The first ever guest post on TCK! I’ve been very hesitant of letting others share on this space that I created, but when I saw Amanda’s Facebook Live video on my personal feed, I jumped at offering her this platform to share this story. I think it’s so relatable, and has an amazing message. If this community can rally and support Amanda in his selfless cause, it would just make my heart explode with gratitude! I can think of no better purpose for a guest post than to help a young woman get an education! -Cristina
Hi! My name is Amanda Freerksen, and I am a wife and mama to two little ones. Cristina and I met at “boob group” (a breastfeeding support group) four years ago. She would always bring us yummy gluten-free treats. We scarfed them down, naturally. Along with a few other like-minded moms, we did the mom thing pretty hard for a while (playdates, parks, birthday parties, etc.), and then she moved away and started this blog! It’s been wonderful to watch her journey to health and healing on this space, and I am so happy to be sharing a little bit of my story with The Castaway Kitchen readers. Thank you, Cristina, for this opportunity!
Right after I got pregnant with my first child, I resigned from a fulfilling career as an elementary school teacher to focus completely on pregnancy and motherhood. After holding that beautiful baby boy in my arms, I was certainly not in a rush to get back to work outside of the home. With the high cost of childcare (and life in San Diego), I especially didn’t see how going back to work as a teacher would be worth the effort. I settled into the stay-at-home-mother mentality, but I could feel myself, the essence of Amanda, slipping away and getting totally swallowed up by the tidal waves of motherhood. I mean I jumped in feet first because, goodness, being a mother is AMAZING, but I also wanted to keep doing me, you know? Motherhood had changed me, for sure, but the new me was still part the old me. I was struggling to be true to both.
Eventually, I went back to school to earn a Montessori diploma, a decision no doubt influenced by my experiences parenting a young child. When I graduated from the program, I was 5 months pregnant with my second child, so my new career would be put on hold until my daughter was old enough to attend Montessori school herself. It wasn’t long after my daughter was born, though, that I started to feel the pangs of SAHM boredom. I racked my brain for work I could do from home or even super flexible jobs I could do in the evenings or on the weekends when my husband could stay with the children. Then I remembered what I did for cash while getting my elementary teaching credential: I sold Mary Kay.
These days I use too much coconut oil and Dr. Bronner’s to ever go back to selling Mary Kay, but when ethical fashion brand Sseko Designs sent out a call to join their direct sales program, as a Sseko Fellow, I answered. I bought a pair of ribbon sandals and a starter kit. I remember my first Trunk Show with friends, wearing those sandals, and feeling nervous excitement. As I stood in front of my friends sharing the Sseko story, I felt the old me get comfy next to the new me.
I am so honored to represent Sseko Designs, which makes beautiful handcrafted leather footwear, bags, jewelry and other accessories in East Africa. Every Sseko purchase directly impacts the lives of young women in Uganda saving up for University. You see, Sseko runs a nine-month, gap year program for female high school graduates who would otherwise have a difficult time finding a job to save money for college, thus giving up their dreams of pursuing a University degree. Instead, they make sandals for a time, Sseko matches their savings with a scholarship, and off they go to become teachers, lawyers, doctors, and more.
Specifically, I have the opportunity to help one young woman, called Shakira. She hopes to study art and design this fall. For now, she works at Sseko’s workshop in Kampala, Uganda. For my part, I help her earn a bonus scholarship through my sales. Any sale that goes through this link earns Shakira scholarship badges and benefits Cristina, too! I don’t want to ever take for granted how relatively easy it was for me to earn a degree and later go back to school to switch careers, so helping Shakira is the least I can do to pay it forward. Plus, I have been passionate about ethical and conscious consumerism for many years, so encouraging others to purchase ethically made fashion just makes sense for me.
As if being a part of Sseko’s awesome mission weren’t reason enough, I am thrilled to be a Sseko Fellow because this program has done wonders for my own life. It has been everything I wanted and needed it to be and more. At Trunk Shows, I have the opportunity to connect with women from a variety of backgrounds. We snack, we laugh, and sometimes we dig deep. I am able to earn a little extra cash and treat myself to awesome products that I normally would feel a bit guilty about purchasing for myself using the family budget (shoes! bags!). These are not products that you can pick up at TJ Maxx or Nordstrom Rack in the clearance section. These are high-quality, investment pieces that will last for years to come.
What’s more, even after I do go back to the classroom (NEXT MONTH!), Sseko will always be a part of my life. My sole sisters (as we Fellows call one another) are really like family now. We support and encourage one another to be our best selves, in and out of business. While I am pursuing my goals and dreams, I am directly helping other women stateside and half a world away pursue theirs, too.