Guest Blogger Susan Cannarella, an American shares her story on how she started a small non-profit making and selling jewelry made from paper beads handcrafted by women in Uganda as a means to support their families. All proceeds from the sale of this jewelry go to Kiwoko Hospital in Luwero, Uganda to benefit their HIV/AIDs program for children in the community. There’s a little bit of global in each and every one of us.
By Guest Blogger Susan Cannarella
I work for Aspen Re America; a company that believes strongly in global corporate and social responsibility and commits to donating annually to the ISIS Foundation. The ISIS Foundation helps to fund projects at Kiwoko Hospital in Luwero, Uganda, as well as projects in Nepal. In Sept 2008 I traveled to Uganda with some colleagues from Bermuda, London and the US to see what our money was accomplishing at the hospital. I was able to witness first-hand the great work being done there to help the children and families of the region. I was so moved by what I had seen that when I returned I felt I had to personally do something to help.
One day a week a craft group meets at the hospital. This group is comprised of women who are HIV positive. These women make items to be sold at the hospital craft shop to support their families. One of the crafts I witnessed them making were rolled paper beads using recycled paper. This inspired me to make jewelry incorporating these beautiful and unusual beads. I started purchasing paper beads from Uganda from two different non-profit organizations: Paper to Pearls and Beads of Love. On Thanksgiving weekend 2008 while with my husband’s family in VT, I started creating bracelets. My family began buying them as I was making them. Soon after that, I set up a table in the cafeteria at the corporate center where my office is located and sold 60 bracelets in less than an hour…I felt I might be onto something. From there I have been selling anywhere I can – even out of the trunk of my car! To date I have raised $21,555 with the sale of Beads4Dreams jewelry.
I have met so many incredible people through this project. For example, while at a local Connecticut Apple Festival last October a lovely African woman came into my booth. She was quietly looking at all of the jewelry and information I had set out. She finally said to me that she was from Uganda and knew of Kiwoko Hospital! She was here because three years prior she had come to visit and had gotten very ill. It was discovered that she had cancer and needed treatment. She is now a survivor and is soon going to return to her home in Uganda. She kept thanking me for what I am doing and even wanted to take my picture to share my story with the people back home. What a small world.
I returned to Kiwoko in May of 2010 to join in the grand opening ceremony for the new NICU and Maternity Ward that Aspen and ISIS have helped to fund. While there I saw some of the same children that I met in 2008. It was wonderful to see how well they were doing due to the great work being done at the hospital. I also was able to personally meet the women who make the beautiful paper beads for my project. Being able to go to Uganda twice now has not only fulfilled a life-long dream, but has also impacted my life greatly. I feel so connected to the people there and want to help in any way I can.
My goal is to continue with this project with hopes that it is positively impacting the children and families at Kiwoko Hospital. I also hope to inspire others to think about helping those less fortunate. One of my favorite quotes is by Desmond Tutu:
“Everyone of us has the potential to do something that will make a difference.”
I wholeheartedly believe that this is true. Just one small random act of kindness can impact the life of someone. It doesn’t have to cost anything but a little of your time.
If you’re interested in learning more about Beads4Dreams, connect with Susan on Facebook.
Guest Blogger Susan Cannarella started Beads4Dreams a small non-profit making and selling jewelry made from paper beads handcrafted by women in Uganda as a means to support their families. All proceeds from the sale of this jewelry go to Kiwoko Hospital in Luwero, Uganda to benefit their HIV/AIDs program for children in the community.