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Building Lives and Futures - One Bead at a Time


BOULDER, Colo., March 20, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Since the beginning of time, women have been the nurturers and  gatherers for their families. But for impoverished women in Uganda, who have been brutalized by war, or seen communities ravaged by AIDS, survival became a daily task, full of unbearable choices. Many women were widows who could not provide the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter for their children and for whom medicines were an untenable luxury. These families were trying to subsist on less than $1.25 a day, presenting almost insurmountable hardship.

In 2004, BeadforLife, a non-profit organization, was founded by three American women to create opportunities for Ugandan women to earn livable wages -- enough to support their families, and leave the slums. The organization was founded by Torkin Wakefield, her daughter Devin Hibbard, and Ginny Jordan, all from Boulder, CO. Ms. Wakefield became keenly aware of the plight in Uganda when her husband, an AIDS doctor, took a project in the region. These American women were determined to help the impoverished women of Uganda by finding markets for their colorful beads that would then be turned into wearable art in the form of necklaces, bracelets and earrings, and sold worldwide.

The beads are crafted from colorful recycled paper, and hand-rolled, each one unique with a story behind it. The paper is sourced at local markets from old magazines, and posters. The women cut the paper into intricate long triangles which determines the shape and style of the bead. Beads are then sealed with an eco-friendly glaze, hung to dry in the warm Ugandan sun, and made into beautiful collections of jewelry. The finished collections are then sold online, through retail outlets, and at home bead parties, and range in price from $5 to $30.  

To date, BeadforLife has reached over 20,000 people in almost 2,500 households, through its bead project, shea nut initiative, and youth education programs. Once in the 18-month bead-making program, women can earn 7 - 10 times more than before they entered the program, and earn more than an average teacher in Uganda. In addition to learning about making beads, the women learn entrepreneurial skills. They start savings accounts, and with guidance from the BeadforLife staff, they launch new businesses before they graduate so they are self-supporting into the future. During their enrollment in the bead-making program, they also receive literacy and numeracy training, as well as health care products like mosquito nets, deworming tablets and nutritional supplements.

BeadforLife launched a second income-generating project in Northern Uganda in 2009, creating a livelihood for the extremely poor women who farm and gather shea nuts. All of the people they work with were brutalized by Joseph Kony's army, and were forced to live in camps for 8 years. BeadforLife creates markets for the shea nuts by producing shea butter products such as creams, soaps and lip balms. The sales of these products have the potential to empower tens of thousands of women. Currently, BeadforLife is working with 740 women, most of whom are farmers, to educate them about how to improve the quality of their farms and bring their agricultural goods to market.  

BeadforLife continues to invest in programs that help people leave poverty behind. They sponsor bright girls in Uganda for high school education, and partner with or provide small grants to other organizations providing services such as health care, vocational training, and youth empowerment.

In 2006, BeadforLife began building "Friendship Village," a community of 132 homes. These homes are occupied by its bead-program members who saved their money and helped each other dig foundations and build the houses. Having title to land and a home is something truly cherished in Uganda and a rarity. The village is lively, with abundant gardens and healthy children playing in the playgrounds. Today, more than 1,000 people call Friendship Village home.

The BeadforLife founders often reflect on the words of Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

For more information on the BeadforLife programs and products, visit the Web site at

SOURCE  BeadforLife

CONTACT: Cathy Callegari, +1-212-579-1370,

Web Site:


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Information in this article was accurate in March 20, 2012. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.