Bracelets, earrings and necklaces possess a power to change the lives of women living in Uganda.
The women there live in poverty-stricken villages that have been riddled with AIDS. They spend hours hand-making beads from paper that are then strung together into a rainbow of necklaces, bracelets and earrings.
Those pieces, along with shea butter soap and lip balms, are being sold 8,000 miles away in the Shoals. The Women’s Center at the University of North Alabama is selling the pieces to benefit the organization Bead For Life program, which assists Ugandan women struggling to elevate themselves.
Emily Kelley, coordinator of the UNA Women’s Center, said the center keeps none of the proceeds from jewelry and beauty products sold.
The take away for the center is more than monetary, she said.
“It is our responsibility as women to lend a hand to other women who are attempting to improve their situation in life,” Kelley said.
“It is incumbent upon women to look out for other women and help them along the way.”
Grace Oaks, a senior broadcast journalism major at UNA and an intern at the women’s center, said the program has opened her eyes to the needs of women worldwide. She said she knew the center held sales in the past, but now she has a different perspective.
“During the holiday season, it is important for even college students to realize how much we have been given,” she said. “While we don’t have a lot of money, a $4 tube of lip balm makes such a difference to the women that are part of this program in Uganda.”
Bead For Life began in 2004, according to the organization’s website. In 2011, the organization states it helped almost 12,000 people in more than 1,400 households in eastern and central Uganda.
Of the money raised through the sales, 95 percent is returned to the east Africa nation and used to provide land, housing, education and business training.
Kelley said in many cases the women helped by the program are raising their children and the children of their extended family because of disease or civil war.
“Some of these families now have 10, 12 or 15 children, and Bead For Life pays tuition for these children to attend school,” she said. “It isn’t like the United States where every child has the right to education.”
Bead For Life in Uganda trains women to make the beads and jewelry.
“This program has made me realize how much we take for granted and the benefits we are given here in the United States,” Oaks said. “I consider it an honor to get to sale the products made by these women.”
Jennifer Edwards can be reached at 256-740-5754 or jennifer.edwards@TimesDaily.com.