For over 20 years, the people of Northern Uganda faced the atrocities of warlord Joseph Kony and his rebel army, the LRA. The LRA was infamous for kidnapping children and forcing them to commit atrocities, even amongst their own people. Kony and his army were responsible for the abduction of over 20,000 children, the murder of over 100,000 civilians, and displacement of 1.5 million people within their reign of terror.
By 2006, the LRA was losing power due to intervention by global leaders and aid groups. Pader is a town within a district by the same name in Northern Uganda, and it was a camp for displaced people after the war. These camps, while helpful for keeping people safe from the rebel army, brought their own trials and tribulations in the form of abuse from corrupt leadership, disease, and STDs.
When Holly Williamson first visited Pader in 2013, she noticed the devastation that still permeated the community- isolation, distrust, and immense poverty. The women, who were often left widowed or abandoned, carried the heaviest burdens as they attempted to care for their families and community. After a local pastor made a plea for help, Holly prayerfully started The Women of Pader Uganda with The Bead Project, to offer employment and bring women together to work on a craft they already knew: paper beads.
It instantly became obvious that The Bead Project was more than just making jewelry. It fostered a sense of community, friendship, job skills, and hope. The women became eager for more opportunities, and in 2017, The Women of Pader Uganda (TWOPU) became an official 501c3 non-profit. From there, TWOPU has grown to offer more programs and projects, all focused in spiritual, business, leadership, economic, and agriculture development. Our heart in The Bead Project is to equip women to see their own potential, become business leaders, and ultimately create their own success stories!
Each purchase from The Bead Project enables us to continue our mission of bringing hope, healing, and empowerment to the people of Pader.
About The Bead Project by TWOPU
In 2013, founder Holly Williamson went on a mission trip to Pader, Uganda.
Pader is a Northern District in Uganda that is native to the Acholi people. For 20 years, the people of Northern Uganda faced the atrocities of a warlord named Joseph Kony and his guerilla army, called the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA.) The LRA was infamous for kidnapping children and forcing them to kill their families as initiation into their army. They were responsible for the abduction of over 20,000 children, the murder of over 100,000 civilians, and displacement of 1.5 million people.
When Holly visited Pader for the first time, only 7 years after the LRA had been run out of the area, she saw the effects that still remained from Kony's reign of terror. She saw the isolated women, the poverty, and the need/desire for work. As she interacted with the women more and more, she knew she wanted to help. Then a local pastor confirmed Pader's reality, showing her the levels of desperation and starvation in the community. Then she knew she had to help.
Holly didn't know exactly where to begin, so she met the women on their levels and started where they were: making paper bead jewelry. Affectionately nicknamed "Momma Holly" by the women, Holly continued to develop relationships and helped the women hone their craft. She connected with a local designer in Austin to collaborate modern trends with the traditional Ugandan beads and started selling the designs in the U.S. to raise money. The Bead Project was born.
For 7 years now, The Bead Project has been employing women in Pader and dreaming of how to equip the women to succeed beyond the program. In 2018 we started offering business training and microloans. Over 50 women have left The Bead Project and gone on to start their own businesses, bringing an added level of sustainability and growth to Pader. In addition to the business trainings and microloans, the women are taught ways to smart-invest their earnings according to Pader's economy.
The Bead Project is a part of Holly's 501(c)3 non-profit called The Women of Pader Uganda, which offers additional programs and resources to the ladies and the whole Pader community.
Our heart in The Bead Project is to equip women to see their own potential, become business leaders, and ultimately create their own success stories! Each purchase from The Bead Project enables us to continue our mission and bring hope to the people of Pader