Remember Tupperware parties? In places throughout the U.S., beads made by women from a Ugandan village are the items being sold. The proceeds are having a dramatic effect in Kampala, Uganda.

Women in Kampala had been making beads and selling them to occasional passersby for $1 a strand. Widowed by AIDs, many were living on less than $1 day. Two Colorado women bought some on a visit to Kampala in 2003 to give to friends on their return home. The reaction was so positive that the women went back to Kampala to purchase more. They met with 100 women and began a supply chain that led to the formation of BeadforLife, a nonprofit entity that imports and sells the beads at bead parties and online. Proceeds from the sales buy land and homes for the women in Kampala, allow them to send their children to school, and help them to start businesses and improve their health through malaria treatments and mosquito nets. And the bead parties encourage discussion about how those attending can use their buying power to help lift the Ugandan village out of extreme poverty.

“Today, BeadforLife is raising $3.5 million annually, and sends the bulk of it directly to Kampala. Now, the women earn $5 and $6 dollars a day, on par with a Ugandan police officer’s salary. They have bank accounts now, and the average balance for each woman is $436.” Three hundred women are now involved making the beads, with 100 more in training.

The North America director for Beadfor Life comments, “We’ve tapped into this incredible desire to participate in helping people overcome poverty, and there’s something so tangible about the beads.”

Read an article about the program or visit the Beadfor Life website.