We have been so inspired by the Bead for Life organization, a non-profit founded by three American women to create opportunities for impoverished women in Uganda. Through supported sales of paper beads produced by the women, the organization facilitates entrepreneurship that provides the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter and medicine. Founded by Torkin Wakefield, her daughter Devin Hibbard, and Ginny Jordan, all from Boulder, Colorado, the project finds markets for the colorful beads, now sold worldwide.
The beads are crafted from colorful recycled paper, and hand-rolled, each one unique with a story behind it. The women cut the paper into intricate long triangles which determines the shape and style of the bead. Beads are then sealed with an eco-friendly glaze, hung to dry in the warm Ugandan sun, and made into beautiful collections of jewelry. The finished collections are then sold online, through retail outlets, and at home bead parties, and range in price from $5 to $30.
To date, BeadforLife has reached over 20,000 people in almost 2,500 households, through its bead project, shea nut initiative, and youth education programs. Once in the 18-month bead-making program, women can earn 7 - 10 times more than before they entered the program, and earn more than an average teacher in Uganda. In addition to learning about making beads, the women learn entrepreneurial skills. They start savings accounts, and with guidance from the BeadforLife staff, they launch new businesses before they graduate so they are self-supporting into the future. During their enrollment in the bead-making program, they also receive literacy and numeracy training, as well as health care products like mosquito nets, deworming tablets and nutritional supplements.
The BeadforLife founders often reflect on the words of Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
For more information on the BeadforLife programs and products, visit the Web site at www.BeadforLife.org.