Thursday, May 1, 2014

Beading for a different cause - Senhoa Foundation in Cambodia

Two weeks ago and on Wednesday I wrote about the Bead-It-Forward project and the item assembly night that was held at Kalmbach.  I explained that the proceeds from selling all of the donated items will go towards breast cancer research.

On Thursday I went back to Kalmbach for a presentation about two organizations - one local and one in Cambodia.  Both have similar missions - to help women and children who come from impoverished and/or abusive backgrounds improve their lots in life through a number of different programs.

The local organization is The Women's Center of Waukesha.  Their mission is to "provide safety, shelter, and support to women and their families affected by domestic violence, sexual assault and abuse, and to facilitate their development."  Here's what they offer, directly from their website: "The Women’s Center offers free and comprehensive services including domestic violence, sexual assault, and abuse counseling, an emergency domestic violence shelter, a 24-hour hotline, free on-site child care, legal advocacy, transitional living, and life skills programming that includes employment, parenting and grandparents support groups, educational forums and advocacy."  It would be nice if centers like this in Waukesha and all over the country weren't needed, but unfortunately they are.  If you can, donate to or volunteer at the center in your area.  If you need help yourself, don't hesitate to reach out to them.

The rest of Thursday's presentation was given by Lisa Nguyen of the Senhoa Foundation in Cambodia.  Their mission is very similar to the Women's Center of Waukesha's mission, but it has an extra edge to it:  "Senhoa Foundation supports vulnerable persons & survivors of human trafficking by providing income-generating opportunities, social reintegration and programs for self-empowerment."  Here's something from the Problem page of the Senhoa website:  "Women and children are predominately trafficked for the purpose of forced labor, domestic work, and sex work. Individuals are usually sold or stolen by family members, friends, and strangers."  She told us about how girls' virginities are sold by their parents so they have money to survive.

Lisa showed us a video - I think it was this one - and I had tears in my eyes seeing what's going on there.  The video also shows how the Foundation helps, including the reason why the presentation was given at Kalmbach: in one of the programs they have, women make beautiful jewelry using Swarovski crystals.  That part of the video starts around 2:39.  Lisa explained that making basic jewelry is an easy skill to acquire, not requiring literacy (many of these women are illiterate), and the women gain confidence and self-worth through handling the beads, making jewelry, and having the pieces be sold.

She brought some of the jewelry and passed it around.  It was stunning.  There were pieces with chain, metal, wire, and stitching.  The stitched pieces included beaded bezels and peyote tubes.  In the boutique's main page you can see a gorgeous necklace that's all beaded bezels - silver beads around large black crystals.  She passed that one around, and it was breathtaking.

I'm not going to go into more detail.  Their website can do a far better job than I can.  You can read all about what the foundation does and how you can get involved, either by purchasing items from the boutique, by donating, or by volunteering.

At the very least, you have to check out the boutique to see all of their beautiful pieces.  You'll marvel at how women can come from such humble backgrounds and make such amazing jewelry.  The breathtaking bezeled necklace is Kelly, and we also saw Angelina (which also got lots of oohs and aahs), Chantrea, and a few other pieces.  I really like the Solidarity pendant necklace.  It's elegant but simple enough to wear every day.  Like Lisa said during the presentation, whenever someone compliments you on a piece of Senhoa jewelry, you have the opportunity to explain where it came from and hopefully get someone else involved.

This is the second program like this I've been to since I joined the Loose Bead Society of Greater Milwaukee.  The first was Beads of Hope Africa.  In that presentation, we were told about women who were breaking rocks for a living (among all kinds of other things that were going on - please read this page for their mission and background).  Beads of Hope Africa works with them to make beautiful paper beads, and those beads are assembled into jewelry and sold all over the world.  You can see and order their jewelry and other items here.

With each of these presentations, I'm struck with how lucky I am.  Yeah, I have a lot of health and financial problems, but I live in a nice house with a nice husband and have a nice family and three nice cats (although Pixel has been interfering with my writing by constantly getting on and off my lap).  I bead for a living, but for the most part I'm able to put all of the money right back into the business.  I'm dependent on Steve, but that's okay.  He loves me and will always take care of me.

Hearing about these organizations that help women become independent through making jewelry is humbling.  I look at my life and think I'm really not contributing much to society.  I teach people stitching techniques and how to stitch my designs, but it's not on the same level at all.  Steve and I aren't able to help support any of the organizations I've talked about financially - it's all we can do to keep our heads above water.  It's the same with volunteering.  If I could do anything more than I currently do, I would.  It all looks like excuses as I'm typing, but it's really true.

However, I'm also inspired.  If those women can pull themselves out of their circumstances and have better lives, then maybe I can do the same.

In the meantime, what I can do is encourage you to look into these programs and organizations, to help where you can (jewelry and beaded items always make great presents, and buying gifts from such worthy causes will increase the value in your recipients' eyes), and to share the information with your family and friends so they can help out, too.  It's like that 80's Faberge shampoo commercial, "And they'll tell two friends and so on and so on and so on!"

So that's what I can do.  What can you do?  I'd love to post pictures of you and your Beads of Hope Africa or Senhoa jewelry.  E-mail pictures to, and I'll post them!

To keep you from scrolling around looking for links, here are the organizations and programs I've talked about the last few days:

Bead-It Forward
Beads of Hope Africa
Senhoa Foundation
The Women's Center of Waukesha

1 comment:

  1. WIsh I could have made that presentation. Glad you shared what happened.