I was at a client’s home the other day and noticed a unique pair of sandals she had. She told me they were called “Ssekos”. Sseko (say-ko) Designs is a sandal company in Uganda and was created to help some of the brightest, most committed young women continue their education.
I went to their website and was amazed by the story.
You must read this incredible letter from the founder:
My name is Liz.
I like to dream.
I went to Uganda on somewhat of a whim when I graduated from college in 2008. Over the past several years, my passion towards global issues, specifically poverty and women’s rights, had been growing. Yet, I had never experienced the effects of extreme poverty first-hand.
Now having just spent four years and a couple of pretty pennies for a university education, I couldn’t just flee the country without a respectable response to the much dreaded “What are you going to do when you graduate?” question. To justify such an outlandish adventure to another land, I (thought I) had to have something to DO; I had to have a plan. My academic background is in journalism and communications, so I went to Uganda with the intention of using my communication skills to assist a youth development organization with their communications, donor relations and quarterly newsletter.
And this made sense. All through college, that was the plan. To graduate and do PR and communications for a non-profit.
So I set off. To offer the world what I thought I had to offer.
But really, it was a guise.
I went to learn. To understand. To be changed. To break. And to grow.
So I went. And while I was there…
I changed. I broke. And I grew. And I began (emphasis on began) to understand.
During my time in Uganda, I came across an incredible community. And in that incredible community there was an incredible group of young women. They were mostly my age. They became friends. The commitment of these young women blew me away. I was consistently challenged by the fact that these women saw the education they were receiving as such a gift. And these women were not only committed to learning their subjects, but also so committed to learning how to love well. To love each other. To reconcile their lives. To lead their communities and countries.
When I came to learn that many of these incredible young women were graduating from secondary school and struggling to find work to finance their university education, Sseko was born. It seemed so simple. I designed a sandal that I thought was really beautiful. I spent weeks, wandering around the city and the markets looking for the things I needed to make them. I didn’t know what I was doing. I laughed at myself, out loud, a lot. I also had a dramatic cry in the rain in the middle of a busy market because for three 14 hour days I had been looking for a tool to punch holes in leather. Luckily, it was pouring and I wasn’t wearing mascara, so I don’t think anyone could tell.
I had entered into a community in a world of brokenness and despair, where there was so much hope and success. I was just a small part of a simple solution. Some of these young women are from villages that have never seen one of their own women continue on to University. And here they were, two years later. They had received an incredible education and were qualified academically to continue. All they needed was an opportunity.
An opportunity to work. An opportunity to succeed and earn and save. To work in a place that was dignified and honoring. To work in an environment and with people who see beyond the now and have a vision for what they will become.
So that is what I did. We make beautiful things. We laugh and we love and we dance and we learn. And every nine months, we let go and we send these incredible women off to pursue dreams of their own.
I am still learning. I am making mistakes and making a mess. But it is a beautiful adventure.
I love to dream about the future of these women. About the change they will bring and the love they will give.
But I love dreaming about the here, as well. About building a community of people right here, who love with everything. Who see shoes as something more than a lifeless product on a shelf. Who see the lives and the dreams of the hands who made them.
Thanks for being a part of loving these women. Thanks for looking beyond the mess of the now and seeing a brighter future for them and us, for their country and for ours.
I was really choked up after reading this and wanted to share it with our readers. To read more, make a purchase or become involved, click here! – To read the blog “Every Sandal has a Story” click here to read Graduate Spotlights.
“I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people” – Maya Angelou
Maya said it well…