A couple of years ago I was introduced to the company Sseko Designs. Over the last decade there has been a rise in companies that produce products in an ethical way that supports individuals, communities, and countries. Shopping local and supporting businesses (large and small) that are concerned about their employees and the communities they exist in has become increasingly important to so many. It is a beautiful thing.

5.16sseko-02Sseko Designs is a fashion brand based in Uganda that employs local women on the path to pursuing a university education. Every woman who has graduated from Sseko is currently pursing a college degree or has already graduated. I originally found Sseko when searching for cute flip flops! The more I learned about the company, the bigger fan I became.

Sseko approached me about partnering as a Sseko Sole Sister this year. I would be matched with a young woman at Sseko and could share her story and follow along as she prepares to enter a university.

A key purpose of this blog is advocacy – in so many different forms.

As I share about Sseko Designs, I am not just advocating for a specific young woman or company. I am also sharing in hopes that it sparks something in someone else regarding how businesses can be for profit and still make a difference in the lives of employees and a community. That can happen in Uganda and it can happen in Tulsa, OK. As a business owner, it pushes me to consider how I can use my business to benefit those beyond my family.

5.16sseko-04This year I am matched with Bridget. She is part of a 9-month employment training program that began after her high school graduation. By working at Sseko, she is earning an income to begin at a university in the fall. She is from a family of 7. Her parents are farmers with their primary income coming from coffee. She dreams of traveling and hopes to start her own hardware business some day. I’m so excited to be matched to her – family of 7, coffee, traveling, hardware store dreams. A perfect fit!

IMG_5296I will share more about Bridget in the future. I wear my Sseko sandals almost every day. They are super comfy and are far more stylish than my plastic flip flops!

5.16sseko-06They come with different types of straps you can change out the fabric and change the design. I have tried watching YouTube videos to change up mine, but get distracted by little girls wanting to help! I’ll have to try after they go to bed one of these nights. Sseko Designs has several other products too, but the tie sandals are what first attracted me, so I will share those today.

SsekoTiesI’m excited about following Bridget as she shares her story and prepares for her future! If you would like to learn more about Sseko Designs, you can find videos and stories on the Sseko website.

You can also use the code UNDERTHESYCAMORE for 15% off your purchase. The code is good for the next 2 weeks.

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  • Nikki - Thank you so much for sharing this.
    I live in South Africa & I see everyday how people struggle to find jobs or even go to school because of circumstances that just don’t allow that.
    It makes me happy to see such great initiatives.It’s wonderful to see that these beautiful ladies now have options rather than falling into a spiral of just finding random odd jobs to make ends meet. Now they can follow their dreams! How cool is that?
    Thanks for this awesome site.
    I’m shopping as we speak :)

  • Lacey Meyers - These sandals are super cute and what a fabulous company! Thanks for sharing, Ashley!

    (The links on the images aren’t working, but the main one at the bottom going to their homepage does. 😉 )

  • Emily - These are super cute! (Also – I love the doorknob hanger — such a better idea than tiny hooks!) I’m going to shop now :-)

  • Bri Leever - Yessssssss! I love love love love Sseko!

  • Kara M - LOVE Sseko! Just bought my first pair. I have been learning a lot lately about ethical fashion and am having a blast finding wonderful companies like Sseko!

  • Jacqueline - Love the mission of this company and the sandals are adorable! Are they comfortable for lots of walking?

  • Carolyn - Yes! Love to see Sseko on here! I have had my sandals for years and they are still my favorite summer go-to!

  • Carolyn - Wonderful! I love to see Sseko on here! I have had my ribbon sandals for years and they are still my favorite summer go-to! They are surprisingly VERY comfortable for walking around all day in, too!

  • Fair+Simple - Love this different form of advocacy! Great fit, Ashley.

  • AshleyAnn - Jacqueline – I wear them almost daily and for long walks, but I also am comfortable in flip flops for long walks. I think they are really comfy! (it also probably depends on how you tie them)

  • Catherine - Love this! I’ve been trying to learn a little more about buying local and support these kind of missions. I’ll definitely purchase something from them to support the cause! I’d love to hear a little bit more about other business that you might have contact with. I’m always a little bit suspicious about these things and prefer to donate for organizations that give skills and opportunities (like the one you mentioned). Thank you so much.

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Oh my goodness! I just listened to Liz on the JI Happy Hour podcast! I love how small the world can feel sometimes.

  • Katie - I had to share this little story with you. I’ve been thinking a lot over the past few months about how much I want to start supporting companies like Sseko. I read this post last week on your blog and it got my wheels turning. I even showed the Sseko website to my husband. Fast forward to this morning: I went to my local thrift shop in rural Nova Scotia, Canada. What did I find? A bag with a brand-new, unworn pair of Sseko ribbon sandals with four packages of replacement ribbons inside for $7.00. The Lord knows the desires of your heart! It’s no coincidence!

  • Victoria / Justice Pirate - Yey. I own a pair of their shoes. I’ve loved their company for a few years now. So great!!! I have never tried to lace mine other than in the “classic” style. The knotty tie is cute though! I agree that their sandals are SO SO comfortable!!!

Chris does a lot of stuff in the realm of helping people find their passions/strengths/weaknesses. He likes to talk about our unique bents – the things unique to us that make us thrive and the things that are draining. He has a host of descriptions and acronyms for this stuff. I give him a hard time about it. Despite me having a pretty good handle on the things I find energizing and the things I find draining, he has had me take tests to ‘discover’ my unique bent. One test was supposed to take weeks. In an afternoon I came back and told him I was done. My top three strengths were: being alone, exploring and creating with my hands. He said it is debatable that ‘being alone’ is a strength. I told him he only thinks that because he is an extreme extrovert.

Anyway…I don’t get to be alone much. Exploring comes in waves. And working with my hands…well, it doesn’t happen near as much as I’d like. Seasons.

We’ve been needing a bigger coffee table, so I set time aside and built one. It is not perfect. It was built with scrap wood, no plan, and plenty of imperfections.

However, I got to work with my hands.

I used boards that were once part of a bookcase in the house I grew up in.

I got to run over to my grandpa’s to plane a few boards.

My dad stopped by to help me figure out where to put my pocket screws.

My girls helped me paint it.

It will get banged up. Scratched up. Dented. Piles of stuff will be scattered on it day to day. It is just what I needed…the process of making it more than the actual table.

5.16table-02The little table with the yellow legs was our old coffee table…we needed bigger!5.16table-03Our wood floors are in rough shape, we are getting ready to refinish them, so I wasn’t worried about paint dripping.5.16table-125.16table-055.16table-065.16table-085.16table-09And….I have another white surface to reflect light and make my house brighter:)5.16table-10

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  • babs - your table is priceless.thank you for the inspiration,

  • Allison Gottlieb - Beautiful!!

  • Laura Y - Lovely table. My husband and I love working with our hands too. Our next project is a sofa console table because I need somewhere to display family photos. I was hoping to get it done this weekend, but we might head up to Kiddie Park instead. On a side note, where did you get your rug? The colors are beautiful!

  • Lindsey - Beautiful table! Wish I could be so crafty!

    I would love to hear more about these “tests” to find out more about what is draining and energizing to a person :)

  • Lynn Herron - Love the new table you made and the girls did a great job painting it!!

  • Byron - Nicely done!

  • AshleyAnn - Laura – Thanks! The rug is from World Market…they have huge rug sales pretty frequently, so if you find one you like, it will probably go on sale!

  • mary m - I just love the last picture of your little girl
    looking across the top of the table..She has such
    an interesting expression on her face…not knowing
    her, I can’t tell if she is tired, or sad, confused?
    Beautiful little girl.

    Good for you for just getting in there and making
    that table..it looks good white in color.

    mm,age 69, vancouver,wa.

  • Kaitlin - You speak to me. We are so similar :-) I bought into snap shots last week and have blown through it a good bit. I love it.

  • Mary - Magical! I can’t wait to read the books your children will surely write about their childhood! Every child deserves parents like you – there is true value in the way you choose to live and raise your children (take it from someone raising there children in the “top 1%” – you can’t buy what you are giving yours – be proud!)

  • Kacy - Love this! We too, live in a 100 year old farmhouse and my man has made a lot of our furniture from old barn wood that was left in our stable when we purchased our home. I enjoy seeing your creations so much. And in a random side note, I wanted to thank you for posting one of your family’s favorite songs on Instagram a few weeks ago. We also went to Zion in May and I was desperately searching for a song to go along with skittle video I made of our trip when I came across your post. It’s a very “homemade” home video but you’re welcome to check it out here if you’d like. http://www.jkclarkfam.com/2016/05/zion-2016.html?m=1 And, last thing, I promise, as this has turned into a crazy long comment ?, awhile back you mentioned some thoughts about possibly getting into creating videos of your family and I just wanted your heart to know that I think it would be awesome if you decided to go for it! Alrighty, enough of my carrying on! Hope you have a great day!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Oh, it’s just perfect. I have a bookshelf at my parents house that my grandpa made me. This makes me want to DO something with it!

  • Alex - I want to take Chris’ test! Would he ever consider sharing it?

I sat down to my computer to write a post, but got caught up reading old ones. I really need to make it more of a habit to go back through the Archives. It is incredible the perspective that comes with time. I started with posts from the month of May over the years. I’m so thankful I’ve been blogging for so long! I came across one from 4 years ago about my second son. I think what I love most about reading this post now is realizing how much he HASN’T changed. The goofy six year old is now a goofy 10 year old that fills our home with laughter.

The post also has some photo tips for those of you trying to get pictures of a less-than-thrilled subject!

*******************

My middle son was not very thrilled with taking 5 minutes out of playing in the yard to have his picture taken. I’m guessing most parents understand how difficult it is to get pictures of kids that just don’t want to be photographed. I thought I would share how my time with my son went…as an encouragement that you can sometimes still get a great shot despite an unwilling subject. Normally I would have just waited for a day he was in the mood, but time keeps slipping by and I just wanted to get it done.

So, the session began with this shot. Can’t you tell how incredibly thrilled he is about it all?

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I asked, begged him just to look at me and smile. And got this.
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The more I asked for cooperation, the more I got this.
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Now, here is my trick – I just keep snapping. Eventually in the midst of the grumpy & goofy faces he is bound to let a smile out simply because he is actually having a little fun being a squirt about not smiling for me. So I just kept snapping…never getting upset with him, being calm about it, not making his mood worse, just waiting. And in that waiting, for one split second an adorable grin is released. Because I was still snapping and being calm about the whole process, I was ready and able to capture that very short smile.

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And a nano second later, this face returned.
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I changed angles a bit and told him how much I love seeing his smile – he gave me a little one on his 0wn.
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Then the smile disappeared. I let him jump off the chair. Trick #2 – let little boys (and girls) jump off things. Brightens their mood instantly. But, once the jump was over…the not so happy face returned.

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I asked him to stand still….he responded by moving around. Watching me try to capture him in movement made him laugh. And, I captured that smile. I could have got upset with him for moving around, and then we would have just both been grumpy. I let him play his game, it allowed him to smile and I got 2 cute natural grins.
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Then we moved to location number two. He was thrilled to have more pictures taken…
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“Please just a couple more with a happy face.”…and I got these:
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I told him that some people believe if you make a silly face long enough, your face will freeze that way. He thought that was funny and laughed. I was ready for the laugh and caught the big smile.
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He realized I caught the smile and his face quickly changed.
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No problem…I got what I wanted and our very short session was over. That made his smile return.

Update: The settings for all of these photos were the same! ISO 100, 1/500, f2.8 The sky was overcast so I could just leave it all the same. If you notice the background..the closer I am to the him, the blurrier the subject. The farther I moved away from him the less blurry the things closest to him.

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