For years, Mary Baldwin University students have sold bright, beautiful necklaces, bracelets, and earrings on behalf of Ugandan women through a venture called BeadforLife . On Thursday, the co-founder of that unique organization will visit campus to talk about the success of a program that combines business and poverty eradication efforts.
Torkin Wakefield has helped BeadforLife — which focuses on women who live on one dollar a day — grow into a robust, non-profit endeavor that is rapidly expanding in Uganda, North America, Europe, and beyond. Through steady income, savings, training, and microfinance grants, women are opening small businesses and leaving extreme poverty.
Over the last four years, the college has generated $5,364 to help women, families, and communities in Uganda through Mary Baldwin’s BeadforLife participation and sales, according to Associate Professor of Business Administration Claire Kent.
“The impact of an organization such as BeadforLife is huge; the organization demonstrates an incredible model in action,” Kent said. “Students and others in the Mary Baldwin community can see that overwhelming challenges such as world hunger and homelessness can be tackled one step at a time by developing creative models and engaging others to be part of positive movement.”
In addition to her work in BeadforLife, Wakefield has helped start many organizations including The People’s Clinic, a medical center for the poor; AIDS, Medicine, and Miracles, a national conference for people living with HIV; and The World Sits Down to Dinner, a theatrical, experiential event about food security. Wakefield served with the Peace Corps in India and worked in Nepal, Mexico, Kenya, Uganda, and Italy. She is also the former mayor of Gold Hill, Colorado. She earned her undergraduate degree from University of California, Berkeley, and her master’s degree from University of North Carolina.
A bead sale begins at 12:30 p.m. inside Hunt Gallery, followed by Wakefield’s public talk at 1 p.m. The bead sale will resume until 2:30 p.m. Wakefield’s visit is part of the Smyth Business Lecture series, made possible by the late Mary Baldwin Trustee H. Gordon Smyth and his wife, Mary Beth Reed Smyth ’47.
“Our local community can have a significant impact on women and families across the globe through hosting bead parties and educating others about poverty eradication through the power of intentional involvement in social entrepreneurism,” Kent said.