Dear Internet, for the last couple of months you have had the pleasure of hearing from our Sseko Summer Intern. I was so excited to have Kelley on board for the very beginning. But dear golly, has she exceeded any expectations I had for our first in-country intern. Interns to come, (more on that later) I am just going to be honest, you have some pretty big Ssekos to fill.
I was 100% transparent with Kell from the get go. I shot straight with her and told her that when I said I was looking for a "self-starter" that wasn't just the phrase my finger landed on when I flipped through the "Phrases to Use In a Job Description Handbook."
I told her that her time in Uganda would likely reflect what my time looked like. And that time was filled with trial and error, often frustration. It was an experience I would never change, but also not one that I would throw just anybody's way. I knew it would require someone willing to take risks and to get knocked down.
It turns out, when you are a young woman starting a small business in a foreign developing economy, with a primary workforce of young Ugandan women who you hope will leave your company 9 months after they started to pursue university...well, no one is telling you what to do or how to do it. You learn the hard way, and there is almost a guarantee that you will spend some amount of time wandering alone through some muddy market, thankful for the pouring down rain that disguises your tears.
I told her that her responsibilities would cover a lot and be erratic at times. From fabric buying to quality control, Kelley would be my go-to for issues across the board.
But the most important thing to me, was to send someone who I was confident would love well. Would love the Sseko girls and the ones they loved. Someone who would allow herself to be loved. To grow and to be changed. And I am so blessed and excited to report, that she did just that.
So. Without further adieu, here is the last update from our BEST EVER SSEKO SUMMER INTERN. Enjoy.
It was a night that had the makings of disaster written all over it… Beginning with the Boda Boda ride from hell (everything I mean everything went wrong-no gas, got lost, knicked by a matatu, hit every pothole… the list goes on) It almost made me turn around and not go see the girls. To top it off, I fell asleep to the sound of heavens know what creature gnawing through the wall. I asked Mercy what it was and she just replied,
“Don’t worry. You have a mosquito net. It won’t be able to get to you”
“Mercy, that thing is chewing through plaster. Do you really think a mosquito net is going to do anything?”
“We’ll find out tonight, won’t we?”
This night, this quirky little night, was hands down the best night I’ve had in Uganda.
We had a sandal deadline to meet so we were burning the midnight oil (literally… the room we worked in had no electricity and all we had was a lantern and oil). I knew it was going to be a late night so I came well prepared with the most essential items:
Every package of candy I pulled out of my bag provoked a louder shout of joy from the girls. We all had a fantastic sugar buzz and were working hard (only breaking for an Éclair or two or twenty) when Rebecca took a swig of her soda and declared; “Now we are doing the Dew.” (That quickly became the catch phrase of the night. We were doing the Dew for sure.)
I think it might have been a mixture of the sugar, caffeine, and fumes from the glue, but I had just come from aerobics and we needed a break … so… I led some aerobics on the front lawn… at midnight. It eventually turned into an impromptu dance party (Mary is a pretty darn good dancer), which evolved into karaoke performances from the front porch (the light worked perfect as a spotlight).
Dancing under the stars in the middle of the night, I was so overwhelmed by how much I have grown to love these girls. They have completely won my heart. I stopped and just watched them smile and laugh and was filled with such joy. It reminded me so much of our first night together and I realized just how far we had come.
I know these girls.
Mary has these bouts of sassiness and antagonizes Rebecca to no end, Mercy loves one on one conversation and is always learning incredible things, Rebecca is so reserved, but her facial expressions tell all.
I know these girls.
Mary is going to be an incredible mom. She is fantastic with children. Mercy has a hunger for knowledge and is wise beyond her years. Rebecca is so intelligent yet possesses so much humility that you might never know.
I never thought we would get there and we did. I don’t know when it happened, but I fell hopelessly in love with these girls. They became friends that I cherish. I’ve laughed, cried, cooked, danced, cleaned, worked…lived with these girls. I know their hearts and they know mine.
Those sweet moments of dancing and laughter were such a manifestation of the journey we had made this summer. It was the realization that these girls are forever tied to my heart.
That creature could have gnawed through my mosquito net barricade… and I’d still say it was hands down the best night.