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Sustainable skills and an entrepreneurial outlook are the foundations of our jewelry-making projects around the world.


The name Sishemo means mercy. “We chose it because it means something. We didn’t think we would be here. God chose us and showed mercy on us,” says Audrey Ngenda. Audrey is one of six women who were supported to launch and run Sishemo Studio, a jewelry-making business in the community of Nakatindi in Zambia. Now 11-strong, the team of women melt down glass from discarded bottles to make beads, creating necklaces, earrings and bracelets that they sell to visitors of A&K’s Sanctuary Sussi & Chuma lodge, not far from Nakatindi.

The women sing as they work to show others they are a team and hoot with laughter about which alcohol bottles make the best beads. “I like Bombay Sapphire,” says Audrey, “for the blue color and having to drink it first.” Elizabeth likes Jameson for the green it creates, and Hellen prefers Amarula bottles for their rich brown tone. Their mood is jovial and reflective. “Some of us didn’t complete our education because of money. Our parents couldn’t afford the fees so we were doing nothing until A&K came up with the idea to support us. We did the training for six months to make the beads and now we can make 300 beads a day.”

For centuries, jewelry making has held cultural significance from both a decorative and crafting perspective as well as an economic one. AKP’s beadmaking projects in Africa tap into this significance, supplying training in traditional crafts and then jobs from jewelry sales, all while repurposing commonly found or discarded materials from our lodges.

In similar beadmaking projects across Botswana, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, nearly 40 women have been taught how to refine their beadmaking skills and set up small enterprises selling their work. They are taught by Cedi Nomoda, a master beadmaker from Ghana, who trains women over a three-week period and returns later to check on progress. The training includes learning how to select glass for making beads, then crushing and heating the glass before reshaping it into beads and turning them into bracelets, earrings and necklaces.

And these homespun projects are gathering momentum. Fifteen makers in Buhoma Village, adjacent to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, have branched out, creating beads out of the paper from recycled magazines. Since launching, the women have been inundated with orders; in the first two months they took home more than US$200 each, which is twice the average income in the Bwindi region. The paper-bead bracelets have become a global hit, with thousands of bracelets sold at Nordstrom stores in the U.S. Given the success of the paper-beadmaking enterprise, the plan is to expand production to Zambia at Nakatindi community, to Botswana at the village of Lesoma and to Tanzania in association with the new AKP-funded Women’s Empowerment Center at Karatu.

AKP has worked in partnership with local organizations around the world to launch multiple bead projects. Together, they deliver training on basic accounting, record keeping, sales and marketing and saving to ensure staff reap the long-term benefits. A&K funds the training and the equipment. And our guests enjoy visiting, not only to buy the beautiful jewelry but also to forge connections between maker and customer, building the links that are such an important pillar of our philanthropic work.



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