While planning my trip to Uganda, I was happy to have the opportunity to book my first night’s stay near the airport in an Airbnb hosted by the AidChild Leadership Institute. AidChild is an organization that I first connected with back in 2007 while working on a documentary project in Uganda. I’ve been impressed by their focused vision on the pursuit of an HIV-free generation and the innovative ways that they have cared for children along the way.
The AidChild Leadership Institute is a wellness and academic support program for the students who have been ARV-recipients and are nearing adulthood. The older students are referred to as interns and the younger ones are called novices. Their life together is orchestrated in a way that provides them with care, support, education and growth in character.
During our last trip to Kenya at the end of 2012, we set out to find products in Nairobi’s markets that would interest people back home. Most of the souvenirs that you find would be interesting primarily to tourists who’ve visited the region. Our hope was to find products that people would buy because they wanted them, rather than just because they wanted to help our cause.
With the help of some local advice and Rebekah’s excellent taste, we found tea, bracelets, handmade bags and fabric to make additional products. We nearly sold out of everything at our first event, the Flood Church Christmas Shoppe in 2012. This year a friend traveled back to Kenya and brought us two boxes of goods.
Our products received another great response at this year’s Christmas Collective. We made sure to have more than we needed this year so that we could post the rest of our products online. Today we are excited to launch our new Yadumu Project Online Shop. 100% of the profits from our products will go toward the water project in Rakwaro, Kenya. We also have a new donate page so if you want to contribute but aren’t interested in purchasing any products, you can donate here.
Our products are a combination of items that we found in Kenya and collaborations with businesses that we admire like A Well Traveled Brand, Fait la Force, Leaf & Kettle and Coffee & Tea Collective. We hope you find something that you love. Thank you for supporting our efforts to bring clean water to Rakwaro!
Visit Our Online Shop
It was a simple enough question. Under ordinary circumstances this interaction between strangers might have produced a simple “no” and a polite but brief discussion.
These were not ordinary circumstances. I had arrived in Kenya only a few days earlier as part of a team attempting to do documentary work on good causes in East Africa. Learning that the World Social Forum was taking place in Nairobi, I stayed behind to network while most of my team went on to Uganda. With my camera draped over my shoulder, I wandered around the stadium looking for interesting people and causes to engage. This is when I received a life changing question.
“Excuse me, are you a journalist?” a man asked. “No” I answered. “I do some documentary work with photography and video but I am not a journalist.” Undaunted, he asked “Can I tell you about a project I am working on for my hometown village?” It is not uncommon to be approached by strangers in East Africa with requests for help. This question intrigued me, however, so I stopped to listen to the man’s story.
Rebekah and I on safari at Kenya’s Maassai Mara.
One of the great joys of my life has been sharing my love of travel with my younger sister, Rebekah
. Our shared adventures include a three week road trip through the American West visiting 13 states and 7 national parks. We once drove from Ohio to Homer, Alaska, spending a spontaneous summer together in the Last Frontier. We’ve traveled along Lake Superior’s scenic North Shore and camped at Southern California’s San Onofre State Beach. We learned to surf together in the Pacific Ocean and kayaked for the first time during one of our journeys to Colorado.
When I told her that I was heading back to East Africa she decided that she wanted to join me this time. I welcomed the idea of taking our initial trip together overseas, especially since this was our first chance to travel since she has given birth to two beautiful little boys.
We were young, energetic and ready to change the world. Combining our love for photography, video, travel and serving causes that matter we set out to find worthy projects in East Africa needing support. We aimed to tell their stories through well-designed visual communications. As aspiring creative professionals we wanted to use our skills for projects that would make a difference in the world.
This upcoming series of posts transitions from my time in South Sudan into discussing our ongoing projects elsewhere in East Africa. Sharing the background story here will reveal the context behind these projects. “Yadumu” is the Swahili word for “long life” identifying with our desire to support life-saving causes in East Africa.
On a bright Sunday afternoon in Nimule, South Sudan, a group decided to set out on a walking trip to the Nile River. Following Elizabeth, a volunteer at the Cornerstone Children’s Home from Colorado, visitors and children alike set made this trek. The next few hours yielded rich cultural and natural experiences.
I walked alongside Jimmy, a sixteen year old orphan who speaks great English and always carries a sheepish grin on his face as though he is planning some kind of mischief. Jimmy is a fun to joke around with and behind his jovial manner is a kind heart. Enjoying this opportunity to get to know him, we spent most of the way there and back in conversation.
You can learn much about a society by watching children play. The games and activities that they embrace can be instructive about the society in which they are raised. The children at Cornerstone Children’s Home in South Sudan played a that game that seemed impossible for us visitors to figure out. Aside from football (what we call soccer) it seemed to be their favorite game to play.
After trying in vain to figure out how the game worked I decided one evening to join in. Ohwilo, one of the boys from the children’s home, saw that I didn’t know what I was doing and grabbed my hand to try to walk me through it.
Children everywhere love to see photos. On my first day in Southern Sudan I met a little girl named Dorothy at the Cornerstone Children’s Home. Most of those who know her call her by her nickname, Nyonyo. I was carrying my camera at the time so she pleaded, “I want to see the photos.”
After showing her some of the pictures she approached me later on asking to see the photos on my phone. Every time I saw her for the first couple days I was there she repeated in the same begging voice, “I want to see the photos.”
One evening I saw her and jokingly said the same thing to her using her tone of voice. She promptly disappeared and then returned with a small photo album. I sat down on the concrete with her as she told me about the people in her photos.
Stepping off the plane in Entebbe, Uganda, my immediate feeling was that I had arrived at my second home. I love being in East Africa and it feels great to be back. We spent our first day acclimating around Lake Victoria and preparing for our flight into Sudan the following day. One highlight of the day was enjoying a delightful dinner at Olubugo, a new restaurant in Entebbe built to support the admirable work of Aid Child in Uganda. Check out the great work that they are doing to care for vulnerable children at AidChild.org. Here are a few of the pictures of our first day in East Africa
I have embarked upon my third journey to East Africa. Stepping off the plane this morning in Uganda I looked out over Lake Victoria and it felt wonderful to be back in this region. I feel more at home in East Africa than anywhere else outside of my home country in the United States.
The story of why I am here starts about six years ago when I co-founded a project called Mission Focus. Our intent was to provide creative communication services, such as web, video, photography and writing, for those engaged with critical causes around the globe. We have since changed the name to Bridge Cause because we build a bridge between causes and the creatives who can help them reach supporters.
The other co-founder, Brian Denton, runs Incendia Creative, a creative agency in Monterey, California. A local group approached him over the summer to help them build a web-presence for their project to support the Cornerstone Orphanage in Nimule, Southern Sudan.