Reyna Sanchez was referred to Akola through Advocates of Community Transformation. She had been seeking a higher income opportunity to support her family, including four children, and further her education. She began working with Akola in 2016 assembling jewelry for Neiman Marcus. After success in jewelry production, Reyna was promoted to manage a production site in January of 2018. Since then, Reyna has managed three production sites and now helps the designers make the Akola jewelry. Through Akola Academy’s programs, Reyna has learned a variety of leadership skills that she can carry with her throughout her professional career. She dreams of starting her own family business one day, and hopes to improve her interpersonal skills and become a strong leader within the Akola community.
In 2014, Irene Namulemo was estranged from her husband and tasked with raising their three children alone. Without any financial means to support herself or her family, some days they ate only one meal. One day in 2015, Irene summoned the courage to interview with Akola. She was hired to be trained and work as a jewelry artisan. Today, Irene is employed full-time in Uganda as an artisan in the Akola Horn and Bone studio, creating cut and polished pieces for assembly into Akola jewelry pieces. Akola Academy provided Irene training in communication and conflict-resolution, which supported her in re-uniting with her husband. She also learned entrepreneurship skills, and has taken an additional leadership role as an Empowerment Officer. Irene expresses passion about her position at Akola Project. “We [Akola members] restore hope in one another. Before, I was so shy but I can now stand in front of 1,000 people and speak without nerves.” Irene’s past struggles are a distant memory. “Now, I am a strong woman, an empowered woman. At home and in business. As I look to the future things are only getting better.”