By Communities with Heart BLOG | October 25, 2011 at 08:18 PM EDT | No Comments
Several years ago we learned of Bead for Life from Mark Jordahl, a naturalist, ecologist and educator working in Uganda with his wife, Devin Hibbard, a co-founder of this non-profit group. Mark learned of our interest in HIV and malaria education in Malawi, so he encouraged us to take a look at Bead for Life.
(How it started – from their website)
BeadforLife began with a chance encounter between a Ugandan woman, Millie, who was rolling beads near her mud home, and the founders, Torkin Wakefield, Ginny Jordan, and Devin Hibbard. Stopping to admire the beads, the women learned that there was no market for her jewelry, and that Millie worked for a dollar a day in a rock quarry crushing stones in the hot sun. They admired her paper beads and bought a few, never realizing that their lives, and the lives of so many impoverished Ugandans, were about to change.
Eradicating Poverty One Bead at a Time is the tagline or theme for the organization. Women in this innovative program roll colorful beads from strips of paper cut from old magazines, newspapers, and posters. They coat them with a glue/glaze to and sell them to Bead for Life for resale in varied forms as kits and jewelry.
People in the U.S. can order a sales kit for a party and invite friends over to hear the Bead for Life story and buy their products if they like them. We ordered some for our family and friends just to make an investment in their work. The items were beautiful and useful as well.
The money Bead for Life makes is invested back in the women in the community. They get assistance in starting small businesses and grants/loans assist them with the financing. They attempt to make the women independent from their assistance in sixteen months.
They also pay women in northern Uganda villages to harvest nuts from the Shea tree. The very best grade A nuts are turned into Shea butter, a valued oil and salve with varied applications. Shea butter is called “women’s gold” in Uganda because it gives them an income and access to education, health services and independence. Bead for Life has developed new Free Trade markets for the Shea butter and improved the prices paid to women for the rich nuts. Bead for Life has grown to become a 4.5 million dollar a year non-profit while investing 91% of their profits back into services on the ground for women.
Empowering women through education is proving to be one of the most important strategies in reducing poverty, abuse and exploitation of people in general, but especially women. One of the champions of this kind of work just died in Kenya this past month. Dr. Wangari Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her Greenbelt Movement that planted trees while also empowering women.
National Public Radio just broadcasted a story this past weekend about the varied birth control programs in India thirty years ago. Most of these were sterilization or birth control programs. Educating women has proven to be a more effective approach than most of what was tried.
If you have not taken a look at Bead for Life, check out their website and Annual Report. The short videos on their website tell their story well. They are making a difference in myriad ways in one of the more challenging situations in the world.