In February 2017, I had the great fortune of visiting my home in East Africa and catching up on Harkiss Designs and Lend a Hand Uganda –USA charity projects based in Uganda. Overall, it was a fabulous trip, and I feel rejuvenated and inspired to get back to work. Here I share some of the highlights from the trip and tell you some of the things you can expect from us in 2017.
February 21, LAHU-USA Team Meeting
Before taking off, I had a great meeting with the LAHU-USA team. Thanks to Dan Colgan, Amy Noelle, Tendo Sekiwala, Johari Mayfield, Petia A. Bradshaw, Shannon Levinski, Reema, and Gina Nabeeta for helping me prepare for the trip and their continued work that allows us to serve our communities.
February 23 – Depart NYC for Entebbe, Uganda
There are no direct flights to Entebbe, so I made a stopover in Amsterdam for couple of hours before getting on my connecting flight to my destination.
February 27, First Day of Meetings in Uganda
8:30am – I met with doctors at Mildmay Uganda to learn about the hospital and the nature of diseases they tackle. Found out that they are a full-functioning hospital and are experts in caring for patients with HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis, and hepatitis. There is hope for a partnership in the near future.
10:30am – I headed to Gangu Primary School to meet with the headmaster and go over the lunch program LAHU-USA funds. I visited the kitchen where the chef, a/k/a “granny,” makes meals for the students. Our program now provides lunch for 34 students, but 50 students need the assistance. If you would like to donate towards the lunch program, visit www.lahu-usa.org. Thank you to Godfrey Kasirye who helps us steer this program.
1:30pm – I met with Isaiah Katumwa for a quick lunch and to catch up and go over his trip to the US this year. We also talked about our 2018 community development partnership/s.
3:30pm – This was a highlight of the day! I met with a team of doctors at the Platinum Hospital led by Dr. Robert Kalyesubulwa. We talked about the LAHU-USA renal care project where we work on prevention of kidney disease. God willing, this clinic should be up and running by early 2018.
February 28, Day One in Nairobi
10:20am – Arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, which has improved each time I’ve gone through! They’ve done amazing work there.
10:50am – Sat in the Nairobi traffic! Then headed to West Gate for my first meeting with Gloria and the artisans with whom we collaborate on the burlap clutches. Unfortunately, Gloria was stuck at another appointment. Here is a few samples of the burlap & Kikoy Fabric clutches:
12:30pm – Headed to Karen to meet with Salma who makes our fabulous summer sandals. We worked on a few new designs and chose new colors for this summer.
March 1, Day 2 in Nairobi
10:00am – Started the day late and traffic was light on the way to Lang’ata!
12:00pm – Met with Ms. Kivili, the artisan behind Harkiss’s patchwork and leather clutch collection. She has five full-time employees including one man. It’s all about women’s empowerment but never leaving men behind. 🙂
Ms. Kivili and I have worked together for the past four years, and she credits much of her success to Harkiss. Together we have worked on improving the quality of her work, and now she has clients all over the world. Her orders keep coming in and Harkiss is always at the back of the line. And she is at a point where she has nothing to sell in the local market. I love this!
2:00pm – I met with Erastus, the artisan behind our table tops made from palm, rosewoods, and bone. The carving is done by hand in Mombasa, and then the pieces are transported to Nairobi for finishing. The first phase is done by small, hand-held machines and second phase is done by hand. While it’s all men in the workshop, the women employees wash the bone and help with the final touches.
Here is a short video of the outside workshop. We have plans to improve the space and provide more handheld machines to increase in production.
March 2, Wrapping Up in Nairobi and Back Home to Kampala
9:30am – Headed to a place called Garden State, which is outside Nairobi’s city center. It is quite green there! Garden State is one of the three old money towns.
12:30pm – Took a brief tour of new high-rise apartments in Nairobi. Foreigners have invested lots of money into Nairobi real estate.
1:30pm – Anderson (He is the young man who drove me around Nairobi, courtesy of my dear friend Justine Lukwago.) and I took in 30 minutes of lunch before heading to meet with a group of artisans at the Junction.
2:00pm – At the junction, the Masai market happens every Thursday and brings the best crafters and skilled minds. Although 85% of Harkiss collection is one-of-a-kind, I must still visit the famous Masai market as this is where I will meet many artisans and view samples and prototypes that I think the American market would enjoy.
Here I met with Mwangi, my jewelry artisan; Perisi, who makes all of my soapstone products; Ruth, who works on my olive wood collection; and Kyalo, a new artisan who will work on gifting ideas for our LAHU- USA donors.
7:45pm – Back on a plane to Entebbe.
Final Days in Uganda
Toward the end of my trip, I enjoyed some free time with family and friends in Kampala and we spent a day at the Nile, which is one of my favorite places in Uganda.
During this time, I worked on some personal projects like a garden project where we’ve planted cabbage and pumpkins. If things go well, we’ll go bigger! My goal is to grow enough vegetables and be able to sell to the schools at an affordable price. That way students can get a balanced diet while at school.
Caught up with Babaluku as well. Very inspiring young man. He has a vision for young Ugandans that he has put into action. Great minds and a great conversation
Thank you for coming on this journey with me. Stay tuned for more updates from my next trips. So much in store for Harkiss and LAHU-USA!