How We Began
BeadforLife began with a chance encounter between women. Our co-founders Torkin Wakefield, Ginny Jordan, and Devin Hibbard met Millie Grace Akena while walking through a crowded Ugandan slum. They were on their way to visit a sick woman when they saw Millie sitting on the ground outside of her mud home; she was rolling small strips of paper into colorful beads in the sweltering sun. Intrigued, they stopped to talk to her.
Less than a dollar a day
Paper beads bring hope
Our co-founders admired Millie and bought a few of her necklaces, wearing them around Kampala in support of her handiwork. Immediately, others began to notice the distinct jewelry and asked where they had been purchased. Believing there was a market for the paper jewelry, they returned to Millie's slum. With her help, they met with a hundred more women who knew how to make paper beads, purchasing a few necklaces from each. At this time, they had no way of knowing that their lives, and the lives of so many impoverished Ugandans, were about to change.
Birth of the bead party
Once back in the US, our co-founders shared their experiences with others. Through word of mouth, women across North America began to purchase the beads and were captivated by the stories of resilient Ugandan women lifting their families out of extreme poverty. As suspected, there was a market for the hope-filled, hand-rolled beads and their inspirational creators after all! In September 2004, BeadforLife was officially born. At the time, our dream was to provide opportunities for a few dozen women from Millie's slum. Today, we provided opportunities for thousands. To see how our dream has grown, visit Our Work in Uganda.