At first glance, a BeadforLife piece may look like any another bracelet —but the story behind it just might be enough to convince you otherwise.
Since 2004, the Colorado’s non-profit has been committed to making a difference all over the world, particularly in Uganda, where women create the BeadforLife bangle bracelets from recycled paper.
As a result, women are able to earn money and work their way out of extreme poverty, which is defined by the World Bank as living on less than $1.25 per day.
Essentially, each bracelet symbolizes hope and opportunity.
This is all part of BeadforLife’s "Do Good, Get Bangled" campaign, in which small acts of kindness are recognized with a free BeadforLife bangle bracelet and five more to pass along to others doing good deeds. The campaign culminates October 17, which also happens to be the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
Devin Hibbard, executive director and co-founder of BeadforLife says, “There are so many tragedies in the world, and we believe it’s important to take the time to honor the good.”
Aside from the campaign, BeadforLife offers an 18-month entrepreneurial training and mentoring program for Ugandan women. They’re encouraged to launch their own businesses before graduating from the program, which fits into the organization's philosophy that creating opportunities–not handouts–is the best long-term solution to extreme poverty.
BeadforLife’s mission is to create opportunities for the women of Uganda so they’re able to support their families without having to depend on the organization.
In Northern Uganda, BeadforLife puts money into the hands of women through their Shea Program, in which shea nuts are purchased during the harvest season and pressed into shea butter. The women then invest their earnings from shea butter sales back into their farms to make them more sustainable.
“[We’ve also] launched a new ox-plow initiative,” Hibbard says. “This is where our shea nut gatherers can invest in two oxen and a plow along with five other families. [As a result], they can increase their agri-businesses five to seven times…”
BeadforLife’s other programs include Friendship Village and Girls Education, which aims to empower the next generation of Ugandan women through the power of education.
In the next five years, Hibbard wants to expand BeadforLife’s reach to one million women worldwide with their entrepreneurial training and mentoring programs, and offer them to other organizations working with women around the world.
Other goals include reaching and educating more than 100,000 students through a service-learning curriculum, inspiring women to spread the word about the organization by hosting bead parties, as well as creating new products such as limited-edition holiday ornaments and picture frames.
Many of the women impacted by BeadforLife have endured and survived the unthinkable: family deaths, poor health, homelessness, kidnappings, rape and abuse.
Hibbard says the absolute best part of her job is seeing the transformation these women go through as they begin earning their own money and gaining independence, as well as confidence.
“Fiona is one woman who comes to mind…Her life had been so difficult that she describes staring at people who laughed and wondering how or why they could ever do so,” she says. “The last time I was in Uganda, she threw her arms around me and dragged me to see a photo of her–emaciated and serious–when she [first] entered the program. Tears were streaming down her face as she talked about having lost laughter, and how her life was now so full of laughter and [possibilities].”
Today, approximately half a million people around the world are sporting BeadforLife bangle bracelets, and doing their part to help combat extreme poverty one bead at a time.
“We want to reach and involve [as many people as we can] in the U.S. and beyond [and] let them know that although extreme poverty is a big and complicated issue, there are smart and effective [ways to overcome it],” Hibbard says. “We have seen women change their lives, and believe it can be done at a much bigger scale over time.”
To sign up and receive your free BeadforLife bangle bracelets, visit www.beadforlife.org/en/register-do-good-get-bangled.
Princess Gabbara is a senior at Eastern Michigan University, where she will soon earn her bachelor’s degree in journalism. You can read more of her work on her blog: princessgabbara.wordpress.com. Follow her on Twitter: @PrincessGabbara