From the Leadership Institute Symposium on Social Change
Author: Alyson Eller
When I left the leadership institute at the end of the summer, my action plan dealt with teenage pregnancy, specifically, how to make shelters for teenage mothers feel more like home, and how to raise awareness about practicing sage sex so there are less teenage parents. From July through the end of November, I emailed and called the director of the shelter multiple times, never getting a response. Finally, I realized that my action plan had been a big flop, and decided to rewrite it. I was talking to the advisor of my school’s Model United Nations, and she told me about BeadforLife, an organization that creates sustainable opportunities for women to lift their families out of extreme poverty by connecting people worldwide in a circle of exchange that enriches everyone. I rewrote my action plan, and am working hard to have success.
My action plan addresses extreme poverty in Uganda. BeadforLife employs women to make and sell the beads they make. The goal is for the people employed by BeadforLife to be independent within 27 months by being able to support themselves within the Ugandan economy. To assist members in launching their own small businesses or in creating new revenue streams, BeadforLife provides entrepreneurial training, facilitates savings accounts, and makes business funds available.
BeadforLife spreads its mission primarily by selling beads and having people host bead parties. So far, I have three planned. I am having two in May, one at my mom’s house and one at my dad’s, and one at the beginning of the next school year through the Model UN club. The first party was planned for mid-March, but it was pushed back to May because of the recent death of my grandmother, who I lived with. I also plan to use the BeadforLife curriculum in at least tenth grade, when students learn current events. I am also hoping to use the curriculum in sixth grade classrooms.
So far I have done a lot of research about BeadforLife. I have also planned my two bead parties. Less progress has been made on my action plan than I had hoped due to the change in my action plan and, as previously mentioned, the death of my grandmother.
I am not working with too many people on my action plan. My mom has been a big help in my action plan; she has provided a lot of encouragement. She is my cheerleader, and helped me rewrite my action plan when the first one did not succeed at all. Another adult that has been a big help is my Model UN advisor Georgiena Robinson. She provided the inspiration for my new action plan simply by showing me a bracelet produced by the BeadforLife workers and telling me their goal. Right now I am not working with any other students or adults, but I imagine that club members will play a big role in next year’s BeadforLife party at school.
My action plan has taught me a few very important things about myself. I realized that I communicate better by email, probably because I am a better writer than a speaker. However, I learned that I need to work on my phone skills, because that is the way to grab people’s attentions. I also learned that I am more determined than I thought, especially when it comes to something I am passionate about – usually, I give up quickly when something doesn’t go as planned. So far, my action plan probably hasn’t had an effect on anyone else, but I think it will in the near future. I hope to make people think about the women in Uganda who can barely afford to live while we complain about things like “not having anything to wear” when, in fact, we have a whole closet full of clothes. I know that by hosting these bead parties, I will be impacting the lives of people in Uganda.
Simply knowing that I will be making a difference in people’s lives motivates me to work on my action plan. Also, people in my school are very ignorant of what is going on in the world, so educating them motivates me. I am determined and do not like to leave something incomplete, so I hope to have completed my action plan by the end of next year, before I go to college.