January is one of our favorite months here at Sseko! We get to kick off the year by introducing you to a new team of university bound women who will work with us for 9 months while they earn an income for university and head off to school in the fall. This year we’ve welcomed 15 bright new faces into the Sseko workshop. This is the largest group we’ve ever had! We are so excited to introduce you to the Class of 2017!
The Sseko Fellows are a group of women across the U.S. who share our story, sell our products, and make a difference in their community and our world. We are so lucky to walk alongside these women in creating a brighter future, and want to take a moment to introduce you to one of them, Alyssa!
Alyssa Singh recently hit ADVENTURESS STATUS, twice! This means that twice last year, she sold over $10,000 worth of product in just one month! And that she has helped earn heaps of badges for her Sole Sister in Uganda to earn additional scholarship money for university. This ALSO means that she’ll be joining us on a FREE trip to Uganda in the spring! So, let’s introduce you to Alyssa…
The month of December is one of Sseko’s favorites for so many reasons. The holiday cheer, cozying up with our loved ones around the fire, and of course, Dressember!
The Sseko Brave Manifesto that sits above my desk says to “do things that scare you”, to “practice radical generosity”, and that “like a girl is a compliment”. There is nothing in it that mentions bravery as a synonymous with brawn or power or toughness. As I’ve grown older, I have come to understand that each of us has to define bravery for ourselves.
When I was little, I wanted to be a spy. I wanted to use cool gadgets and chase down bad guys and save the world. I wanted to be strong and stealthy and wickedly clever. I thought it would be so cool to wear leather and be tough and unafraid of anything. I read books about how to look for clues and how to track fingerprints. I tumbled around in my backyard through my make-shift obstacle course, getting dirt under my nails and scraping up my knees. I was training myself to be tough, brave, and fearless.
Then a boy in my neighborhood told me girls couldn’t be spies. He said he’d be a better spy because he was bigger and stronger, and boys knew more about cars and guns. He said he would be a better spy because boys are tougher and braver than girls. I asked my mother if this was true and she told me that spies weren’t real anyway, at least not like in the movies. She told me that I shouldn’t want to do dangerous things; that I was too pretty, too soft, and too gentle to want those terrible things. This is when I started learning about the things girls couldn’t be.
Very early on in my childhood I had a passion to help people. From holding a neighborhood kid’s hand when they fell off their bike, to giving away all my earned chore money to homeless people as I passed by them on the streets of downtown portland; I was a full blown humanitarian from the womb. Figuring out how my profession or future endeavors could envelope a meaningful and compassionate lifestyle was, and continues to be, an unsolved journey. On top of that, my inability to go about daily life without an established plan was the reason why my destiny was predetermined at the age of 10. All my actions became calculated in order to follow my path of being a doctor. Though I loved being artistic and expressing myself through art and fashion, working in medicine anticipated a more comfortable lifestyle that a creative career in either fashion, design or art could not provide. Being a doctor aided people the way I thought was only possible, it had a direct tangible impact on people. Plus Dr. Dempsey had a pretty nice ring to it… My path was then set. Dr. Dempsey it would be.
Hi guys! I am Kristy McInnis, the style and content intern at Sseko for the summer! I wanted to give you guys 10 tips to rock your summer internship!
Do research on the company
We know by now you have stalked the company’s social media and are back in 2011’s on Instagram, but what is most important is researching the company through their website. Take time to fill your brain with their mottos because for the next few months you will eat, sleep and breathe them. They are what the company was founded on, so take notes! It’s even more important to know the company’s story so you know that you are contributing correctly to their image. Sseko has a special story that they try to incorporate into every aspect of their company, and keeping that in the back of my head through all of the other moving parts keeps me humble.
Say yes to adventure.
Do things that scare you.
The walls in the chic urban office that is home to Sseko Designs are plastered with these phrases, as a constant reminder of this company’s roots. Really, the office is a manifestation of what can happen if you live by these laws: if you do say yes to adventure, if you do things that scare you…which makes me think about the things that scare me.
“I’m going to be in Uganda. Can I visit the workshop?”
Surprisingly, that is one of the most common questions emailed to our staff in the U.S., and we’re thrilled that so many of you are able to travel and visit us. If you’re going to be in Kampala and have time for a visit, please let us know!
We’d love to show you our workshop and introduce you to the ladies in person. A typical visit involves a tour of each of the stations to see how the sandals are made, and time to interact with the women and ask a few questions. We don’t have a huge selection of sandals available for purchase at the workshop, but you’re welcome to peruse what is available to find gifts for family and friends- or yourself.
To arrange your visit, email both Agnes (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Ashley (email@example.com), our procurement manager and operations director. We want to make sure your email doesn’t get lost in someone’s vacation plans or work travel, so sending an email to both ensures that we won’t miss you. One of them will provide you with phone contact information, directions, and suggestions about the best time to visit. Sometimes if the power goes out early in the morning, or we’ve just celebrated sending off a huge shipment, we’ll take the afternoon off- so make sure to check in with us first instead of just showing up. We’d hate to miss you! We usually conduct tours between 3-5pm when the day is winding down and the ladies are better able to step away from their work to answer questions and say hello.
We love visitors, and have been lucky to have so many of you stop by to see our work and give some encouragement to our team. Hope to see you soon!
Each year, we pair the members of our new class of university bound girls with a veteran staff member for mentoring. The women who keep our workshop running year after year are incredible sources of informational, from practical things like budgeting advice to the deeper and more personal subjects that come up as the girls enter adulthood.
This January, instead of simply announcing the names of the mentors, we decided to have a little fun. Each girl found her name attached to a bright skein of yarn.
And each skein of yarn led them into a colorful tangled maze that wove through the entire warehouse. Under tables, around chairs, in and out of wire screening, through sewing machines, and even around Dorothy.
Each piece of yarn eventually led out the back door of the workshop, where a mentor waited at the end of a each different color to meet and offer a warm welcome to their mentee.
The girls had a blast weaving their way through the maze to find out who was waiting at the end. It’s also possible that their mentors had a little too much fun tangling up the yarn- Robinah mischievously wove hers through the bushes behind the workshop.
We’re so grateful for these women who volunteer their time and energies, even after a busy workday, to make sure our new university bound class is off to the best possible start in life. Their generosity and wisdom makes an enormous difference in the Sseko Uganda experience, for all of us.
Above: Aunt Jenifer and her mentee Emily
Below: Ritah finally makes it through the workshop with her yarn // Khamiat and Margaret meet at the end of the yarn.
Below: Eva and her mentee Santa untangle their yarn