As you know, Indigo and Salt chooses to support five fantastic charities spreading our love across very different and very worthwhile causes.
This March we are focusing on the Love Mercy Foundation as they launch their Cents for Seeds program for another year. The recent droughts in Africa have had negative impacts on Cents for Seeds and therefore on the empowerment of Northern Ugandan women through their ability to provide for their families and their communities.
We caught up with our dear friend Caitlin Barrett, the CEO of Love Mercy Foundation recently in the surf and shared a few waves...
This is what she had to say.
Who are you?
I am Caitlin Barrett. I am the CEO of Love Mercy Foundation, an organisation I started almost 10 years ago. I have two cute kiddies, Hadley (5) and Baxter (2) a delightful husband Luke and three chooks.
Where are you based?
Our office is in Sutherland, NSW, but all the magic happens in Northern Uganda from a town called Lira.
Where do you call home?
We live in the sunny suburb of Thirroul, between Sydney and Wollongong. My husband Luke runs a café called Buck Hamblin on the main street where he makes a mean coffee and serves delicious brekkie and lunch.
Please tell us a little bit about you…
I love being outside enjoying nature with my family. I’m always reading a book or two, making and sharing playlists, and cooking something up in our 60’s bright blue retro kitchen. I am a nurturer, a strangely social introvert, and have a wide circle of amazing friends and family who I rely on daily.
What led you to founding Love Mercy?
I am hugely motivated by trying to bring justice and equality to the world. When I learned about the 20 year conflict in northern Uganda and then met a former child soldier called Julius Achon, I knew that I had to help. I was already studying a bachelor of international studies in Development (basically the study of the relief of poverty) and so I thought I knew what I was doing… I had no idea the journey that I was embarking on. Specifically, we began the organisation to relieve Julius of the financial pressure he was under when he adopted 11 orphans that he found living underneath a bus at the height of the war. We found Australian families to sponsor the cost of education for these kids. We thought it would take us 12 months to find sponsors, but it happened during our first event! Julius then asked us to send $100 to Uganda to buy two bags of rice for his community, because 11 people had died from famine. We did so, and ensured the community could survive, but I knew it wasn’t a sustainable option. That’s how Cents for Seeds was born – we decide to work with the women in the community to loan 30kgs of seeds for them to plant and grow and create their own food source, and then return the seeds to us to loan again. Basically we create thousands of female entrepreneurs in Uganda!
Tell us about your typical day with Love Mercy?
I am very lucky to have created a flexible work environment. There really is no typical day for me, but generally I am around to see the kids off to school in the morning, then I head into the office to work with a small but amazing team of women. I focus on fundraising to ensure we can meet all of our financial commitments in Uganda. I build relationships with individuals and brands who partner with us to have an epic impact in Uganda, but I also make sure I keep my feet firmly planted on the ground and remain across all of the operations for our Cents for Seeds program, and for a maternity ward that we are about to start building in a remote village called Awake.
Do you surf?
I just started surfing in January 2019. This past weekend in March, I finally felt like I caught my first proper wave and I absolutely loved it. I am addicted!
Why do you surf?
At first I was addicted to the challenge of it – I couldn’t nail it straight away and so I was hooked on pursuing it and being good at it. I am no where near “good” at it, but now that I have sensed that feeling of taking off on a wave properly I am chasing that feeling.
How does it enrich your life?
I learnt early on that there is no such thing as a terrible surf. For me, being out in the ocean is a massive win, and just practicing paddling, building fitness and learning the patterns of the water is all invaluable experiences. I love the feeling I get rom just having been out in the ocean, giving it a crack.
What makes your heart sing?
Being in Uganda sitting under the mango tree with the women in our program hearing about their lives. Being out in the surf with my kids and my husband. Being in the mountains.
How do you mix work life and family life?
I try to strike a balance between the two visions I had for myself as a teenager: briefcase carrying suit wearing boss woman, and hippie mum with a veggie patch and loads of time to relax with my kids and enjoy nature. I quickly realised that that balance doesn’t really exist. I spent a lot of time, especially after my second baby Baxter was born, feeling like I was miserably failing at both being a mum and a boss. The best thing I ever did was learn to be in the moment at the time. I am still not perfect, but generally if I am at home then I am at home, and if I am at work then I am working my butt off!
Where is your most favourite place that you've travelled to?
I love Paris, which is strange because its away from the coast and the mountains, but I am obsessed with French culture and language, of course French food, and I love the way Paris feels so electric and mysterious at the same time.
It only seems impossible until it is done – Nelson Mandela.
Where do you see Love Mercy in ten years?
I hope that we have expanded to include other African nations. I hope we have a fully functioning maternity ward that is able to provide an incredible standard of care to mums and bubs. I hope we have managed to combat some of the terrible impacts of climate change through sustainable planting practices and soil management, water storage, and seed selection across Africa.
What’s the greatest thing you feel about women’s empowerment?
I love that my daughter is growing up in a world where women’s equality is barely questioned. She is only 5 and I am sure she will continue to face challenges for being a women as she grows, but right now in her mind there is absolutely nothing that women can’t do, and no reason for a man to question her because she is a girl. I love that for her!
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I want to be having the biggest and best social impact that I can, on the greatest number of people. I want to help people use their wealth and their skills to have a positive impact on humanity and on the planet.
What future do you see re sustainability and environmental issues?
It depends on the day and the news cycle! Some days I feel so burdened and heavy for the environment and I am afraid for the future of the planet. But other days I see that people, especially young people, are standing up for what they believe in and more and more companies are being forced to become sustainable and only stock kick arse brands (like Indigo and Salt!) and that makes my heart sing. I think that there has to be hope, otherwise, what’s the point? We just need more awareness, more action, and more love for the planet.
To read more about Love Mercy Foundation, click here.
Help us to help Cait and all the Northern Ugandan women this March by adding a donation of a few dollars onto of your order. This money will go directly into the hands of those that need it most.