Stringing together strangers

Boonsboro woman sells beads to benefit women in Africa

Boonsboro woman sells beads to benefit women in Africa

September 26, 2008|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

BOONSBORO - Sally Poole will never meet the women who make the necklaces and other handmade jewelry she's selling on their behalf through BeadforLife.

To Poole, who lives in Boonsboro, it doesn't matter that those women live a world away in East Africa.

"I think we need to care for each other around the world," Poole said.

Poole will sell the beads from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, as part of the Fall Fest at Mount Lena United Methodist Church. The event will feature food and crafts. All of the money collected from the sale of the jewelry will be sent to BeadforLife to benefit Ugandan bead makers.

Since BeadforLife was founded in Colorado in 2004, it has been helping women of Uganda find a market for the paper beads they've been creating for years. In North America, BeadforLife is recognized as a nonprofit organization.

It was Poole's sister-in-law, Evonne Cave, who introduced her to BeadforLife, whose mission is "Eradicating poverty one bead at a time." Poole said Cave's church had used BeadforLife as an outreach program last Christmas and suggested Poole use it for her own church.


Poole said with her sister-in-law's recommendation, she logged online to find out more about the nonprofit program.

"I just loved it. I thought it was amazing," she said. "And the fact that they are a Fair Trade Federation member is just wonderful."

Fair Trade Federation provides fair wages for disadvantaged persons.

After Poole signed up, BeadforLife provided her with a box of jewelry and other items, a price list and information about the organization. She said she didn't have to make a monetary investment for any of the products.

"It's a really nice program. You sell what you can and send back what you haven't sold," she said.

Pieces range in cost from $5 for a simple bangle bracelet to $30 for multiple-strand necklaces. In addition to beads, she has other products, including a CD, note cards and soft jewelry bag. Poole said the shorter necklaces are the most popular.

Unlike similar programs, Poole doesn't receive any special incentive to sell the product. "I don't get a piece of jewelry just to be a hostess," she said.

On first sight, the jewelry looks like beads made of stone or a molded bead. Actually, each bead is handmade from strips of paper. The Ugandan beaders cut long triangular pieces of paper from colorful pieces of magazine paper.

According to BeadforLife literature, it takes 30 seconds for a beader to roll each individual bead. Once the paper is tightly rolled, a drop of glue keeps the paper together. Than each bead is treated with sealant to give the bead a shiny appearance and also to make the jewelry water resistant. It takes the women about two weeks to string a complex necklace.

The result is a piece of jewelry that Poole said people have a hard time believing is made of paper.

The organization is careful to show that all proceeds support the women, their communities and the BeadforLife program. According to the organization's 2006 financial overview, for every $10 necklace sold, $2.10 goes directly to the beader, $1.70 supports community development work in Uganda to fight extreme poverty, $2.40 supports work in North America to educate people about the program, 70 cents is spent between administrative costs in Uganda and North America and fundraising in North America, and $3.10 is allocated for future investment in community development.

BeadforLife reports that the average beader now makes on average $1,200 a year for their work. By comparison, they used to make less than $1 a day.

Wearing a few purchased pieces herself, Poole said she has had many comments from others, asking where did she get the necklaces. One woman, Poole said, told her that the long, single-strand necklace "felt really light" around her neck compared to heavier wooden beads.

With the response she's received from the beads, Poole's hoping to accomplish her goal.

"I'll be able to send back $2,000 if we're able to sell every piece of jewelry," Poole said. Previously she sold more than $300 worth of beads in one day.

Those who want to do more than purchase jewelry can also sponsor a student through BeadforLife, or host a bead party to sell the beads from home.

Poole said BeadforLife is just one of the many outreach programs Mount Lena United Methodist Church does nearly every month. "Mount Lena is a very mission-oriented church," she said.

Money raised at the Fall Fest will benefit many of the programs the church gives to, including supporting mission work. A young member recently left on a five-week mission trip to Nicaragua.

For Poole, who said she was "raised on service," selling BeadforLife is about the message.

"I love helping others to live simply a better lifestyle," she says.

If you go ...

WHAT: Fall Fest

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27

WHERE: Mount Lena United Methodist Church, 21234 Mount Lena Road, Boonsboro

CONTACT: Call Sally Poole at 301-797-0355

MORE: For additional information about BeadforLife or to host a bead party, go to

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