Paper Beads And Melted Glass: Texan And African Women Make Jewelry, Earn A Living Wage

At last count, 450 stores in the U.S. sell Akola Jewelry.

By Courtney CollinsAugust 24, 2016 9:30 am

From KERA News

Akola Project jewelry is not your typical accessory. Vividly colored, the long bead necklaces are made of scrap materials – metal discs, melted glass, bone and cow horn.

Four hundred women in Uganda work on the project – carving the pieces and hand rolling the paper beads

Each of them care, on average, for seven children and three elderly adults.

“These women are subsistence farmers and don’t own their own land, so one bad harvest and their children starve and then they’re in debt to the local landowner,” says founder and CEO Brittany Underwood.

The Start Of A Journey 

Underwood launched this program after teaching at a Ugandan boarding school when she was still in college at Southern Methodist University. In Africa, she met Sarah, a poor woman caring for 24 street kids, even though she barely had enough to feed herself.

By the time Underwood graduated from SMU in 2006, she’d raised enough money to build a three-story orphanage in Uganda, with room for 180 children. She moved there to oversee the project and found women there, just really needed an income.

That’s how the jewelry project was born. It started small but quickly grew – at last count 450 stores in the U.S. sell Akola Jewelry.

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