Bead for Life
Eradicating Poverty One Bead at a Time
It's a pleasure to write about projects like the Bead for Life program. This organization has found a way for impoverished women in Uganda to generate an income, and to improve their lives and the lives of their families. Women are invited to join Bead for Life if they are living on less than two dollars a day.
The beaders make handcrafted paper beads and turn them into necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. The tailors make elegant jewelry bags from hand printed cotton fabrics.
Paper Bead Bangle Bracelet
AIDS and War
More than two-thirds of these women are women living with HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS has wreaked havoc in Uganda and throughout Africa. In Uganda alone, over 1 million people are living with HIV/AIDS. More than 1 million children have been orphaned. Every family has been affected.
Many of these women are from the Acholi tribe that were driven from their homes in Northern Uganda by a brutal warlord. They left their agricultural way of life to avoid the violence and to protect their children from kidnappings. Over 1 million Acholi are now living incamps. The Acholi in Kampala have built a mud village on the outskirts of town.
The members of Bead for Life live in rented mud rooms without electricity, windows, or running water. Most of the rooms are small, measuring 10 by 15 feet. They have large families, and six or more people live in one small room. Several generations of siblings, grandparents, and cousins often live in one household. They cook outside over charcoal.
The Beaders and Their Village
Earning a Living
Before Bead for Life, the primary means of earning a living was at the rock quarry next to the Acholi Quarter. Sitting in the blistering sun, workers break rocks by hand to make gravel for about a dollar a day. Some earned a few shillings washing clothes or selling vegetables.
Many of the beaders have become entrepreneurs: they now hire others to help them cut paper and roll beads. Besides the 150 beaders and 15 tailors working with Bead for Life, another 300 people are earning a living from the beads. An average member makes about $100 a month.
In addition to buying and selling the beads made by these women, Bead for Life sponsors community development projects in health, education, vocational training, affordable housing, and savings programs.
Bead for Life Mission Statement:
Bead for Life creates sustainable opportunities for women to lift their families out of extreme poverty by connecting people worldwide in a circle of exchange that enriches everyone. Bead for Life is guided by the following principles:
- Creating jobs through local partnerships is a more sustainable approach to poverty eradication than providing aid. Rather than become dependent on handouts from abroad, the beaders build their skills and long-term capacities through meaningful creative work.
- Concerned citizens in resource-abundant countries care about the issues of extreme poverty and are willing to get involved.
- Paying our beaders fair trade prices allows them to meet their daily economic needs. Investing 100% of our net profits in community development projects for impoverished Ugandans allows for a long-term sustainable future.
- Partnerships formed between North Americans and Ugandan beaders enrich all of us.
Who knew beads could save lives?
Bead For Life