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Are You Truly Connected? by Kelly Sharp

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Connection. The word is used a lot in yoga. But it doesn’t just mean connecting to our own bodies. It means connecting to the world around us.

1.2 billion people worldwide live in extreme poverty, defined by the World Bank as living on less than $1.25 a day – an amount that, let’s face it, covers about four minutes of a drop-in yoga class. So how do we connect meaningfully with something that feels so far away?

BeadforLife, founded in 2004 by Devin Hibbard, Torkin Wakefield and Ginny Jordan, tackles this question head-on with its innovative approach to poverty eradication.

HOW IT WORKS

Ugandan women join BeadforLife as members in an 18-month program, where they generate short-term income as well as launch businesses that will sustain them long into the future.

“BeadforLife is about opportunity, not handouts,” says Hibbard. “These women are incredibly capable and hard-working – they just need a chance.”

Members roll paper beads, gather shea nuts, weave baskets and more. BeadforLife pays above-market prices for these products, enabling members to meet their immediate needs and save to start a small business. Members also receive entrepreneurial training, hands-on mentorship and support from staff and other group members.

“Giving women the tools to lift themselves and their families out of poverty allows them to move forward with dignity – and it allows us to help more women each year,” says Hibbard.

The model is incredibly successful: 81% of women who start a business in a BeadforLife program still have that business two years after graduating.

And it doesn’t stop in Uganda. BeadforLife products are sold largely through volunteer-hosted events in communities around the world. These events provide a forum for education and awareness about extreme poverty, as well as a chance for women all over the world to connect and take action in a meaningful way. They also allow the organization to remain 90% self-funded.

HOW YOGIS HELP

The tie to yoga practice is beautifully intuitive. In fact, yogis have raised over $40,000 for the organization.

“Holding a Bead Party at our yoga studio seemed completely natural,” says Katie Zonoff, a yogi and Bead Party host in Bainbridge, Washington. “People who do yoga are looking for a way to spread the peaceful energy that they create in class out into the world. BeadforLife made it easy for yogis at our studio to create a positive connection with these women in Uganda.”

beadforlife.org

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