Erika van Oyen – founder
I am a French Immersion teacher with international roots that connect me to several continents. I have lived in North America, Asia and Oceania, have taught in North America, Asia and Africa, and my family comes from Europe. One day I will either live or teach in South America and I will visit Antarctica. I have travelled to Uganda every year since 2008 to support Ugandans in educational programs. I believe in the innate and fundamental goodness of humanity and that everyone deserves compassion. It is my responsibility to serve others and ISEE Solutions is my way of serving those who want to implement solutions in their community. I try to live my life with GRACE: Gratitude, Respect, Altruism, Compassion, Empathy, and I invite you to do the same.
Corey Mazurat – Director of finances
I suggested “Erika’s Crazy Idea” as the name for this charity, but no one else agreed.
For as long as I’ve known Erika (which is 22 years and counting), she has been a passionate defender of the underdog, the under-appreciated and the under-represented. She was always the first to pitch in and the last to go home whenever work needed to be done. I’ve heard her say it a hundred times — Make a positive difference in one life, just one, and you’ve made a difference in the world and in your own life, too. It’s not at all surprising that she’s a brilliant teacher.
She’s also utterly fearless when it comes to new adventures (not so much when it comes to horror movies, though), and somehow she managed to convince me — her rather-less-than-adventurous-thank-you-very-much husband — to join her on this journey.
Six years later, and I’ve traveled more of Africa than I ever imagined. I’ve shot a calendar, sold prints, and rekindled my passion for photography to the point that I’m slowly-by-slowly (as they say here) working towards making a living from it. The experience of living and working with Ugandans has helped me to refocus on what is truly important in my life, and my practice has benefited from the infusion of belief. I’m even slowly-by-slowly becoming more comfortable with the descriptors ‘creative’ and ‘artistic’. Some days I can even say them without cringing.
My point (and I do have one) is that Erika’s Crazy Idea is this: get out there and make a difference in the life of someone else, and somehow you will effect change for the better in your own life. It’s magical, really. We try to make the differences that we can here, in Uganda, but really the location doesn’t matter. What matters is trying to make a difference. Striving for meaning is better than chasing achievement any day.
Here’s to another 22 years of following that Crazy Idea of yours, van Oyen. XO
Bree Bootsman – Director of Converging Media
For many years now I have been involved in my community. I worked with addicted and mentally ill youth, I volunteered with adults who are working through recovery, and when I was merely 18 years old, I found an organization that focused on bringing education, a powerful tool, to Eastern Africa. It was then that I found another community, one of the most meaningful in my life. I felt more at home and more fired up than ever before. I found my passion. My passion is community, and ISEE Solutions works with communities, as in learning, and teaching, to bring Education to women and their families in a sustainable and empowering way.
I believe there is strength behind these initiatives and strength behind people from across the globe that come together to make a difference. Being involved with organizations such as ISEE not only allows me to be part of positive change around the world, but humbles me and brings countless positive experiences to my own life.
Be part of the ISEE Solutions community! Feel free to contact me at any time with questions, ideas or concerns
Andrew Echel – Director of Projects – Uganda
I am Ugandan by nationality and have a bachelor degree of International Business Management. A few years ago (about 5 years now) I met Erika van Oyen as she asked me if I wanted to join her to do something that she was thinking about. She came to live in Uganda for a year in 2013-2014 to set it all up and I am glad that she called me up to take on a few roles here and there. Well to be a part of ISEE is like what John F. Kennedy said, “…My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” I am no American but to me being a part of ISEE Solutions Society gives me the satisfaction that I am creating an impact on my society.
ISEE has given me an opportunity to live a life with meaning. Looking at the smiles of some of these women each day gives me courage and a sense that tomorrow will be better. In a small sense we are transforming Uganda, I want to be a part of that team. I am privileged to serve and be under such wonderful leadership.