The day after my 21st birthday

The day after my 21st birthday I boarded a plan to Uganda.

I had no connections to Uganda prior to this trip. The only thing that brought me there was a friend of a friend who said I should go. I bought a plane ticket, I signed up to volunteer at an orphanage, I quit my job, I moved out of my apartment, and said goodbye to my boyfriend. Back then, six weeks seemed like a very long time. Now it seems like a blink of an eye. During that time my perspective on life changed. I came from the fashion industry where being self centered was a requirement and narcissism is seen as a positive. I left Uganda thinking I wanted to be humble because I had so much and had seen people who had so little. These people were happy though, happier than people I had ever met before. That may seem like an extreme statement but I actually think I believe in it. When I left Uganda I had a newfound purpose. I was always intense and finally I had something to direct that intensity towards. I came back and started my new major at FIT which allowed me to plunge into my research of how fashion can be used as a development tool. When I left Uganda I saw tailors, an abundance of materials, and I saw an opportunity to be idealistic and do something wonderful. I could help people. I always used the metaphor that if you say a word over and over again it starts to lose it meaning and worth. I think its the same with looking in the mirror. If I look in the mirror to long I start to see flaws. So taking those two things I try and focus my energy on trying to help others; because by helping other my problems because very small and insignificant. During that time I always realized what makes me happy is being loved, needed, and appreciated. I need to feel needed, I need to feel productive, and I need to feel there is a goal that is bigger than me and will help not just myself but others. When I came back I began to study international trade and marketing. It was the perfect combination of politics, development with real world practical, and how trade significantly influences which country we go to war with. During that time when I was studying international trade and marketing I told my sister she must also go to uganda. I couldn’t even describe at that point why she needed to go. When she came back I could see the look in her eye that she felt the same thing I did. It was rare to find a place we both loved so much because we had such different personalities and goals at the time. To have a love of the same place that was so foreign to us. When she came back she said there was a job opening for us as directors and designers. And I didn’t even hesitate, “Sign me up.” Less than one year later we were in Uganda. We were in Uganda as the directors to create policies and procedures, organize 100 women. It was a beautiful thing because during the first year we basically had a blank check. As the company in America was growthing they gave us a credit card, a house, a van, 100 employees, and a consistent flow of volunteers fresh from America. It was a magical time because in the beginning when you are starting a business you have to do everything yourself and to slowly, not even slowly, rapidly see how finding the right people and giving them ownership and having them take charge of their life by becoming leaders in the community. We gave them the encouragement and the organizing and help with what steps needed to be done and in what order. My sister and I will be going back and forth between my stories and her stories to talk about how different experiences on what we learned.


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