Blazers 4 Uganda: the Call, Response & Outcome.

Hey e31. community!

Last time we checked in with each other, I was getting ready for my big trip to Uganda to volunteer with Living Hope: a ministry that exists to empower vulnerable women in Uganda. Without going on for days, it was the most rewarding two months of my life and I was immensely blessed by my time in the ‘Pearl of Africa’ (Churchill was most definitely right!). I met some of the most beautiful people (inside and out) whose stories have forever impacted my life.

Two weeks before I left, I launched e31.’s very first campaign called “Blazers 4 Uganda”. In essence, this was a call-to-action to you, the e31. community, to donate gently used blazers that I could bring with me to Uganda to give to some of the Living Hope women. If you missed that post, you can read it here .

Photos by Hannah Burton.

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Being a reflective person, there were two major lessons that I learned from this campaign that I hope that you can take something away from.

[ O N E ]: The Gift of Hope.
As explained in the initial post, the intention for this campaign was much more than simply giving these women an article of clothing for functional purposes. Rather, the goal was to bring little pieces of encouragement all the way from North America. I had the pleasure of handing out every single blazer on your behalf and together, we helped dress these women with dignity and strength and not Zara or H&M. The first half was given out to the Living Hope cell leaders in Gulu, who are the beautiful women shown here in the photos. The remainder was then given to the cell leaders in Kampala. With the help of a translator for both groups, I was able to explain to the women that I wanted them to view these blazers as a symbol and reminder of hope. I told them that each time they put on their new blazer, they should feel proud knowing their blazer comes from a woman half way around the world who believes in their future of being a self-sustainable business woman and pillar of influence. Based on their expressions and cheer, I wholeheartedly believe this message was well received and my hope is that the meaning behind this gesture is never forgotten. Living Hope is doing an incredible job of coming alongside these women to breathe hope back into their lives and it was my pleasure to be able to give another breath of hope. These tangible blazers carried an infinite amount of intangible value -the value of hope- and until this campaign, I never realized how powerful the gift hope can be.

“HOPE IS THE OXYGEN SUPPLY OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT”

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[ T W O ]: Slap Fear in the Face, It’s Not About You.
In all honesty, I wasn’t sure what type of response this campaign would get. I had high expectations, but I also wanted to be realistic and set a benchmark that I thought would be easily attainable. So with that, 20-Blazers-For-20-Ugandan-Women was my initial goal.

Each day I received an email, text, Facebook message or friends just coming up to me to tell me they had a blazer for the campaign and that they could help spread the word. Well one conversation led to another, and to my absolute amaze and excitement, I stayed up until 2:00 am the night before flying out, figuring out how I was going to bring 93 blazers with me! Talk about a good problem to have, hey??

As I was playing tetris with the blazers in the suitcases, I felt almost ashamed for setting my original goal so low. I feel like we can get so caught up in numbers these days that we hold ourselves back due to insecurity of not receiving the quota of validation we need to justify our actions. I am the first to admit that I was and continue to be guilty of this at times.

While planning and thinking about the impact this campaign could make was exciting, there was some hesitation in the execution and follow through. Looking back, the hesitation was rooted in the moments when I would start to make this campaign about myself. Doubt would creep in and all I would focus on was personal public failure if I wasn’t able to receive any other blazers than my own. Even when you are working on something ‘bigger than yourself’, it’s disappointing how easy it is to make it, well… about yourself. Fear of failure is crippling and I hate that it can be the sole reason why several of us do not pursue dreams and goals that we have on our hearts. What I learned is that when you step back and detach your identity from whatever work that you are doing, this new perspective can defeat the fear of failure. If I never followed through with this campaign, that precious gift of added hope would never have been delivered and all because of selfish insecurities.

So whatever it is that you have been dreaming about:

“DON’T BE AFRAID TO FAIL, BE AFRAID NOT TO TRY”

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Before concluding here, I just wanted to extend a huge shout out of gratitude to the Living Hope staff for being open and allowing this campaign to be carried out. To Hannah Burton, thank you so much for capturing these moments in Gulu, I will forever cherish these photos. In addition, the success of this campaign would not have been possible without you, the e31. community! My full intent was to take individual photos of the blazer recipient and send it back to original owner, but with 93 blazers, I was not able to. I do apologize for that.

A few special mentions go out to Gennie Liu, Ruth Nickel, Rachel Nader and Laura Liira who displayed tremendous advocacy and support for this campaign.

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Thank-you for reading not just another e31. post, but the very last one of 2015. It has been another incredible year and I remain optimistic and excited for the future of this community and brand.

Until next time, work hard and be nice to people!

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