Beaders in Uganda

Safe Horizon in NYC sells an angel wings necklace to help victims of domestic violence; Same sky bracelets are sold to empower the women of Rwanda living with HIV; Stand up to Cancer sells a gold star necklace; and even Tory Burch makes a bracelet that gives back to her foundation. The list goes on as the world of “jewelry for a cause” becomes more saturated each day.

So, how do we know which one to pick over the other? Of course some of that is up to personal taste, but one should also take a hard look at the company to see how much of the proceeds go back to charity and what they are doing with the monies collected.

Last week I was lucky enough to visit the BeadforLife headquarters on Canyon in Boulder. Wow! This company–started in 2004 by Torkin Wakefield, her daughter Devin Hibbard and Ginny Jordan, all from Boulder–is layered with opportunities to give back to the women in Uganda and children around the world.

Each woman in Uganda tries to support an average of seven people on $1.25 per day, making them the ideal candidate to carry those under their care out of poverty. Built on the idea that if you teach a woman to make a necklace and she can feed the whole village (vs. teach a man to fish and he can feed only himself for life), BeadforLife gives back through hourly wages while teaching women about entrepreneurship and saving money. The first step in the 18-month program is to teach the woman how to make the beads which they are paid for using regulations set by the Fair Trade Federation. BeadforLife then teaches the women about handling their money and starting their own businesses, while helping them get on their feet through housing, literacy and medical aid.

As if that isn’t enough, BeadforLife takes another step forward by providing a curriculum that teaches students about global poverty issues and wraps up with a call to action for fundraising. It can be taught by teachers, scout troop leaders and more and has been downloaded approximately 3,000 times.

And, as a company, 100% of net profits goes back to fight poverty and only 14% of money raised goes toward admin overhead, a low number for nonprofits. BeadforLife has also gone international with offices in Montpelier, France and in Uganda. Better yet, they offer ways to shop, party and volunteer.


Fashionably Charitable

BeadforLife has kept up with the world and trends of fashion as it is cashing in on the piled on bracelets look that’s blowing up Pinterest and the festival scene. Call it Boho chic if you will. Shop from five styles of bracelets; 10 styles of necklaces, including the new-for-summer, double long Etana necklace; and four styles of earrings. All jewelry ranges from $5 to $30 and can be found in solid colors from all aspects of the rainbow or multi colors. Here in Colorado, shop at the studio (2336 Canyon Blvd. Suite 202) in Boulder or at Another option for the DIY obsessed is buying a container of loose beads.

Each bead has been hand rolled using colorful recycled paper and a custom-made, eco-friendly sealant. They are then hung to dry before being crafted into jewelry.

Regardless of the color of style you choose, these trendy beads can be mixed and matched with just about anything.

Partying for a Cause

If simply shopping or volunteering isn’t your thing, throw a bead party! BeadforLife will send you a kit including about 275

Bead for Life Bead Party

Women at a BeadforLife Bead Party

jewelry items, an inspirational DVD, a CD with Ugandan songs and music, educational materials and more; all making it easy to play hostess and inspire guests. It’s up to you how to throw the party. Some ideas for 303 readers are bringing a party kit to a YP group meeting, throwing a birthday party for yourself and asking for presents in the form of BeadforLife or throwing wine night with girlfriends. Or think even further outside the box and host a bead party for your next family reunion.


Get Out, Get Up and Volunteer

Like any other nonprofit, volunteers are essential to the daily operations of BeadforLife–especially in Colorado because of its Boulder headquarters. Last year, Coloradans spent more than 3,600 hours volunteering; fulfilling orders, stocking product, communicating with bead party hosts and sharing BeadforLife’s story throughout the community. Because the experience of holding beads made by Uganda woman who are thousands of miles away is so uplifting and fulfilling, many volunteers return week after week or month after month. And if you’re looking to put the Rockies behind you for a bit, opportunities are also available in the Uganda offices for a minimum of a two month stay. Find out more about the opportunities here.


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