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Agua e Vida – Mozambique

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“Water connects every aspect of life. Access to safe water and sanitation can quickly turn problems into potential – unlocking education, work opportunities, and improved health for women, children and families across the world.” (source: water.org)

Água é vida means “water is life” in Portuguese, the national language of Mozambique.

It’s a country still struggling to recover from decades of civil war, battling a lack of infrastructure, government corruption, and poverty. However, it doesn’t take long to see how Mozambicans continue to rise above it all with incredible resiliency. Their rich culture, food, hospitality and breathtaking tropical coast all capture a piece of your soul.

Last fall YOUME returned to Mozambique to work with one of our amazing partners Cross Connection Outreach. We helped fund a well repair in a remote village called Mavanza, where families had been without consistent clean water for months because of rusted parts and old, leaking pipes in their broken well.

CCO’s Mozambican staff, equipped with many years of experience, led the well repair from beginning to end. One of the highlights of this project was getting to watch the local CCO staff educate the community leaders with maintenance training so they can assume responsibility for keeping the well in working condition.

It is a great example of an empowerment model where the locals take the lead. It’s one of the biggest things we look for in our partners!

It took hours to remove the old pieces and begin the process of replacing them with brand new well parts. The members of this community were so familiar with every nut and bolt of this well, and we were struck by the reality of “water is life.” The water from this well is a source of life for their families, their livestock and their land – of course, they knew every piece of it. Water comes so easily out of our faucet every day, we so often take this precious gift for granted.

We worked side by side with the village members, covered in dirt and sweat, pulling these huge pipes out of the ground. Most of the villagers were women, and as research studies have shown:

“Women are disproportionately affected by the water crisis, as they are often responsible for collecting water. This takes time away from work, school and caring for family. Lack of water and sanitation lock women in a cycle of poverty. Empowering women is critical to solving the water crisis. Involving women can make water projects 6 to 7 more times effective. When women have access to safe water, they can pursue skills outside of their traditional roles and experience greater autonomy and independence.” (source: water.org)

Thanks to your support, this well is now repaired and back to providing clean water for over 250 people, plus their gardens and livestock! As one of the community leaders said, “These materials are very expensive, so thank you for your help in bringing these because now – today – we will have water again.”

The Mavanza Well Repair reminds us that when we connect our resources and talents, we are working towards a world where every community has clean water. This is what it turning rags into resources looks like. Thank you for being a part of this life-changing cycle!


Meet Sarah – Volunteer Intern


My favorite season is fall. The scarves, snuggling by a fire, and the warmth of your coffee.

Okay, okay. I’ll admit it. In San Diego, it still feels sunny and 75…but regardless, it is a time when the earth sheds the old to make space for the new. To leave room for beauty to bloom. God has been teaching me a lot lately about how He redeems, He restores and how He makes all things new. In fall, a tree may have lost all of its leaves, but the integrity of trunk and its branches remain. It is that foundation and support that becomes crucial to give new leaves a home.

I’m reminded how YOUME Clothing emulates the life of a tree, a strong foundation with a recurring cycle of the old becoming new, rags into resources. I have not been able to attend a clothing exchange in country yet, but I hope to soon! I have been able to be a part of the process here, coming alongside the other volunteers for a “Sewing Night” held in our homes. We cut out the patches into different shapes: triangles, hearts, circles and sewed them onto apparel. And I have also had the opportunity to join the team as a volunteer intern, sell products and tell our story at local events!

At YOUME, our core values are: quality, renewal, empowerment, transparency, and love. Quality means that our priority is to make excellent products. They are ethically sourced and sold at a fair price. Renewal is at the center of what we do with our Rags to Resources model, both with the products we sell and the relationships we build with our partners. Third is the empowerment of the local communities and focus on creating a cycle of good rather than one-way charity. Next is transparency, to measure the impact we have and give our partners a chance to comment on our work and suggest improvements. Finally, we believe in love because as the founder of YOUME Lauren Wallis puts it, “Love is putting you before me.” And it’s the catalyst for all we do.

We currently work in four countries in Africa where there have been over 650 brand new school uniforms exchanged, 3 water projects (1,370 people now have access to clean water), 40 bags of maize delivered for families in drought, 11,000 student meals provided, 60 school books and supplies purchased, and we funded the launch of a job training program for highs school girls! These are facts and figures we have collected over our 5-year existence as a 501(C)(3). We will also be beginning a partnership with a nonprofit in Haiti this coming January. As Lauren puts it, “It’s a beautiful story of YOU & ME working together, turning rags into resources!

Processed with VSCO with b1 presetBut who am I you may ask, and why is it that I talk about YOUME 24/7?! I am a student at the University of San Diego in my fifth and FINAL (YAY) year. I am majoring in Education and minoring in Nonprofit Social Enterprise and Philanthropy, Theatre Arts and Performance Studies, and Credentialed in Nonprofit Management Professional. Yeah, that’s a lot. I am thankful for all of it though because it has led me to YOUME where I am able to take skills I have learned and a passion for social justice and apply them here.

I first started getting pumped about slow fashion, basically ethical fashion, about a year or so ago. I was attending Flood Church’s Christmas Collective for their concert. Before the concert, they were hosting a nonprofit fair with over 30 booths in attendance and YOUME was one of them. I walked up and saw Lauren working on her sewing machine, sewing patches on the shirts for sale. Then I found out that one of the volunteers was a friend I have known since high school! It just felt like family from the start. Their model and empowerment model caught me. I believe YOUME Clothing is an amazing pathway for the everyday human to pursue fashion molded toward creating good in our world. I am thankful that the YOUME team believes in me and has given me the chance to intern and launch our first ever Brand Ambassador program (coming soon). It has been an awesome way to engage my current community and empower those my age!

If anything that you read speaks to you or you’re passionate about sharing our story, please reach out to me!

Instagram: @sarahdee512
Email: sarahdifede@sandiego.edu

Flexing the Giving Muscle


I recently started getting back into the swing of working out consistently and as with any new practice being implemented back into life, there is always a series of stages that your body can experience. And this got me thinking of how other areas or “muscles” of my life face similar stages of ups and downs.

Now, you probably just got done reading that first paragraph and are wondering if you accidentally signed up for an update from Runners World…you haven’t, I promise! I am getting to the part where YOUME comes in.

I have been volunteering with YOUME for about two years now, doing anything and everything to help carry on the mission. I’m mostly behind the scenes because I am an introvert and I love that kind of stuff. At times it has been admin work, coordinating volunteers, the occasional amateur building of props for events and just showing up ready to work hard.

In my experience, YOUME has been equivalent to a good workout. Of course, I’m still using my physical muscles to lift heavy boxes of merchandise and I occasionally struggle to put up the pop-up tent — but even more than that I am using my “giving” muscles. I have been developing these muscles as a volunteer for quite some time now, through the different ups and downs.

No one really likes to talk about the hard stuff. It is a nonprofit after all, focused on improving people’s lives, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t downs. Like when you wear pants to a hot summer outdoor event when you probably should’ve worn shorts or when people don’t buy any product or the occasional miscommunication and missed expectations for an event.

And then there are the “ups”, the really good stuff that keeps me coming back for more – it is like that runner’s high after a good, long run.

As a full-time volunteer, I experience that high when I get to share the vision of YOUME with a new person (actually typing this up gives me chills). Or when you see your good friend and co-founder, Lauren Wallis, living out her purpose – that is actually the coolest thing ever. These moments and the variety of activities I’ve participated in within the organization have become different muscles I get to use and strengthen.

My favorite “up” has to be when the story comes full circle because a shirt I helped sell here in America helps a child to go to school in another country because they received a new uniform. Our mission has become even more tangible to me since we’ve partnered with the IRC in San Diego to train and hire refugee women in our own community to sew the patches onto our shirts. The heart and mission of this organization have grown to become such a part of me.

YOUME is my giving muscle and this is why I volunteer.


About Kelsey Dyer:
Kelsey is a social introvert and lover of personality quizzes, puns, and breakfast foods (specifically eggs). When she is not in the office solving web development problems, you can find her at a local coffee shop reading a book or sitting by the cliffs watching the sunset.

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Creating jobs for refugee women in San Diego!

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We are thrilled to introduce you to the newest member of our team, Ahkam!

She is a beautiful mother and seamstress who came to the U.S. four years ago as a refugee from Sudan. For many refugees it’s often difficult to find good paying, flexible jobs due to language, transportation, child care, etc. So the last few months YOUME has participated in a job creation program with the International Rescue Committee in San Diego! IRC does incredible resettlement work with refugees here in our city and around the world. Through our employer partnership with them we’ve been able to bring on Ahkam to design/sew the patches onto our YOUME shirts and products! This wouldn’t have been possible without our partnership with the IRC, as well as The Sewing Machine Project and their generous donation of sewing machines for this program!

Ahkam said it gives her so much joy to think of the children she is helping in other countries with her sewing. With the continued support of incredible supporters like you our hope is to continue creating more jobs in San Diego for women like Ahkam, and continue impacting communities abroad!
Next week we are going to announce an exciting way you can help us keep this program going. Stay tuned! Thank you!

End of Year Recap!

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Merry Christmas, friends! 2015 has been quite a year. We are excited to share all that’s been transpiring behind-the-scenes here at YOUME Clothing!

We’ve been so focused on our projects and my transition to full-time {more on that below}, that we’ve fallen a bit behind in keeping you all updated. So keep reading below for updates from our partners, our plan to create local jobs in 2016, shop updates + more!


Our biggest change this year was that I {Lauren} quit my day job to pursue YOUME Clothing full-time! Recently, it became incredibly clear that in order to sustain the growth we’ve been experiencing and continue increasing our positive impact, I would need to be ALL IN with YOUME. Though it has been scary and faith-testing, we’re confident this is the right decision and are beyond excited for what it means for YOUME and our family! Since our creation, everyone at YOUME has been a volunteer, and even though we’re a 501c3 nonprofit we rarely ask for donations. We’ve chosen to operate more like a hybrid between a socially-minded business and nonprofit – being almost completely sustained through product sales. We feel so fortunate that our unique model has allowed us to clothe hundreds of kids in four countries, as well as provide clean water and educational projects in each of our partner communities! It’s a true testament to the passion and support of those who’ve purchased a shirt, joined a sew group or volunteered at an event. Our volunteers have kept the spirit and mission of YOUME alive & growing. But again, with that growth comes the realistic need for someone to manage it all. In order to make the greatest impact we can make in 2016, we need to harness and maximize this momentum with “seed capital” funds. This would allow us to:

  • Pay Lauren a small monthly stipend
  • Create San Diego jobs by hiring/training local Refugees as sewers
  • Fund additional clothing exchanges and community-led development projects
  • Expand our product line and product distribution
  • Fund marketing campaign to grow awareness for YOUME, our mission and the partner communities we serve

Please consider partnering with us by making an end-of year gift. You can donate online at www.youmeclothing.org/donate or mail a check to YOUME FOUNDATION at 4120 Kansas St #5 San Diego, CA 92104. All donations are tax-deductible.



UGANDA (2014-15)

2014-2015: After our best Holiday season yet, we immediately hit the ground running with our projects. We’re very pleased that one of those projects is with our oldest partner community – and the place where it all began – Kito, Uganda.

Kito is where the YOUME concept – the idea to transform rags into resources, old things into new – was born, and it’s only fitting that it’s the location of our first endeavor of 2014. What Kito lacks in resources, it makes up for in the strength and beauty of its people who have courageously taken the reigns in developing their own community! Over the years, they’ve made great strides in improving the education, health and opportunities of its young and elderly population.

We were incredibly excited to partner with Enduring Communities, a nonprofit which helps run the day-to-day ground work in Kito, to fund the March operating costs of the village school.

The funds from YOUME provided:

  • breakfast for 300 kids each morning (total of 6,300 breakfast meals for the month)
  • lunch for 175 kids each day (total of 3,675 lunches for the month)
  • salaries and compensation for their 11 teachers
  • one cook and one administrator for the month
  • books and school supplies for 60 kids

We know true development and empowerment do not come fast or easy. They take time and work and wisdom, and require strong, collaborative partnerships between those in need and those able to help. And the development being done with our partners gives us great hope, and inspires us to continue pursuing and growing the great work of equipping and empowering communities.

MOZAMBIQUE (2014-15)

Another incredible exchange happened last year, with our partners in Vilankulo, Mozambique. Our friends at Cross Connection Outreach have a beautiful ministry recording the New Testament in the native language of hundreds of rural tribes, onto solar-powered MP3 players. Many of these communities are illiterate, as well as lacking access to clean water or basic health care – so CCO provides the bibles as well as water repairs, rural health clinics, school uniform distributions, discipleship training & so much more. They consist of mostly native Mozambican staff with an incredible heart to see lives transformed in their own communities, they exemplify everything we look for in our on the ground partners.

In September, we flew to Vilankulo and partnered with them to clothe 100 local children living in extreme poverty. Each child received a brand new outfit in exchange for their oldest rags (we purchased new clothing at the local stores/markets to support the local economy). Our favorite moment was watching them each go behind the building to change into their new clothes. They would walk back so reserved, but then come out giggling in excitement to the cheers of their friends waiting for them! Their mothers were so proud they had something to give, even something as small as the few pieces of clothing to bring in exchange. The chief’s son also attended the exchange to show his support, and said something so simple but powerful to the kids, “This is not because you are poor. We are here today, working together to help each other.” We love that. It’s not a hand-out, it’s an investment on both sides for the betterment of the community. We have been sewing + selling shirts since this exchange to go towards a community water project in Mozambique. One of CCO’s projects has been identifying broken wells other NGO’s have built and been abandoned due to lack of follow-up or training. They hire staff to repair the wells and to train a group of community members in maintenance and repair. This insures the community is invested and the well provides clean water for years to come. The funds from YOUME provided:

Our original goal was to cover one well repair process: cost of materials, staff and training. Because of your generous support this year, we we were able to fund not just one well repair, but two!!Both Chigamane village and Belane school were impacted because you purchased a shirt or volunteered this year. That’s over 1,000 people that now have clean water! We can’t thank you enough!

MALAWI (2015-16)

Our good friends Cindy & Tim have been faithful volunteers with YOUME for years! They started one of the first San Diego sew groups, opening up their home every week for people to come sew, cut patches and form friendships around a common cause. They have been passionately working and forming relationships in Malawi for close to 10 years, so we were really excited when an opportunity came up to do a school uniform exchange there! Cindy & Tim flew back in July to partner with RiseMalawi, a ministry comprised of an after school program, a meal program, HIV/Aids awareness initiatives, and a girls’ empowerment program. We prefer to support the local economy vs. bring over pre-bought clothing, so we paid a local tailor in Madisi to sew 80 brand new uniforms! They were high quality fabric & turned out so beautiful (see pictures below). On the last day of camp they did the exchange, and Cindy said going through the process was more emotional than she expected. Talking to the kids about how they have something worth contributing, that this process can be a metaphor for how God loves us, how He desires to take the old things of our life and make them new. After the exchange, they went outside to take a group picture and one of the local staff members, Za, said so many of the kids couldn’t believe they had a uniform! One boy had never had one before and now he could go to school feeling proud and excited. Another girl said clothes are fairly easy to come by, but uniforms are much more expensive and harder to get, she told them, “You did a good thing here today.”

Huge thanks to Cindy & Tim, their SD sew group & the whole RiseMalawi team for making it possible! We are thrilled to start sewing the Malawi patches onto YOUME Clothing in 2016. The proceeds will go towards their girls’ empowerment program & supporting the local meal program. Stay tuned for more Malawi updates in 2016!


BETTER TOGETHER Event: Our first official San Diego fundraiser was so much fun, and a great success! This event would not have happened without our rockstar team of volunteers – from setting up, to gathering silent auction donations, sewing shirts live, selling at the booth, playing live music & so much more! Every person that came out to support through buying a ticket, bidding at the auction or buying a shirt that night helped us raise over $4,500! This allowed us to do the exchange in Malawi sooner than expected, fund an extra well repair in Mozambique, and start to plan for next year’s exchanges & projects!

We also premiered our new “Who We Are” video at the event, have you seen it? Check it out:


Other great events we were a part of in 2015:

  • World Refugee Day
  • Quartyard Market
  • Pechakucha Night
  • ONEHOPE: Wine for Water
  • Common Good Holiday Party
  • The Christmas Collective
  • NCCC Christmas Missions Market
  • The Knox Holiday Boutique


We’ve added some great new styles and colors to our online store, and more coming in 2016! We also partnered with two new retail stores in 2015. If you’re in their area, be sure to go by and say hi:

  • The Aware House {located in San Diego, CA}
  • Be the Change Boutique {located in Mt. Pleasant, SC}

If you made it this far, you’re a champ!! And we love you. Feel free to share this update with family and friends. We hope you have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!