Three years ago today, full of high aspirations and a lofty, yet foggy vision for the future, I incorporated Acacia Avenue Designs. My signature and a check from my mom was all it took to become a legally recognized organization.
My previous employers (a bakery, toy store, and swimming pool) had not prepared me for the journey ahead. And even though my education in social work had given me a background in helping others, I was absolutely and completely unready to take on the IRS and the Everest-sized climb of fundraising ahead. Thank God for Google!
I had this idea/delusion that AAD would be up and running in a few months. We would have a workshop full of young Ugandan women, making shirts, selling shirts, and changing the world. Now I smile at my naivety.
After a year-and-a-half, we got the go ahead from the IRS. We then hired a seamstress to train our beneficiaries-to-be in sewing cotton shirts. Six months later, the girls started school. Another four months passed and Sarah headed out to Uganda to become AAD’s first Country Director.
And where are we now? Well, we are in the final stages of becoming recognized by Uganda as an NGO, our first cycle of ladies are half-way through vocational school, and we are purchasing our first batch of fabric for manufacturing. It took a little longer than I expected and involved a lot of personal growth and required quite a learning curve but, it was worth it.
I have the best job in the world. Every day I do something different. One day I create a newsletter, the next I’m working on finance, the day after that I meet with boutique owners.
In addition, I have the best coworker in the world. Sarah makes things happen; she’s been able to avoid bribery, motivate and encourage the young women in our workshop, and basically just connect all of the dots to keep us moving forward. And she does it with a spectacularly positive attitude.
The Board of Trustees in the states has also been a blessing; Volunteering their time and skills, holding fundraisers, attending meetings, brainstorming what’s next for AAD, and sending kind words our way that always seem to arrive just when they’re most needed.
So what’s next? We will now really be able to start our journey.
1. Donors will be getting presents specially made for them by our ladies.
2. We’ll be kicking off new fundraisers to help us reach our financial goal for 2015.
3. We will see our ladies finishing off their vocational diplomas.
4. We will begin selling our shirts in South Africa and Uganda (and on special occasions, the U.S.).
5. We will be implementing new programs designed by health and finance experts who were kind enough to volunteer their time and expertise to educate our ladies on topics like healthy living and saving and budgeting.
6. You’ll be able to take a closer look at AAD because of professional photographers and videographers who are volunteering their time and skills.
I’m really really really excited about this because it means we’re moving forward. We’ll soon be able to hire on more ladies who will then have the chance to go to school and be financially independent. We’ll be selling shirts and, through that, sharing our cause with others.
We’re a small organization and we’re not going anywhere fast. I’m ok with that. At least we’re going. And if we keep going, we’ll eventually get somewhere.
So to start off 2015 and celebrate AAD’s three year anniversary we’re introducing a new look for AAD (kindly donated by a graphic designer):
Thank you for sticking with us, for supporting us, for sharing our cause with others, and for being a part of what we are doing. We’re looking forward to the year ahead and we’ll make sure to bring you along for the ride.