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Irene and SHARING.

Nakamatte Irene is tough and has a heart of gold, like most African women I have come to know.

See this photo and more at:     Photo by|Laura Watilo Blake

Photo Reflection Blog by| Erin Huber, Director of Drink Local. Drink Tap.


Irene has done whatever it takes in her 30 some-odd years on this rock to earn her way to a “secure” job in Uganda working side by side with the District’s Minister of Water. When you see her running around in high heels, sweating in the hot equator sun and handling all of her business on an orange African cell phone (you would not remember how to use this technology-no joke)……you know she is one tough chick.

Irene is endlessly giving to her family and her community during the 12 hours of equator daylight, running around in her car getting more flat tires than I give hugs, weaving in and out of political jungles, and going home after 15 hour work days to be a loving mother and wife. She is full of love, full of life, and full of HOPE- the complete opposite of lazy.

Sometimes in the states, (where people ride in their air-condioned/heated cars to work, where biking is a choice, and where you know you will eat lunch on demand everyday while tweeting, updating your status, and Google chatting with your main squeeze on your I-something), we still have some nay-sayers that don’ t believe the Irenes of the world exist.

These are the people ask/tell me, “Why don’t they just dig a hole? Why don’t they do it themselves? Why don’t they ‘just’ get an education and make something of themselves? And on and on…”.  Well, let me share something with you. Even if you are “wealthy” in Uganda or “doing good”, you still may have not flushed a toilet, seen a lake, or turned on a faucet your entire life. So, please. Understand there ARE people like Irene that are intelligent and have been extremely lucky (and grateful) to have had some high school and college education for which they had to raise all the money for (and not in a loan system).

Guess what else? They (our fellow human beings on the planet) GIVE and SHARE exactly what they can and sometimes more.

Even though Irene works 6-7 days a week with bare-bones supplies, basic administrative support, spotty electricity, only has a handful of worn outfits she wears every single week to work, and heels she rocks down the uneven dirty, dusty roads- she still has the heart to share with her community NEAR and FAR and is using her “free” time to do it.

I want to share something Irene wrote to me in an email when we first started talking about the Making Waves from Cleveland to Uganda project last year. In a delayed (per African norm) email (due to spotty, expensive internet and little to no electricity) Irene writes,

” Hullo Erina,                                                                                        March 23, 2011

Hope you are fine. Thanks for having the heart of helping schools in developing countries.  I really appreciate your effort to have our schools grow.Such development partners like you are really important for our developing education sector.
On that, I therefore offer to act as the project manager and site supervisor which site supervision I will conduct free of charge without payment for I would love to see our country grow. I also took on the initiative to bargain with the contractor to have some costs reduced to the benefit of the school.”

During our visit, I negotiated monthly sanitation training free of charge from Irene for the local water committee to receive educational tools and training to sustainably maintain the water source in addition to annual water testing at the borehole from the District.

Irene could easily have left us to pay triple our budget for the project, she could have left the kids and families she does NOT know alone in their current mode of survival, and she could have decided to not share her professional skills with strangers across the globe-but she didn’t.

Irene chose LOVE. She chose COMPASSION. She chose to SHARE.

Irene has a big heart and is one tough mother of two, career woman, and wife, willing to break a heel, shed some sweat, and share HERSELF with Ugandans and Americans JUST TO BETTER THIS WORLD.

Nakamatte Irene Kityo holds a special place in my heart. Thank you for meeting her with me today…


Photo by Elbee Studio

Photo Reflection by Erin Huber|Drink Local. Drink Tap. Director

See more photos at: Read more about our Uganda project