Lauren, one of my high school friends (she was two years younger than me and on the dance team with me) started her own non-profit organization. She is such an amazing and beautiful young woman, inside and out, and I asked her to share her story with you!
Be The Joy, Inc
Starting a non-profit organization has taught me responsibility, boldness, empathy, and true joy! It has been such a blessing, and I love sharing the story on how Be The Joy transformed from a small idea to a true movement for positive change.
It all started in 2009 when I first went to Uganda on a mission trip with my family through my church. It wasn’t hard to fall in love with the people there- their smiles were contagious and their welcome was genuine. As I walked up and down the dusty streets in the ghetto, I was greeted by women with hugs and kisses…and jewelry. Every hut I entered was filled with beautiful jewelry made out of paper beads. The women spend all day making the beads out of magazines and other trash, transforming them into beautiful necklaces and bracelets.
During that first trip I also met a young girl named Filda, who was 13 at the time. She was such a strong, joyful girl. She needed someone to pay for her school fees, since the fees can be up to $125 per trimester, and most of the country lives on less than $1 per day. I promised her I would find a way to sponsor her, and give her the hope she needed.
On the plane ride back home, I kept thinking- how could I help these women and girls I had met? The answer was right around my wrist. I would sell their jewelry in the US in order to sustain their small crafts businesses, while also raising money for girls’ school fees through the profits.
I had brought back some jewelry with me, so I started selling it to my friends. Everyone I showed loved the unique colors and styles. I immediately figured out a way to get more jewelry to the states, and my little business took off. I started having trunk shows in my friends houses at Texas A&M, setting up booths at benefit concerts, and built a website to sell online. Not long after this I officially became a 501 (c) 3 Non-profit, and business flourished. I was featured in several magazines at A&M and in the surrounding area. People were eager to offer support to the women in girls in Uganda who needed it the most.
3 years later, I am sponsoring 34 girls in middle school and high school, and 4 girls at the University in Kampala. I have been back to Uganda twice, where I get to visit all the girls who are in school because of Be The Joy. Their hearts are so beautiful, and know that their future is bright because of their opportunity to go to school. Also, women from the ghetto who make the jewelry are now able to provide for their families because of my business, and it is so rewarding to share their talents across countries.
Be The Joy started simply with my desire to help these beautiful Ugandan women and girls, and it has grown into a business that has changed my life and had a huge impact! There are times when the road has been rough, but it is worth it when you look into the faces of girls like Filda who are filled with joy because of the opportunity they have been given.
I hope that one day Be The Joy can support an entire community of women and a whole school of girls. After that, my dream would be to open a girls’ school! Until then, I will focus on sponsoring more and more girls, while supporting the women who create the jewelry.
If you have an idea or passion that you would like to pursue through a non-profit.- go for it! It is such a rewarding experience and you will be surprised how many people are willing support a good cause and offer help. No idea is too small to become a movement. You never know how you can be the joy in someone else’s life!
To support girls’ education and womens’ businesses in Uganda, please go to www.bethejoy.com !
I love my Be The Joy Shirt! Comfy, cute and for a great cause!