Endings and Beginnings

Dear BeadforLife Friends,

For 17 years, BeadforLife has been a circle of inspiration and engagement between impoverished women in Africa and our supporters around the world. You have been a part of this magic and we want to thank you. Together, we have worked to eradicate poverty by employing artisans in Uganda and selling their beautiful handcrafted items. These artisans were able to attend Street Business School, or its equivalent, and start small local businesses to sustain their families and move out of poverty.

However, the times have changed and COVID-19 has caused a global collapse of retail sales, including our handmade items, now and into the foreseeable future. The pandemic also prevents gatherings and events which provided BeadforLife opportunities to sell products and tell the stories of women overcoming poverty. Under these dire circumstances, we have reluctantly concluded that it is no longer possible to continue our retail business model. We will, therefore, close BeadforLife and its retail sales in the coming months. Fortunatelyall of our current beaders are alumni who have graduated from our Street Business School and have other businesses as their primary source of income. This transition of closing BeadforLife comes with a touch of sadness and an abundance of wonderful memories. Yet, we know this is the right decision. Our mission to eradicate poverty will continue through our sister organization, Street Business School, who is already working in 21 countries globally and is on track to help 1 million women out of poverty by 2027.

We started BeadforLife 17 years ago to eradicate deep poverty, a lofty goal. It began when we met one woman making paper beads who worked in a rock quarry for $1 a day. Our simple idea was to create a market for her beads, starting a flow of income that would lift her family out of poverty. We soon realized that impoverished women needed sustainable income based on small businesses that would allow families to grow their income and leave poverty behind. We did not want our members to be dependent on us to forever sell beads. Our focus from the beginning was to offer entrepreneurial training that would allow women to start and maintain small businesses. Throughout this journey, our work to develop a world class entrepreneurial training program has blossomed into Street Business School. During this time, BeadforLife continued to tell the stories of women struggling out of poverty and to sell beautiful handcrafted items to support our work. A few years back, we separated our work into two organizations; Street Business School and BeadforLife, so that each could focus on what it does best.

We are so proud of BeadforLife’s achievements. Over the past 17 years, we have trained thousands of beaders who care for 40,000 dependents. We have built Friendship Village, where nearly 1,000 people have permanent homes and gardens. We have trained 392 youth in vocational training skills, sent 156 girls to school, and created income through our shea butter program for 750 female farmers in war-torn Northern Uganda. We also had a very successful ox-plow cooperative to allow refugees to return to their farms, reaching 252 people. In total, we’ve helped more than 50,000 people. 

BeadforLife launched the paper beadmaking industry that has swept through East Africa. Thousands of people are now able to make a small living by making paper beads. We estimate more than 150 organizations have adopted our initiative. We think of these thousands of beadmakers as our unknown daughters, women we will never meet that have directly benefited from our work.

And, our greatest success is in creating Street Business School, which is flourishing now, working in 21 countries under a social franchise model. We are well on our way to reaching 1 million women in the coming nine years through entrepreneurial trainings. JOIN US>

Half of BeadforLife’s program has been rooted in educating the public in North America by telling the stories of African families overcoming poverty, selling beautiful beads and other handmade products. You, our supporters and friends, have hosted 20,000 BeadParties and raised millions of dollars to support this good work by purchasing beads, shea-butter items and other handcrafted goods. It has truly been an important joint effort with you. We could not have done it without your partnership. Our gratitude for your support and generosity is enormous.

Our work in helping people overcome dire poverty will continue unabated. We hope your support will continue as we enter yet another phase of our work. As BeadforLife lives on through Street Business School, we invite you to evolve with us to help 1 million women lift their families from poverty. Having your support for Street Business School is important now more than ever. Here are ways you can help: 

  • Please sign up for the SBS newsletter to stay up to date on our progress. SIGN UP NOW>
  • Get ready for our upcoming bead sales to stock up on BeadforLife items and gifts. SHOP NOW>

Thank you for being a part of our grand experiment to eradicate poverty. The COVID-19 pandemic is already devastating the poor and vulnerable around the world. We need to continue our work to eradicate poverty now more than ever. We have a proven model and are standing strong to continue to ignite the potential for impoverished women, so they can launch small businesses and transform their lives. Join us to reach our audacious goal of igniting 1 million people out of poverty by 2027!

We are so grateful for your friendship and support. We could not have helped so many people out of poverty without your love for BeadforLife. Thank you for wearing beads, sharing our story, giving BeadParties, volunteering, supporting children’s education, giving BeadforLife gifts, and all of the incredible and countless ways you have showed up to create a better world. Our gratitude for your support and generosity is enormous. Together let’s continue this good work.

Please stay safe.

All the best to you and your family,

Torkin Wakefield, Co-founder and Board President

Amy Yanda-Lee, Executive Director, BeadforLife

Devin Hibbard, Co-founder, BeadforLife

Ginny Jordan, Co-founder, BeadforLife

Cassidy Murphy, Board of Directors, BeadforLife

Robin Seiz, Board of Directors, BeadforLife

Showing 12 comments
  • Rosemary Brewer

    You are all in my heart. The founders, the staff and all the ladies over the years who have made these beads. What wonderful work you have done and will continue to do!♥️

  • Janie Rezner

    Sorry to see you go! Appreciate all you have done for women–have enjoyed all the stories you have shared. May the future bring bountifulness for your continued work. I remember I interviewed Torkin a long time ago for my radio show “Women’s Voices” on KZYX in northern California. Best to you all!

  • KB

    While I understand this decision, I am deeply saddened by it as you have been a beacon of light in my world, showing hope and compassion through so many challenging moments. I have looked to you for inspiration daily, wearing my jewels of honor by such lovely woman and have followed the stories. I encourage you to seek an online retail source so that so many of us can continue reading the stories, buying their goods and knowing we are truly doing good in the world via your fantastic platform. If that is not possible, please continue letting myself and others how we can help. We are with you and have been since day 1. Many blessings to all.

  • ES

    Thank you for your work and for empowering women. The products are beautiful and brought smiles to all who received them. I look forward to following news of the Street Business School. Best wishes and be well!

  • Etali Genesis Akwaji

    17 years is quite enormous to affect and to transform lives! You have indeed impacted women and families from poor backgrounds, giving them the opportunity to experience the most priceless PEACE and to avoid the shackles of life and struggling to survive in the heart of bare communities that have nothing to offer to them to change their living conditions. In deed you have been the life wire for these people. May your paths continue to shine and bring light into lives and homes of the poor and vulnerable as you walk even individually though it is so painful to disintegrate a life changing structure at such a difficult stage in human history. May God continue to inspire you more and put a knack in your hearts to never relent to do that which He has trained you to do for humanity.

  • Phebe W Packer

    I can only echo the expressions of sadness that BeadforLife will be no more. It has been my humble pleasure to support this organization for more than 10 years of selling beads in my community and how I enjoy wearing these wonderful bracelets and telling the story of the women in Uganda and the growth they have experienced. You truly did ignite a movement that is making a difference in people’s lives and I am grateful to have been a small part of it.

  • Sandi

    I am so saddened by this announcement. I love your products and your mission to lift families from poverty. I pray Gods blessing on all of you!! ❤️❤️❤️

  • Liz Bolaji

    I moved to Uganda a year ago and literally live two houses away from Beads for Life on Senfuka! Never thought to look it up until just now. Wish I had checked earlier. Well done. If everyone did something, just literally something, as you guys and your supporters have, my, wouldn’t the universe be so much…sweeter. What a difference you seem to have made. Well done, bravo. Don’t curse the darkness, rather, light a candle. Paraphrase of John F. Kennedy.

  • Derrick Pare

    With Much love and support you gave towards these women and the Street Business School and over 50,000 people. I really appreciate and God bless you.

  • Judy Friesem

    Your good hard, heartfelt work reverberates across the globe. I had the joy of seeing your program in action in Uganda, now many years ago. I remember the smiles, the dancing, the care and respect on all sides. Thank you! You have shown what a few strong and creative people can do. I am inspired.

  • Michele M. Irwin

    I am so sad to see this end. I have helped in the past by having Bead shows at my church. I even got to visit the offices in Boulder, CO one year.

  • Kenadee

    I loved this story so much it’s so refreshing to have people helping people again all you ever hear on the news is the bad but they never show the good like your doing i would really love to help these women by donating anything. I am very sad too see that the beadforlife is ending but thank you for helping all these African countries for 17 years!

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