Why: The Name
The story behind the name "Acacia Avenue" is a fairly simple one. Acacia Avenue was the street the founder of AAD, Meg, stayed on during her visitto Uganda. It was the street she lived on during her second trip to Uganda when she came up with the idea for AAD. This was also the street she stayed on during her third trip to Uganda when she began to put the organization together.
Acacia Avenue is a winding road that isn't far from the center of Kampala, the capital of Uganda. Along the road you will find luscious, green trees scattered among local and international business and organizations. It seemed fitting to name the organization after its birthplace.
One of the most common questions Meg and Sarah are asked is "why Uganda". Generally, there are two different meanings behind this question. Some people are actually asking why we chose to work in Uganda rather than another country, whether Burundi or Peru or Afghanistan. Others are asking why we would open an organization in Africa when there are needy people in our own country.
To answer the former question: We chose Uganda for three reasons. The first reason is that the founder knew several individuals in the country who were kind enough to connect her to the organizations, businesses and resources she needed in order to get things going for AAD. The second reason is Uganda is more welcoming to American NGOs than some other countries. This means that donors money won't be wasted on paying for lots of tariffs and fees and that we were able to start our work quickly rather than waiting for several years for paperwork to be processed and approved. The third and final reason we chose Uganda was because there was just enough infrastructure to allow us to source all of our raw materials from Uganda instead of other regions. This is not only friendlier on the environment but it also supports other areas of the Ugandan economy.
To answer the latter question: Although the founder, country director, and board members are American citizens and we all love our country, we don't see ourselves as only American. We are all part of a global community where borders and passports and birthplaces just don't matter. People do. Young women do. We found a need in Uganda that we are passionate about addressing and we hope you'll join us in our work.
Why: Young Women
Why did AAD choose to work with young women? Usually, people see young women as capable of helping themselves. AAD could have chosen to serve orphans or the elderly or the handicapped [which are all worthy causes]. We didn't. We chose to work with young women for two reasons.
The first reason is that young women are underserved. They are also underrepresented and undervalued. Women, all over the world, are not seen as equal to men. They make up 50% of the population but they don't get an equal say. Young women are the future of this world and we want to work with them to help them use their share in the population to change things; to play an equal role in government and the economy, to gain gender equality and to change the dynamics of how the world interacts and works with each other.
The second reason is that young women are old enough and young enough to not just receive charity but to to work for what they receive. We feel this creates empowerment instead of a reliance on charity. The possibilities of this excites us and we can't wait to see where these young women go with the opportunities they earn.
Why: The Shirts
Acacia Avenue Designs is a charity first and foremost. We are registered as one with the IRS in the U.S. and in Uganda. However, we don't see ourselves as a charity. We see ourselves as a business...just one that doesn't profit any one individual or shareholders. We do currently rely on donations in order to operate. Our goal is to become a self-sustaining organization where the sale of our shirts will cover all of our organizational costs and growth strategies.
The idea to be a self-sustaining organization came before the idea to make shirts. When Meg was exploring starting AAD she looked into make candles and soap. After struggling to find a good wax producer in Uganda and the fact that candle sales is limited and a challenging market to get into, she looked into apparel. Meg found a fantastic Ugandan cotton manufacturer and saw the potential to create quality shirts at competitive pricing. And the Wife Hugger was born.