For Ugandan Mothers, the Gift of Self-Sufficiency

BeadForLife helps impoverished women generate a steady income

by Laynie Rose
LeeAnn and Mallory Sabel image
Photograph: both courtesy BeadForLife

LeeAnn Sabel and her daughter Mallory knew they were on to something when they couldn’t stop talking about jewelry—paper jewelry. After admiring colorful bracelets in a catalog, they searched the Web and found that the jewelry was made by impoverished Ugandan women who used recycled paper to create delicate beads. The beads were then sold through a nonprofit called BeadForLife.

Inspired by BeadForLife’s mission to lift the Ugandan artisans out of extreme poverty, Mallory pledged to raise $1,000 for the organization.

That was four years and $10,000 ago.

Courtesy of BeadForLifeThe money helps BeadForLife provide the Ugandan beaders with far more than just the materials they need. Entrepreneurial training and nutrition counseling, coupled with the benefits of a dependable income from bead sales, have allowed the women to move from mud houses into permanent dwellings, send their children to school and purchase assets like livestock, mattresses and furniture. Seventy-four percent of beaders start a business while in the program.

Volunteers like Mallory and LeeAnn raise funds by hosting bead parties where they sell necklaces, bracelets, tote bags and Shea butter products, all made by beaders. “At the bead parties, I always tell people that this is so much more than just a bracelet or a necklace,” says LeeAnn. “It is a symbol of independence, strength and love.”

BeadForLife jewelry is also available for purchase through the group's online store. One hundred percent of the net profits from the store are devoted to helping to eliminate extreme poverty worldwide.

“We both love jewelry, but this is about so much more than that. This is about the love that a mother has for her children, and her will to survive,” says LeeAnn. “We have embraced these women as we would our family. Volunteering for BeadForLife has been the most rewarding work we have ever done.”

Next: Passionate About a Cause? Start a Nonprofit

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