IN OTHER WORDS: Micro-hope
For many of the very poorest in Kampala, Uganda, the way out of poverty begins by rolling thin strips of recycled coloured paper into beads that are glued, strung on fish line, and varnished. The bead makers — mostly women but some men — sell their necklaces and bracelets to BeadforLife, a nonprofit started by an American woman, Torkin Wakefield. BeadforLife sells the jewelry overseas, helps the bead makers open bank accounts and get home mortgages, and — most important of all — steers them out of bead-making and into other businesses or vocations. “Poverty eradication is the goal, not beading,” Wakefield said earlier this month. On a sale day bead makers present the fruits of a couple weeks’ work to BeadforLife’s buyers, who purchase up to $125 worth of items. Many bead makers are refugees from the 20-year guerrilla war; many are HIV-infected.
The bead makers buy their materials and are encouraged to save 25% of what they earn. BeadforLife sells most of its products through Tupperware-like house parties or community events in North America, Mexico, Australia, and Europe. Wakefield says she likes this method as “it preserves the story.” The story is a hopeful antidote to the poverty, disease, and strife that mark so much of Uganda life.