22STARS jewellery is founded by Stella Romana Airoldi who has designed most pieces herself and made them together with Ugandan artisans to empower them to rise above poverty. The designs are inspired by Stella’s nomadic travels around the world and in particular her adventures in more than 20 countries in Africa. Each piece of jewellery is hand-crafted from 100% recycled paper by one of forty 22STARS empowered women. We buy old posters, bottle labels and magazines, then the artisans cut the paper in triangle shapes of various sizes, roll them up, glue them and varnish them! Every bead is waterproof, shiny and hard. Once the beads are ready the designing starts! After that Stella finds a market for the jewellery in and outside of Uganda. So far we sell the jewellery in more than 10 countries worldwide, and we are happy if you like to become a wholesaler as well.
“Our products are hand-made from recycled paper!”
This product-based model empowered our families in the slums of Kampala and Jinja since 2013 and helped us carrying out our social programs on the ground. The 22STARS artisans and their families fled during the war with the LRA from Northern Uganda to Kampala and faced many challenges; many of them are illiterate, hiv positive and traumatized. 22STARS enables them to get their self-respect back and earn a living for their families.
Every time you make a purchase, you are supporting the work of our talented artisans in Uganda who proudly hand crafted every piece for you, and whose name and card you will find attach to your jewellery. Look up your artisan’s name and send her a message through our website, or even meet her in person if you travel to Uganda.
“We are empowering artisans in Uganda and help children in need!”
Thanks to our fans the 22STARS artisans were able to send their children to school and some of them even went back to school themselves, like Susan Laker. Once Susan got fluent in English she became our project manager in Kampala. Since, we’ve seen first-hand the difference that an education makes, Susan Laker and myself wanted to help even more children through a new educational project and expand our successful social programs. While we still make jewellery with 40 artisans, we additionally launched the FOUNDATION 22STARS, in 2017 to carry out our social programs on a larger scale. We support over 200 children and create long-term sponsorships for children in Uganda, and also run several community development initiatives
“Education is the best way to fight poverty and disease”
When you make a purchase, you thus are not only supporting our artisans, but also children in need. For every product that you purchase we make directly a donation to the FOUNDATION 22STARS, to provide essentials such as a meal, pens, clothes and dental care to children in need.
Thank you for your support!
Stella Romana Airoldi
Making jewellery from 100% recycled paper!
All our jewellery is hand made from paper and varnished with natural products This makes each peace uniquely different: lightweight and waterproof. Many of the papers are also finely textured, which will add a little extra to the resulting bead. Our designers start with ideas, or we provide them with designs on paper. Then they buy old magazines and posters in the colours they want in a small warehouse in Kampala. In addition to the paper our designers need to buy other materials as well, such as clasps, glass beads, wooden handles, spirals, strings, glue and varnish. When the designers have the right paper, they use a pencil and ruler to measure the paper and mark it up. Then they cut out pieces in a triangular shape. A bit of glue is put on top of the triangle and then the paper is rolled up around a needle. It needs a lot of practice to master this procedure the process to ensure symmetry in the beads is very time consuming. To make paper beads with different shapes the designers vary the size and shape of the paper triangle: the colour combinations and sizes achievable are endless! When they have a whole string with paper beads together they vanish them a few times to make them waterproof and shiny. Once the beads are ready, they are beaded together with different colour glass beads creating beautiful designs.
Our mission is to fight poverty and diseases with education and entrepreneurship. We do this by designing and selling high quality jewellery made with respect for the environment and the people that make them. We work side-by-side with our two group of artisans who live in the slum areas of Kampala and Jinja (Uganda). By giving our artisans a plan to market and sell their products internationally they are able to earn money for food, housing, medicine and school fees in addition they participate in our social programs on the ground.
Our values are: * Get rid of the box! * Be transparent and honest * And Care about the environment and people!
How we started
In 2009 Stella Romana Airoldi visited Uganda for the first time to do research for her International Law thesis about Girl child soldiers within the LRA. She met women living in the Acholi Quarter of Kampala; a camp for internally displaced persons who fled from the war in Northern Uganda many years ago. She was touched by the stories of the Acholi women and very impressed by their artistic skills to make beautiful jewellery out of recycled paper. Every year she orded some jewellery to give to her friends and family. In 2012 she went back to Uganda to see how the women she met years before were doing. She saw the impact that she made by purchasing the jewelry of the women: some of them build a bigger house, others paid their medicine bill, while others went back to school. Stella decided to use her own creativity to help those ladies design, market and sell their products on the international market to make an even bigger impact. In 2013 Stella launched the 22STARS Webshop and by the end of 2014 she went working fully for the project. In 2015 we started with a second group of women to make jewellery, who live in the Danida slum in Jinja. And in 2017 Stella launched the 22STARS foundation, sending more than 200 children to school longterm and providing them with development programs.
Meaning of 22STARS
Since the founder of 22STARS, Stella, was little girl 22 had always been her lucky number and she loves sleeping under the stars. In some Myths 22 is potentially the most successful of all numbers and it can turn the most ambitious dreams into reality. Stars symbolize how everything is interconnected in this world. Whether we live in Europe or in Africa, we all can see the stars. For our artisans in Uganda stars mean hope, guidance, protection and balance. We also want you to turn your dreams into reality! Hopefully our jewellery and stories will inspire you to reach for the stars!
About our artisans
Every hand-crafted piece you purchase is made by one of the 22STARS empowered women, and 100% of product sales are reinvested in the social mission to empower them and their families in Uganda and help children in need. The designs are made by Stella Romana Airoldi together with the women in Uganda. Our choice for environmentally friendly products is a very conscious one. By using 100% recycled paper, the jewellery you wear does not only look good, but it also feels good. Our beads are hand made from paper and varnished with natural products. This makes each peace uniquely different, lightweight and waterproof. Our two dedicated teams of artisans are made up by strong women living in the slums of Kampala and Jinja in Uganda. They had to overcome many challenges in their life. Most of them have had no education, are affected by HIV/AIDS and fled from war. Some of the designers are still a bit shy, while others are proud and confident. But they have one thing in common: they all carry a big smile. Their support and help for each other is beautiful. They form an incredible source of creativity, energy and positive power producing these wonderful pieces of jewellery. They are truly inspiring for anyone who wants to reach for the stars.
The Project in the Acholi Quarters
We believe that to really empower people to provide for themselves they need more than only a market for their jewellery. And this is especially the case for the Acholi Quarters, it is really a challenge working with designers who have no phone, no email address, had little education, are HIV positive, war traumatized, cannot read and write, speak only Acholi and have very large families. Part of our net profit will therefor be used to finance our 22STARS projects, educating our designers and their children; they receive English lessons, learn about Income Generating Activities (IGA), get social support, health education and music, dance and drama classes. As 22STARS is still a small business we provide the following activities only occasionally and not as often as we would like to. Therefore if you like to donate to our program or are interested in volunteering and helping us with the following program, please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Jewellery designing: Our designers made already beautiful jewellery from recycled paper, however we are training them on making new designs and improving their quality. Using different types of paper and making different styles of beads. Only by making unique high quality designs they are able to sell on the highly competitive jewellery market. Also we help them with the pricing of the jewellery. As some paper is way more expensive for them to buy then other kind of paper we explain them for which designs which material is the best to use. We give them an insight in marketing and selling strategies and show them how to have a smart business. Of course some of our designers prefer to only roll paper beads, and tell us that it is for them too difficult to learn new designs. We respect this and of course we let them stay in our program and make sure they can do the work they like so they will still be able to earn money for their families.
- Adult literacy program:Uganda’s official languages are English and Swahili. However, most of our designers have never had the opportunity to learn English, because they could not afford to get an education. They mostly speak only Acholi, a language spoken in Northern Uganda. During times of war in the North our designers fled to Kampala, and started living with all other Acholi in an IDP camp: the Acholi Quarters. However, the people in Kampala do not speak Acholi, but English or their local language Luganda. So therefore the Acholi people are highly discriminated against. The language barrier severely restricts their chances of having a good career. To change this situation, we will offer them English lessons. Also most of our designers do not know how to write and read, as they grow up during times of war, they never went to school. We help them improve on their reading and writing skills, that at least they can start recognizing numbers and are able to place their signature under payment bills.
- Income generating Activities (IGA): Most of our designers live in the Acholi Quarter in extreme poverty and have little understanding of how to save money, budget their family’s needs or how to open a bank account. They need training in how to save their money and how to set goals for the future. We teach them how to invest their savings in other income generating activities. We want them to be able to join an existing business beyond 22STARS or to start their own business next to the bead making. For example Beatrice started to buy chicken and sell their eggs; Susan learned how to farm land and is selling her products, and Atim is saving up money for a bigger hairdryer to improve her business as hairdresser. We will teach them income generating activities (IGA) like poultry farming, piggery, and modern farming techniques and guiding them in the process of identifying their talents and skills.
- Social support: Our designers live in extreme circumstances and have lost many family members. They have suffered abuse and are traumatized by the effects of the war. So we want to make sure that they receive psychological, mental and emotional help. What is revealed heals, but what is hidden kills. It is a very powerful therapy that somebody is there that listens to your stories. Our counsellors Moses and David both have experience in HIV/Aids counselling; they provide the designers with advice and guidance on how to stay healthy and take their medicines. Aida is available to women for one-to-one counselling about issues they don’t feel comfortable to share with men or in a group. When the women share their stories with each other they can see that others had the same sufferings and struggles and they can encourage each other and give advice. Beatrice for example has been living with Aids since 30 years now. She helps other young women who have just discovered that they are HIV positive how they can live with it in a positive way and that it doesn’t mean the end.
- Health Education: In addition to the social support we also educate our designers on health. Many of the women have been sick or have children who are sick. Besides medicine they often lack information about various health topics such as nutrition, prenatal care, Aids/HIV, hygiene, and family planning. In addition there are several “Reach-Out” organizations close to where the ladies live, that provide free counseling and medicine for HIV/Aids. We encourage the women to go there.
- Music, Dance and Drama (MDD) classes: All our designers shared with us that what they really love is singing and dancing. So we offer them music, dance and drama classes. This enables them to relax, reducing their worries and rising the hope to live. This is a fun time for all the women and their children and it is also a time of sharing and healing for the women.
History of Uganda
All our artisans live in Uganda: a country on the equator in East Africa. It is enclosed by South Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania and Congo-Kinshasa. Since its independence in 1962 from the United Kingdom, it has know a violent history. The country’s history is tainted by people such as Idi Amin, who in the 70’s made hundreds of thousands of victims, and Joseph Kony who terrorized the North of Uganda between 1988 and 2006 with his Lord’s Resistance Army, consisting mainly of child soldiers, and who is still active in the neighbouring countries.
There is peace in Uganda now and we can even see a little progress, but the consequences of the violence in the Northern regions are still felt every day and make returning impossible. During the war, thousands of people fled to the South of Uganda. Many of these refugees ended up in Internal Displaced Person’s Camps (IDP’s). One of those camps, which is located just outside the capital Kampala, is known as the Acholi Quarter where 10.000 people live. The camp is named because the majority of people come from Acholiland in the North. Most of our 22STARS designers live here.
It is rarely being called a camp anymore, it is regarded more as a neighborhood. There are shops, barbershops, cafés and bars. Everything in miniature format for the space in the quarter is very limited. In that respect the Acholi Quarter is a neighbourhood like any other one. But unfortunately, this neighbourhood is nothing more than a piece of land that was given by the king to his people out of generosity. The district is overcrowded and occasionally cholera epidemics break out. There are neglected children walking around and there is a lot of drunkenness in the small main street. And just as in most slums and other IDP’s, sanitary facilities are completely inadequate, people suffer psychological traumas, there is a lack of education, a lot of people suffer from HIV and aids, there is no infrastructure, and the streets are littered with waste. Most of the houses are not more than hovels. Only 1 in 4000 houses have electricity and even less have running water. When it rains the whole area turns into a big mess because of its location on a hill, where the water keeps running down.
Because of the lack of opportunities a lot of women are forced to earn their living breaking rocks under very bad working conditions. Their daily wage is the equivalence of about 75 euro cents. They don’t earn enough to pay for health insurance, education or to save up for the future. They hardly earn enough to pay for their basic necessities such as food and shelter. It is virtually impossible to escape this poverty, with their biggest concern that without education their children await the same fate. But, surprisingly, also in these Acholi Quarters you will find a lot of energetic positive minded women, fighting for a better future for themselves and their children. Among these women are the 22STARS designers creating beautiful jewellery out of 100% recycled paper. We help them with support, education and a way to market their products internationally.
Besides the group of designers in the Acholi Quarter, we started working with a second group of very talented and inspirational designers in the Danida slum in Jinja, in Eastern Uganda. This group exists of about 20 women who are all part of a women’s group of the church of god. They all live in Danida in Jinja; one of the poorest slums in that area. Most of the women were born there, some others moved to this area. Because the jewellery market is that small for them they also have little jobs next to the making of the jewellery. They are struggling to earn enough money to put on food on the table and have a bright future. Therefore we want to provide them with a larger market so they can fully sustain from the jewellery business. The team leader of the group divides the orders amongst the women equally. Every woman buys the material for her own order. Then also the rolling, fixing and varnishing is done by every group member herself. The ladies do not only make jewellery for the market, but they also love to wear the jewellery themselves. Especially on Sunday’s when they dress up for the church they love to wear some of their own pieces.