Katherine Lucey at Solar Sister had a great post today about going big in your projects, Make No Small Plans. Earlier in the day, I had challenged her on Twitter to go big or go home as a way of encouraging her efforts with Solar Sister in Uganda. Her post was partly in response to that challenge, but it got me thinking about our projects here at PD. In a strange stream of consciousness thinking – which I am prone to drift into — about the difference one makes. I am not talking about Ghandi-Mother Theresa-Martin Luther King- scale of one person overcoming the tide of the times. Those are catalytic forces of change that come around once in a generation. I am talking about a regular ol’ Katherine Luceys, Erik Hersmans, Stacey Monks, Juliana Rotiches, perhaps you, or even me-catalysts that inspire others to dream big. Those of us that live on the edge of constant dissatisfaction with the status quo. Those of us married to our own ideals, despite the price we pay to achieve that goal. Those of us that breath because we create smiles in others. Those of us that make no small plans about what we want to achieve in life.
Our WoK project deals with 20 internally displaced, hard-working women in Uganda. Their 58 school-age children are their purpose to get up in the morning; to feed, clothe and educate them for a better future than the status quo. We love these women and their tireless enthusiasm to learn, to improve, and to squeeze out every bit of promise from each day. Their enthusiasm fuels my involvement. I’ve come to love them as my sisters, partners and friends. I learn as much from their ability to triumph over enormous struggles just to get through a day as they learn from the skills and opportunities me and my team shares with them. Every one of them is an agent of change in their own right.
A majority of that progress has happened in the last 5 months, and in no small part to the large and small contributions from the individuals that contribute to this project. Together we have introduced an internship program that places an intern with the women for 3-6 months at a time; we’ve built a web site to showcase their beautiful products (online store coming in September); we’ve struck partnerships with Solar Sister, DFCU Bank and Technoserve. All this in an effort to create a broad base of tools the women could rely on to sustain their business and livelihoods. Women of Kireka founder and advisor, Siena Anstis spent 3 months in Uganda earlier this year with me, as we kicked off skills training programs, business planning and marketing programs. We’ve also done a good job of introducing the women’s jewelry to clients in the UK and US. Siena’s internship program has proven to be a huge success. A massive thanks goes to our first intern, Kimberly Bilmer (@bilmerk) for working tirelessly during her tenure to put programs in place for the women’s future success.
Success has been measured one sale at a time, and largely due to the generous support of all of you who have donated your time, money, and purchasing power. Every sale has translated into smiles in Kireka and the availability of operating capital. Every donation meant one less student being left out of class. Our first sales success happened earlier this year when the women earned enough money from sales of their jewelry to pay for all 58 children to be in school for that term. The success was so sudden that it took me a month to convince the women that this was of their own doing. Their hard work paid off and resulted in enough sales for them to pay for their own children to be in school.
It will be a while before such successes are codified in regularity. There is still a lot of work for us to do. After proving that it was possible to generate enough capital to sustain the business, we are going forward and thinking big. For starters, we have decided to be bold enough as to declare that this school term will be the last one where we ask for donations. It is important that we continue this program from a business perspective. In doing so, we hope the skills we share with the women will endure long after our involvement. We instill in them that their success depends entirely on them and the skills they learn will help them get there.
So you are wondering why the long story? What does this all have to do with the difference one can make to change the status quo? I’ll put it this way. As much as we like to believe in the power of one to do great things, it really isn’t about one person. The success of that one person realizing their dream for change depends on the contributions of many. A community of entrepreneurs is what powers Solar Sister. A community of engaged citizens make Ushahidi the success that it is today. A global community of well-wishers put Epic Change on a path to making a difference. It is with that same spirit that I am calling for a community of supporters, customers and friends who believe in the future of 20 talented, hard-working women, the future of 58 children. To paraphrase Ghandi, we all have to buy into the change we want to see in the world, we all have to participate. So I invite you to participate, in any way you feel inclined.
Next month, Siena will dedicate her first marathon to raising the last remaining funds to cover the school fees for this term. I don’t expect everyone to run a marathon for the cause. There are plenty of ways to participate:
- If you can make a donation, please do so in any amount.
- If you can retweet this article and promote it, then that is a valuable contribution you can make.
- If you would like to comment, please do share below.
- If you would like to empower these women through trade and not aid model, and are interested in buying some jewelry, you can do that too.
- If you would like to cheer Siena as she winds down her marathon training, you can find her here.
So the question is for you as an individual, what role do you play?