Do you love being part of something meaningful? Bulungi Beads is a collection of paper bead jewelry handmade by hardworking women from Uganda, Africa. Bulungi means “good” or “beautiful”, but the beauty is about their purpose, not just the pieces.
The concept of giving back has always been important to me as a mom trying to teach my children how to care for others. So, for my daughter Emma’s senior year in high school, we joined a Social Delegation with the Peace for Paul Foundation and took our first trip to Uganda in East Africa. Our goal was to help build playgrounds and to distribute medical supplies to expectant mothers in maternity hospitals. We accomplished that, but it was the trip to Masese, a small slum village, that really impacted us.
It’s hard to describe what this impoverished village is like. Its population is approximately 30,000 people, most are refugees displaced from Northern Uganda and surrounding countries due to violence and terrorism. The village sits right next to a landfill with piles of garbage right in the village in which animals eat and children play. Despite the poor living conditions, I found the residents of Masese to be extremely warm, happy and creative and was amazed by the paper beads this community hand-made.
The Peace for Paul Foundation (PFP) is a non-profit organization that fights hunger, fear and rejection by providing a home, education and loving family atmosphere to the beautiful smiling faces of many Ugandan children. Their primary focus is providing education and enabling the children who enter the program to break the cycle of poverty. PFP was founded in 2009 and now cares for over 130 children, many of them formerly living in Masese. Although most of the children in PFP are orphans, some still have an auntie or other relative who remain in the village. Bulungi Beads (part of The Peace for Paul Foundation) partners with these female relatives by purchasing their handcrafted paper beads to support their growing businesses and their families.
Meeting them inspired me to help give them a chance to climb out of extreme poverty. I decided to manage the Bulungi Beads Etsy shop and help sell the necklaces, bracelets, earrings and bags at local Craft Fairs in Maui, Oregon and Washington (with the help of other volunteers). All profits are sent back to the women and to the PFP program to help pay for food, clothing, school tuition and supplies. Uganda has an unemployment rate of 80% and over 50% of the population is under the age of 15. Statistics like these are not just numbers, they represent a very difficult reality for many families struggling in ways most of us will never comprehend.
Peace For Paul hosts Social Delegations three times a year where you can travel to Uganda and meet the PFP children in their homes, participate in community service projects, visit Masese, and learn firsthand how the paper beads are made. Bulungi Beads however is a great way to get involved without leaving Maui! There are volunteer opportunities to help at craft fairs, host a home party, sponsor a child and help with marketing and fundraising. Because our organization is all about kids, we encourage young people to get involved and volunteer. My own daughter was 17 on her first visit with PFP, but children much younger have gone and made an impact!
Bulungi Beads make for a beautiful and meaningful gift this holiday season. You can find Bulungi Beads on Instagram, Facebook, and at our Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/BulungiBeads. To learn more about the Peace for Paul Foundation, including the many ways you can get involved and support this amazing 501c3 Non-Profit organization, please visit: www.peaceforpaulfoundation.org
Image Credit: https://www.etsy.com/shop/BulungiBeads