half marathon

On February 27th at 6:30am I started running with 3 friends for 13.1 miles (21k). Now, on March 3rd I have had time to reflect and no longer walk like an 86 year old. While reflecting I realized how much it relates to AAD (which is why it gets a blog post).

At 4am we all literally popped awake and were unbelievable excited for the race to start, much like Meg meeting the women in Uganda and having a sudden jolt to create a non-profit to fit the need and caused me to literally jump for joy in my house when I got the job offer as Country Director.

Then at 6am after we parked and climbed onto a bus nerves set in. What if we can't do it? What if we are late? What if I hold everyone back? I think its safe to say that similar questions about moving to Uganda to help get AAD off the ground. What if I can't adjust to a new culture? What if we fail? What if we don't continue to get funding? What if I hold everyone back?

Then, fireworks and the race begins. For the first 3 miles you could feel the excitement. 1 of the 4 of us was literally jumping over traffic cones and spinning in excitement while still propelling herself forward. This was exactly like the first 3 months in Uganda. It was new. It was exciting. The whole team was stoked to learn, grow, and succeed.

5 miles in. We had fallen into the same step, kept the same time, and while we were still excited but, we were quieter. This happened at 7 months in Uganda. I had dealt with some frustrations when it came to finding Local Council members, our fabric wasn't quite right, our machines weren't working quite right, and we realized that everything wasn't going to be easy, fun, and exciting. We run an international NGO. That means we still have to deal with disciplinary issues, bureaucracy issues, teaching issues, and making product that we can stand behind and that our donors will love.

8 miles. A burst of energy came back. Up until that point I had not run anymore than 7 miles. I could suddenly see the progress. At 1 year with AAD we had our first intern, first 3 photoshoots, first grand opening, Sandra finished half of her Diploma program, we officially became an international NGO, and I celebrated my 1 year anniversary in Uganda.

11 miles. All of us hit a wall. Throbbing ankles, aching hips, stitches in side, we felt like we were falling apart. We were all determined, but we all could start to feel the strain. At the 1.5 year mark with AAD I was still struggling to get my work permit, had gotten punched in the stomach by a random drunk campaigner, struggled to find the same color fabric that we needed to complete gifts, lost trust in a boda driver, and was honestly just wishing for one day to be easy and with no minor or major problem to fix.

13 miles. Adrenaline pumping. Seeing the finish line, and suddenly realizing that we were all about to run 13.1 miles. That time started last month and continues while I am in the US. Finishing all the products, Sandra beginning her last semester, getting tips from people that want to see us go the whole distance with AAD,  and being able to spend time with some of my favorite people has been the much needed adrenaline boost.

Since completing the half marathon there has been discussion of doing another one together, doing a full marathon, or being like the 64 year old women we met while running who is completing her 16th half marathon. Much like AAD we are discussingour long term goals and plans.

I'll let you know when a decision has been made.

Running into the Future,

AAD


Cotton from Kasese

Our fabric is 100% Ugandan cotton. Since AAD is in Uganda YiYi and I got the great idea to travel to western Uganda and check out where the cotton comes from.

Me being me thought I had planned our weekend excursion enough, but didn't foresee transportation issues, road problems, and just the time commitment.

After heading to the bus park in Fort Portal for a 6am bus depart, we ended up waiting for 2.5 hours for the bus to appear. Since YiYi and I are not early morning people we had not thought ahead and brought snacks.

So, at noon we roll into Kasese starving. We tried to find a restaurant, thought we found a decent one, and I ended up eating raw onions and raw carrots (garden salad) while YiYi consumed a sad egg rice.

We thankfully were picked up by James from Kasese Ginnery and received a tour of the ginnery.

None of the machines were running due to us visiting during the off season, but we got the opportunity to sit and chat with James and his colleagues about their program.

Kasese Ginnery works with local men and women's groups that work together to purchase land and plant/harvest cotton. Part of Kasese Ginnery is sending out staff to teach these groups how to measure the fields to ensure the land they are buying is fair and the actual amount they purchased, to teach how to sow the fields, plant the cotton, maintain the fields to prevent critters from destroying their crop, how to harvest, and eventually will buy the cotton from these same men and women that have been through their program. Once the cotton makes it to the ginnery people from the community are hired to work for fair wages to run all of the machines andeventually ship the cotton to Fine Spinners in Kampala, Uganda. 

After the tour of the machines in the ginnery YiYi and I got a speedy ride back to the bus park to catch the last bus of the day to Kampala. Once we were on the bus we both agreed that the tedious, long, tiring, and hanger inducing ride to Kasese was worth it to see where our fabric started out as a cotton plant on a field in western Uganda.

newsletter alert

This Wednesday we will have a new layout and new information in our newsletter.

Make sure to go to the homepage and sign up, so that you can laugh at videos, read interesting articles in regards to the Uganda election (happening February 18th), and get updates about AAD.

We also will be notifying you of some expenses that are the necessary part of having humans working and living. One of them is Sandra's tuition. She's in the homestretch.

February 29th Sandra will begin her last semester. In this last semester she will do interior design, make fancy party dresses, suits,  wedding attire, casual wear,  and tying it all together in a fashion show in May.

Once we know the specific date of the fashion show we will be sure to notify EVERYONE. We really just can't wait to throw confetti, cheer, and cry with happiness.

Until then though we need to pull 250 dollars together, so that we can make sure she starts school right on time. If you want to donate to Acacia Avenue Designsfor a very specific reason, and that very specific reason is education then click here. Any amount counts. If you know anyone else that would love to put money towards Sandra's last semester just send them this link: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=WHXL8QM6JMRT2

 

january recap-february goals

1/12th of the year is already done and we wanted to give a heads up to what is happening and what we have accomplished monthly.

Whats happened since the start of 2016:

  • Sarah received her 1 year work permit on December 6 2015. That means Sarah went into the new year without worrying about being deported and no longer has to cry in immigration officials offices.
  • Sarah and Molly completed all the paperwork for the Ugandan Bank account and are just waiting for account numbers. This will make it easier to wire transfer donations from the US directly to Uganda and be able to purchase all the material, pay salaries, pay rent, and begin to expand.
  • Sandra is almost complete with ALL the donor gifts. So any donor reading this, expect mail to land on your doorstep in the week of Feburary 15th.
  • Sandra is all ready to start her last semester of her diploma program. That means in May we have a fashion show to attend and WE ARE SO STOKED. (if anyone wants to fly out to it, we would love the company...we love cheering, laughing, eating cake, and embarrassing Sandra with all our excitement so you are more than welcome to join in the festivities).
  • We've been tagged on instagram from a lovely donor/friend doing yoga in her AAD wife hugger! Keep em' coming! We love receiving pictures and updates.

What to look out for in February:

Bi-monthly newsletters.

A volunteer has put together a newsletter template that we can't wait to show off. What will be in them?

  • links to blogs, news articles relating to women empowerment movements, Uganda, and anything that we think is awesome to share
  • short videos of life in Uganda, AAD,  answering any questions we get, and again anything we think is awesome to share
  • deals, how to's, and some of our best pictures from the month

So if you want to be a part of the newsletters go to this link and be sure to sign up with us!

Weekly Blog Posts

We realize that we have been slacking on keeping everyone informed on life in Uganda. This year one of Sarah's personal goals for AAD is to update the blog regularly. By regularly she means you can expect 4 blog posts a month. So, if you love taking breaks from responding to emails by reading over our stories save this link and be sure to check in once a week.

Purchasing the wife hugger in the month of February

Sarah is flying to Arizona for 1 month to spend time with family and friends on that side of the world, meet with supporters, and hopefully gain a few more donors along the way. Stashed in her suitcase will be some wife huggers. Next Friday before Sarah begins the long flights back to the states she will be posting what sizes and colors are available and anyone in the US will be able to purchase. So, be looking out for that! She has her fancy pens and packing material ready to go and wants DESPERATELY to use them.

AAD'S Teaching Program

If you have a better name for our new program just let us know!

Anyways, what is the AAD Teaching Program?

  • The program is a 6 week training put on by Sandra to teach young women from the Halo youth Corps homes (the organization we share space at the Community Center where Workshop 2.0 is located). With this program Sandra will learn how to explain everything she knows about pattern design, cutting, sewing, and completing projects.  Her dream is to have her own business and we think this is a perfect way to teach her how to lead and grow as a businesswomen and teacher. We hope to launch the program by the end of the month! Wish us luck as we fine tune the curriculum and put it into action. We'll be sure to give weekly updates when its up and running.

So, at the end of February be looking out for a february recap blog and lets see what we can accomplish in this short month.

 

simplicity for 2016

I will try and keep with the name of this post and keep it simple.

2015 was filled with more ups and downs, laughter and tears, and successes and failures than I thought was possible in a one 365 day period. Being in Uganda honestly almost made my head explode a few too many times. But, near the end of the year I finally realized why I was getting so frustrated. Unnecessary steps that make a simple task almost impossible to complete.

I won't go into all of the complex situations that could have been done in one step, but instead took 20 visits, 7 copies, and more patience then I possess. But, it is safe to say that Meg and I both realized that simple is better.

So, with keeping up the trend of simplicity we are going to take away some options and begin again with what started it all. If that kind of sounds counterintuitive listen to Anthony Casalena talk on the Creative Mornings podcast. I feel like it matched perfectly to how AAD is transitioning to be a better and stronger organization.

The Wife Hugger was the original idea and the AAD team has decided that we should go back to our original idea and make it the best Wife Hugger on the market. So good that a Wife Hugger in every color will feel natural hanging from closets and stuffed in drawers, being worn regularly by people that love the concept and the product.

We will still be providing accessories for all of our donors and we will be expanding the simple idea of the Wife Hugger by making options that are longer, more fitted, in more colors, and maybe with a little Kitenge thrown in for a pop of pattern.

We are doing this because after this past year we realized our foundation is still forming and instead of trying to act like a big organization with a big impact we aspire to be eventually we will understand that right now we are small, we are growing, we are learning, and we want to be 100% sure our products are so good that we stand proudly behind them. As proudly as we stand next to Sandra as she learns and completes her final semester. We realize that it is better to make a smaller yet stronger impact at first and slowly expand.  Once we grow (hire more women in July and have all of our overhead costs covered) we will begin to incorporate more designs.

Until then be looking for a Wife Hugger that will be perfect for any occasion and that has evolved to fix all the issues that buyers have brought to our attention.