Local Heroes Spotlight: Sarah
Our local staff are the real heroes behind the life-changing work we do in Peru and Uganda. They are passionate about seeing their community change and are tirelessly at work to make sure they leave the place better than when they got there. Each one of them possesses an intimate knowledge of their culture that they use to provide the highest level of services to the women we care for. Over the next few weeks we want you to meet a few of these local heroes.
— — — — —Sarah joined Krochet Kids Uganda as a mentor in 2010. She quickly showed a capacity to lead and was eventually promoted to be our first-ever Program Manager. When it comes to empowerment she's a woman full of knowledge and experience. Having worked with numerous community development organizations throughout her career, Sarah is truly an expert at creating positive change. If there was a community development all-star team, she'd be on it. We are blessed to have her be an important part of our Ugandan team. What’s your full name? Akoko Sarah What's you favorite Ugandan food? Sweet potatoes with malakwang. Malakwang is a sauce made from peanut butter, simsim paste, bitter greens and chopped vegetables. Who’s your favorite musician? Celine Dion is my girl. What’s you favorite place in Uganda? Kabale, which is a district in the western part of the country. It’s unlike any other place in the world. Beautiful hill and coffee plantations. What were you doing before you came to Krochet Kids Uganda (KKU)? For most of my professional career I’ve worked with vulnerable groups of people in one capacity or another. I started my career as a social worker and then later moved into project management. I’ve worked in everything from monitoring and evaluation (M&E) to project coordination. What attracted you to KKU? I was running an education project for a local NGO when I heard about KKU. I learned about the program and found out that it was centered on empowering women to rise above poverty. I’ve had a lot of experience working with vulnerable women and I wanted to use my experiences to help Krochet Kids Uganda have a bigger impact. When my contract ended I made the switch to KKU. What drives you? I’m passionate about the work that I do because I want to be a change maker. I feel fulfilled when I see people overcome the challenges in their lives. Helping people make the journey from vulnerability to wellbeing is very empowering for me. What is your favorite part about your job? I enjoy interacting with the women. I’m glad I have the opportunity to build relationships with them. They are wonderful people. They have great vision for their future, but they need some assistance in accomplishing their goals. Watching a person you know transform their life is something very special. I like knowing I’ve contributed and helped the person rise above poverty. A lot of your job is monitoring and evaluating (M&E) our work on the ground. What are you looking for? It’s very important we measure our impact also because we need to prove our program is working. It doesn’t make sense to spend money on a project that isn’t working. Unfortunately that happens a lot here in Uganda. We make it a priority to be different. The good news is that KKU is a great success but that being said, there are still areas we can improve in. Through M&E we are able to understand which areas of our program are excellent and which still need to be developed. A better program means more progress for the women. You are also responsible for overseeing the mentors. What does that look like? Mentors have a very difficult job. It’s hard to care for vulnerable women on a day-to-day basis. The women have a lot of problems that sometimes can wear off onto the mentors. In my job I get to help them handle these difficult situations. In many ways I’m a mentor to the mentors. I support them so they can continue to support the ladies. What’s a KKi moment that you are proud of? One of the first ladies I met when I joined Krochet Kids was a woman named Ajok Monica. She had been in the program for a while but was not determined to make progress in her life. She was very lazy despite having 3 children to care for. I invested a lot of my time her, and although she was resistant at first, she slowly started to improve. Now she is working extra hard and increasing her savings drastically. Recently she came to me and told me, “I wish I listened to you in the first year of the program. I would have had a lot more money now!” It’s great to see that type of attitude change. What are you learning right now? I’m getting better at recognizing the strengths in our staff and utilizing them to help KKU accomplish its mission. We have a big team, around 180 people, each of which brings different gifts to KKU. Managing our team can be challenging but I’m learning how to get the most out of people. What’s one thing that you want people to know about Krochet Kids Uganda? I want people to know that KKU is having a lasting impact in the communities. Eventually the graduates of the program will return to their communities and will become the change makers of the future. Northern Uganda will be different place because of the effort we put into helping these individuals rise above poverty.