, ability to humbly lead others, and her exemplary willingness to learn. She is compassionate towards her colleagues and is incredibly patient and gracious to those around her. That is also why she was selected as Employee of the Month.
Mothers Day is quickly approaching (Oh, you didn’t know? You’re welcome.) The Sseko workshop in Kampala now employs 8 mothers. And get this: they range in age from young 20’s to upper 50’s. Talk about a support group! We have hip, young moms who dress in the latest fashions and have dreams for their young babies. We also have older mums who watch their kids graduate and pass out invitations to their weddings.
I’ve been back in the US office for a few weeks now. And literally almost everyday I find myself wishing for an Agie here at the Sseko HQ in Portland.
“Wish for a what?” you might ask.
To which I would reply, “Not a what, a who!”