Ryan Gibb, assistant professor of international studies and political science at Baker, has traveled four times to Uganda to volunteer with the Awava, witnessing the positive effects of the socially conscious business practices on producers in East Africa that the organization’s founders intended. Gibb first went to the African county to teach at a high school before returning a couple of years later to conduct dissertation research. For his most recent trip this past summer, he traveled to Gulu in northern Uganda to complete research, deliver supplies and visit friends.
In particular, Gibb has become close to Lucy, an artisan who has benefitted from the program. He makes sure to visit with her to learn more about the success of her business.
“I helped Awava by acting as a courier for the goods that women in northern Uganda made for their online marketplace,” Gibb says. “I traveled up to Uganda to greet friends, talk with them about their U.S. marketing strategies, and deliver goodies that I brought from the United States. They really love American chocolate and Nutella, and the kids especially love glow stick bracelets and games. I can’t bring them enough money or supplies to live on, but I can bring some treats to lighten up their sometimes desperate situations.”
Lucy has benefited from Awava. According to its website, the organization teaches women such as Lucy new artisanal skills. It also helps them improve on existing skills, teaches women how to cost products and keep books and provides additional technical skills such as computer and Internet use.
“Seeing Lucy’s face again is always the best part of visiting,” Gibb proudly exclaims. “She is like an aunt to me, and she always receives me so warmly to her house and business. Meeting her reminds me of her daily struggles, and her work makes me remember how lucky we are in the U.S., that our American struggles, inconveniences and arguments are petty and slight in comparison to what so many in the third world face every day.”