The purchase of a $10 bracelet could have a far reaching ripple effect.
Kristi Blair, founder of Wings of Karen, partnered with Suzy Benson-Gillies, who founded African Promise Foundation, to create a bracelet which would benefit the work of both of their Maple Valley-based nonprofits.
Benson-Gillies explained that APF employs Ugandan women who were formerly refugees in the war torn region. The women make jewelry using recycled papers to create beads. The foundation employs 22 women currently.
“The women make the jewelry and we bring the jewelry back to the US and we sell it at a much higher cost,” Benson-Gillies said. “We provide employment for thousands of women each year putting money in their pockets so they can take care of their own children.”
Blair founded Wings of Karen to fight back after her mother, Karen, died from breast cancer which was followed by her own diagnosis. She works to raise money to donate directly 100 percent of all individual funds raised to the breast cancer research and clinical programs at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance as well as other organizations in the region.
Benson-Gillies and Blair met through a mutual friend, Daina Crowell, a photographer who has done volunteer work for both organizations. Blair explained both organizations which have goals which dovetail.
“They have very similar missions that they are trying to empower women,” Blair said. “They are a group of volunteers that do this allowing to give 100 percent back.”
That made it easy for Blair to team up with Benson-Gillies to develop a bracelet that could be sold to benefit both organizations.
This partnership also allows Blair to help Benson-Gillies make a difference in the best way she can.
“Before I was diagnoses with breast cancer, I was going to go to Uganda,” Blair said. “Breast cancer did not allow me to do that with my own diagnosis but I admire what Suzy is doing. She totally gives all of herself and that’s amazing. To find an organization like that is virtually unheard of.”
And Benson-Gillies noted that Blair’s mission is even more personal now that she knows one of the women she works with in Uganda was diagnosed with breast cancer this year.
Blair knew immediately it would be a good partnership. And it made sense to take the bracelet WOK offered but to take it to another level.
The bracelet features pink paper beads with a medallion in the center which features the WOK crane symbol cut out. The pair will start by selling 600, the first batch, locally as they work to help the process grow in Uganda.
“Once this bracelet takes off our plan is to travel to Uganda to set up the infrastructure to mass produce this bracelet and to tell the story,” Benson-Gillies said. “These people are the most humble, the most wonderful people and they do not have access to healthcare.”
Blair said this first batch of bracelet sales lays the groundwork for a bigger vision which will take time to realize.
“That’s why we need to go to Uganda and solidify the production of it,” Blair said. “And really help the women there and the women here. So, it’s a promise with wings bracelet.”
Benson-Gillies explained there are multiple benefits achieved with each bracelet sold.
“It’s really fourfold: the recipient gets a beautiful gift,” Benson-Gillies said. “The money stays here, third the women in Uganda have income to lift themselves out of poverty and fourth is part of the proceeds put kids in school.”
A bracelet with a promise lifted by wings.
“I want people to feel like when they are purchasing a bracelet, because that’s what it is, that they’re giving back to both of our foundations. It’s about empowering women. And it’s a symbol of hope.”