Church youth group helping Ugandan women

Argen Duncan

A group of Portales teenagers is reaching out to struggling women a world away.

The First United Methodist Church youth group is learning about living conditions in Uganda and working to help a group of women there by selling beads the women made.

They’re participating in the BeadforLife program, which provides Ugandan women with an opportunity to make beads and jewelry or shea butter products to sell. The women use the earnings to start small businesses and support themselves and their families, according to the organization’s website.

“I think it’ll just feel really good to help someone in need,” said youth group member Maranda Stone, a freshman.

The youth group is planning a “BeadParty” to raise money for the women in the program. They intend to sell the jewelry the women made from colorful recycled paper, display pictures of the women, show the BeadforLife website and give out refreshments provided by the United Methodist Women.

The bracelets, earrings and necklaces range in price from $5 to $35, and loose beads will also be for sale, said BeadforLife coordinator JoBeth Massey. All proceeds are earmarked for the BeadforLife participants in Uganda.

The youth have ordered 500 pieces of jewelry.

Massey said most of the BeadforLife women are raising children or grandchildren single-handedly and have HIV or have lost someone to the disease. The young women often use their earnings to get training in fields such as nursing or culinary arts, while older women often buy housing to pass on to their families, she said.

Church Youth Director Gretchen Legler said BeadforLife has a curriculum that teaches youth about conditions in Uganda, such as poverty and disease. She plans to have them hold a 30-hour fast in February to let them see what hunger is like.

“Pretty much, you want to rub it in our faces how good we have it,” youth group member Sam Rice, a high school senior, joked to Legler.

Massey said the youth group, for sixth- to 12th-graders, will start the curriculum in October. King’s Kids, a group for second- to fifth-graders, is already working on part of the material.

“It’s really easy to get on the bandwagon and help someone you know, but this is someone you’ll never meet,” said Massey.

The youth, however, are enthusiastic.

The project started when Massey found an article about BeadforLife in a magazine, found the curriculum online and showed it to Legler. In turn, Legler took the BeadforLife information to the youth group.

“Everybody wanted to do it, all ages, boys and girls,” she said.

Rice said he hoped to gain “just the knowledge that people are willing to help other people still. Stone expected to get a perspective on her living conditions.

“We can actually know that in other places, it’s not how we have it. It’s worse, sometimes,” she said.