Julie Brown founded Kawa Clothes in Uganda, where she now works and lives. This episode, we talk about her service in El Salvador and how being a Peace Corps Volunteer compares to being Acting General Manager at Impact Water Global in Uganda.
Photos from Julie’s Story
Julie Brown’s Peace Corps Story
Where and when did you serve? What did you do?
I served in El Salvador from 2014 to 2016. I was working with seven fishing communities on creating a safe drinking water project in La Laguna de Metapan.
Unfortunately, in January 2016, the decision was made to suspend Peace Corps El Salvador due to the increasing insecurity and gang violence in the country. We were given two weeks notice to say goodbye to our communities, finish our projects, and leave the country.
I came back to El Salvador independently in March 2016 to wrap up my projects. While I was finishing those projects, I received a job offer to work on safe drinking water projects in Uganda where I currently live and work today.
What is one of your favorite Peace Corps memories?
One day when I was working with my community on a community clean-up day to hack away the weeds that had grown on the side of the road with a machete. At the end of the cleanup, the leaders of my community, Don Elvin and Sandra, had surprised me with a birthday cake. It was so kind and thoughtful.
What is one of your least favorite Peace Corps memories?
I have had every parasite in El Salvador. Every. Single. One. In El Salvador, my community believed in the “Solitaria”. That roughly translates to “She who lives alone”. Solitaria is a mythical parasite that is a predator of other parasites. You get the solitaria once you have had enough parasites to need this “predator”. At first, when people told me about the solitaria, I did not believe it. Now I am a firm believer that I have the solitaria that continues to protect me in Uganda.
What do you miss about the Peace Corps?
I most miss the people I was working within El Salvador, Don Ruben, Don Elvin, Sandra, and Don Carlos. I lived in one of the poorest communities that Peace Corps El Salvador was working in at the time but I was working with one of the most dedicated community leadership groups.
I am also really inspired by the work that the community has continued working on without me. Eight months after my service the town president, Sandra, sent me a picture of the community house they had completed building.
I am really looking forward to my next visit to El Salvador
What is something you learned in the Peace Corps?
Peace Corps taught me a lot about grit.
I joined Peace Corps right after graduating from university. I expected Peace Corps to have its highs and lows but I could not have understood what that would be like before my service. Living in a house with a dirt floor and no running water was hard. Adjusting to a culture that has a different understanding of what a woman should be and do was challenging. Continuous health issues because of the polluted water in my community were also difficult. Being in a bubble of a small community is also hard. Combining all of that and working through it taught me a lot about perseverance.
I am more grateful for the small things in my life, especially clean drinking water.
Do you have a favorite quote or local saying?
“Si el camaron que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente”
This translates to: if the shrimp falls asleep, the current will take you. I thought it originally was about picking up people on the side of the road. If you walk slowly enough (eventually) someone will pick you up. I then learned I was totally wrong. It actually means if you are lazy, the current will take you to a place you do not want to be.
About Kawa Clothes
Kawa is a socially conscious brand that brings bold African fabrics to the world while providing employment and scholarships to Ugandan women and girls. They send gorgeous, cool, one-of-a-kind, easy-to-wear clothes that are made in Uganda directly to your doorstep. Be sure to check out Kawa on Facebook, Instagram, and at http://kawaclothes.com.