We had the good fortune of connecting with Jayme Ward and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jayme, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
Far Away Friends was founded back in 2014 by me and my friend, Collines Angwech. We met when I was just a high school student with no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up, except that I wanted to make a difference in the lives of kids. Collines was the complete opposite — her dreams were scary big. While on tour with the nonprofit “Invisible Children” visiting high schools like mine and sharing her story of growing up during the LRA War in northern Uganda, Collines shared with me her vision of making great schools accessible to kids in rural villages. The first question out of my mouth was, “How can I help make that vision a reality?”
Fast forward to 2021, Far Away Friends is a nonprofit organization that works with local leaders (like Collines!) in rural Uganda to equip youth with the tools they need to break cycles of poverty forever. We launched our own model primary school, where we employ over 28 local (incredibly talented) Ugandan teachers, offer a boarding section, distance learning during COVID closures, clean water, daily meals, our county’s only playground, and more to show what children in rural communities deserve.
Later this year, we’ll be launching a new program called “Schools for Schools” that partners American high schools with a sister school in rural Uganda. Together, students will have the opportunity to organically learn about each other’s lives and cultures while collaborating on a variety of “impact projects” that will enhance the quality of education for students across Amolatar District, Uganda. Through this program and our Far Away Friends Clubs at local high schools here in Colorado, American students are also gaining skills to become global citizens and learning how to make sustainable, socially conscious impact during their school year.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
The other day I got one of those Facebook notifications from, like, 8 years ago that made me chuckle about this career path. I was maybe 19 or 20 in this photo, and I was selling Ugandan paper-bead jewelry that my co-founder, Collines’s mom made for us to sell at a church craft fair to try and raise money so that we could fund the building of our first school. At the time, we needed something like $30,000 to finish our buildings (that we only had blueprints for at the time), and here I was as this wide-eyed kid thinking that I legitimately might sell thirty grand in PAPER NECKLACES at this craft fair. (Is that not naiveté at it’s finest?)
But somehow, I think that ridiculous photo is a testament to what it takes to build big dreams, right? And the beautiful thing about dreaming about your career, especially when you’re young, is that you’re not afraid to fail because you HAVEN’T failed yet. You just can’t tell yourself “Well, what IF I don’t make it? What IF I fail at this next move?” because what if you succeed?
The big visions take time, friendship, and lots of blind faith. Together led by Collines and her community, we built a vision, rallied a community of friends (literally, a group of rag-tag, 20-somethings) around that vision and just pressed “Start”. Today, because of that blind faith, a lot of people are employed in Uganda and a lot of kids, and schools, are changing the status quo around quality education.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Oh man! As a Colorado native, I’m one of those snobs that’s going to tell you stay out of the tourist traps and get away from the mountains for a second. Spend some time in Denver — our food scene is actually pretty diverse and amazing.
Start your day at a local coffee shop like Rivers and Roads Coffee on E Bruce Randolph Ave because it’s excellent and also woman-owned. Take a walk around RiNo and enjoy every corner of the city being covered in gorgeous murals by local artists.
For lunch I’m taking you to the West-Highlands area (over off 32nd) for tacos at El Camino Community Tavern. There’s also plenty of cute boutiques to check out down there.
If you’re looking for a sweet, the only place to go is Little Man Ice Cream (obviously) and you can feel good about your indulgence too because a portion of every scoop of ice cream helps support Far Away Friends and our lunch program at our primary school in Uganda!
Finally, for dinner you’re going back downtown to Barcelona (I know it’s not local, don’t judge me) but first, you HAVE to get drinks at The Block Distilling Co. (Larimer St.) which IS locally owned. Best pre-dinner cocktails AND (shh, don’t tell anyone but here’s my hack) you can order Barcelona for delivery over to The Block if you can’t get a table on a busy night!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Far Away Friends wouldn’t exist had Collines and I never been connected in high school. It was because of a nonprofit organization, Invisible Children (IC), that we joined forces to collaborate and generate our own global impact. For kids like me, who were unsure how I could make a difference in the world, organizations like IC created space for kids like me to learn how to use our voice with purpose. It’s through their work that we discovered our power to make an impact — even at a young age. We also learned from IC’s failures, too, and have studied and done our homework to ensure our organization is always working to become the best, most ethical iteration of itself. We can only hope that someday, Far Away Friends connects youth from across the world that might follow in our footsteps, learn from our failures and create something even more amazing!