BY BOOTS TOLSDORF - Please mark the date on your calendar for another Bead Party, featuring “Bead for Life” and “Same Sky,” the two non-profits that help empower women and children in extreme poverty. We are coming to the Johann Fust Library on Tuesday, March 13 and Wednesday, March 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Last year was very successful, and I am hoping that this year we can do even better! Bring your friends and browse the array of bracelets, earrings and necklaces made from colorful recycled paper, as well as shea soap, shea lotion and lip balm ranging from $5 to $30, made by Ugandan women.
We have some new products! “Same Sky,” representing the Rwandan women, will showcase beautiful glass-beaded bracelets and necklaces, as well as braided, twisted fabric bracelets and hair accessories. All of this jewelry is appropriate for ages 5 and up. This year, I represent “Bead for Life” as a community partner, as well as an ambassador for “Same Sky.”
Last summer I spent a weekend in Boulder, Colo. with “Bead for Life” and 25 other community partners from around the country, and shared ideas for finding other venues to sell beads, finding organizations and churches to spread the word, and having schools introduce curriculums to and give the kids in grades 6-12 an opportunity to sell beads. My own grandchild, Emmy, is going to have a bead party at her school in May.
“Same Sky” offered the same opportunity just recently in New York City. Of all the community development projects that “Bead for Life” has made possible, their savings program is one of the most successful. “Bead for Life” researched many banks and selected one with a good rate of interest. The women designate how much they want to save and our organization then deposits it directly into the womenʼs accounts, giving them the ability to make deposits or withdrawals at any time they want with bank cards. One woman has earned $240 in her account over a period of nine months, which, for someone who has made less than a dollar a day before becoming a beader, is an impressive accomplishment.
Alice Aduna came to “Bead for Life” because she heard that she might get a little food. She and her two sons were starving. We gave her a small task, washing dishes for $4.05. She hurried away with some food and returned the following week. She told “Bead for Life” she had been evicted. When they went to investigate they found her outside a mud hut with her sons. She told us she had been widowed for two years since her husband had died of AIDS, leaving her with no income, savings or way to make a living. She lived with Valentine, 3 and Emmanuel, 6. Both she and Emmanuel were HIV positive and sick. They were taken to the Pediatric Infectious Disease clinic at the hospital.
Emmanuelʼs system was severely compromised and he was in danger of dying. He was put immediately onto anti-retroviral medicines. We began to teach her to roll beads. She was paid $18. For this work, which was the most she had ever made, she was moved to tears. As her beading technique improves, she can anticipate making about $80 a month and save for her children and herself. Perhaps she will have a home in Friendship Village,where there are already 250 homes, or a small plot of land to grow bananas to sell at the market. Perhaps she will run a restaurant or sell paper to beaders.
“Same Sky” also has great stories. Reading the womenʼs testimonies reveals the sense of empowerment they feel in their lives. Yvette and Beata have managed to completely eliminate debt. Others have made building improvements in their homes or are starting to build homes. Many are getting mattresses for their families as well as mosquito netting. This may seem minor to us, but I can tell you that a mattress means a comfortable nights sleep for the first time!
Yvette feels as if her colleagues are her parents. Now she has women who can counsel her, become a shoulder to cry on, or exchange advice. It is a place they can go to work where they are not alone in their struggles. Dignity is restored, pride is earned back, and children can eat and go to school.
I ask myself, “Am I making a difference?” Not without your help. It is a blessing that we are born here in the US, and we can make a difference, and to give these gifts of friendship and connection with women halfway around the world. Come out on these two days and help these special women. Get connected, feel good, and take home a beautiful handcrafted item for yourself, your friends, or other special people. Spread the word. Bring your dollars, your checkbook and your credit card. Join us for some cookies and tea, we hope to see you there!
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