BeadforLife

One of my passions is serving as a Community Partner for global nonprofit BeadforLife.  I started this volunteer journey seven years ago by hosting a marketplace for the sale of the beautifully crafted recycled paper jewelry.  The income generating program teaches deeply impoverished women business skills and takes them on a path to financial freedom!

Thank you

In 2015, I traveled to Uganda to work alongside the latest program, the Street Business School, and innovative program placing business training directly into the hands of the world’s most disenfranchised and impoverished women.

 

MOBILE CLASSROOMS

Inside glimpses of the 6-month entrepreneurial training program, Street Business School,  offered by BeadforLife.  These images represent a slice of a determined, hard-working population of women living on $0.60-$1.25 learning small business fundamentals with the goal of launching one or more projects before graduation.    Women are recruited into the program based on demonstrated initiative, determination, as well as referrals from past graduates.  Multiple languages are spoken in the classroom, and the dedicated training staff navigates the complexities of teaching large groups where illiteracy is common.   BeadforLife’s proven entrepreneurial training curriculum is under rapid expansion, with the goal of reaching 1 million women worldwide living in poverty.  If you would like more information on how to support this initiative, please click here.

 

Coach Rachel instructs the 12th cohort of the Street Business School on finding capital and starting small.
Coach Rachel instructs the 12th cohort of the Street Business School in Mutungo Village ,outside Kampala, on finding capital and starting small.

 

Common to poor areas in the developing world and people living in poverty are housing structures called lean-tos.  I was graciously invited into Rose’s home so she could share with me the story of her cold beverage business at the nearby taxi park.  What I distinctly remember about this moment was how incredibly proud Rose was for her humble abode and how successful she has been.  Two simple cots and a sheet as a wall partition housed her and her 4 children.   Common  personal belongings in a dwelling like this include a couple plastic washing bins, a pot for boiling water, used  5-7 gallon jerry cans for fetching water at the nearest borehole, and  a few articles of worn clothing.

Inside Rose’s (right) home to discuss her small business after a classroom session at the Street Business school. Rose is enrolled in the program so she can send all 4 of her children to school. Currently, only one is attending due to lack of school fee funding.

 

Rose’s neighbor, Maureen, also a SBS member invited me in for a sampling of a local delicacy enjoyed by children, raw sugar cane.  Kikajjo, pronounced, chee-ka-joe, and the manufacturing into raw sugar is the third largest economy in East Africa.  I was told gnawing on the fibrous plant while simultaneously squeezing and slurping the delicious watery goodness inside was a good way to clean my teeth.  I laughed, thinking my dentist back home may beg to differ.  At least I provided entertainment for the locals!

 

Tasting Kikajjo, sugarcane, with Maureen and her mom Beatrice- both members of Street Business School. Kikajjo is enjoyed by children as a sweet treat.

 

Leaving Rose’s home and heading back to BeadforLife offices in Kampala, I would never forget the memories of the two young girls in this photo holding my hands all the way to the corner where I hail a boda-boda driver  to catch a connecting matatu, or public taxi.  The girls were not in school due to lack of financial resources and were so hungry to connect that day.  It was absolutely heart breaking to leave them behind.  This happened day after day in each village I visited.

Outside the home of Rose, one of BeadforLife's current Street Business School Program participants.
Outside the home of Rose, one of BeadforLife’s current Street Business School Program participants.

 

Here’s a closeup of these cuties.  The golden color in the braids of JenRose’s friend indicate a protein deficiency commonly known as Kwashiorkor.

Rose's 10 year old daughter JenRose, with her neighborhood friend.
Rose’s 10 year old daughter JenRose, with her neighborhood friend.

 

Back in the classroom, women gathered in small groups mid-lesson to work on identifying viable businesses in the area.  A system of smiley faces help bridge language and literacy barriers.   It was incredible to see the unique teaching methodologies that empower women, specifically women at the base of the economic pyramid. This was the first training of it’s kind, and has lead to rapid prototyping in the field.

 

Inside the Street Business School classroom, a small village church. Women work on business identification group activities.
Inside the Street Business School classroom, a small village church. Women work on business identification group activities.

 

entrance to classroom. Street Business School members usually arrive with children to class.
entrance to classroom. Street Business School members usually arrive with children to class.

As I sat at the front of the classroom that day, off to the side, cows mooing behind a corrugated tin wall behind me, I couldn’t take my eyes off this site below.  Questions plagued the stretches of my brain, looking for answers to the unusual sight before me.   It’s a luxury to have clean water in a developing country, and as many of these women traveled long distances from remote rural areas by foot to meet in this makeshift classroom for the morning, they enjoyed the refreshing nature of a cold beverage on a hot day in the equatorial sun.  I wondered, “how did she get that water?  How much did it cost?  Is this the only drinking water for her all day? Or is this water for her children back in her village? ”   

Drinking water for the day purchased by one Street Business School member.
Drinking water for the day purchased by one Street Business School member.

All photo credits:  @standinlovejen

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