The women in the Acholi Quarter were introduced to paper bead jewelry by an Irish missionary who originally learned the technique from women in Kenya. The Acholi women have since fine-tuned their techniques and used their creativity to create new designs of their own. Project Have Hope started buying beads from its members in January 2006. In this way, the women receive monthly payments from PHH for the beads so that they can depend on the steady income.
Beads have always been a part of the Acholi culture. Originally made from seeds and bones, they were used as adornment around the waist and worn as traditional necklaces and bracelets. Back in Acholiland in the North, beads were a commodity which could be traded. These new paper beads are also a commodity. In addition to being sold, they are often traded for food, charcoal, or other daily necessities.
The women use a variety of paper to make the beads. They purchase “reject” paper from a local printing press in Kampala and also use scrap paper from outdated calendars or political ads, for example. Despite appearances, the beads are not dyed or painted.
The paper is rolled into beads, and the color of each bead simply comes from the paper used to make it. Once the paper is rolled into a bead, it is dipped in a clear varnish to give it sheen, hardness, and durability. It takes about a day to make a necklace.
The beads come in a variety of shapes and colors. In PHH’s bead store, you’ll find loose beads, bracelets, and a variety of necklaces. It is not recommended to submerge the beads into water for extended periods of time, but the beads are plenty durable for normal, daily wear.
The Project Have Hope line has expanded to include a wider variety of products. The women have developed other creative uses of paper, including bangle bracelets, bowls and holiday ornaments. Members have incorporated the use of additional recycled materials such as bone, glass and coins into their jewelry making. Project Have Hope is also proud to carry the textile products of members who have graduated from vocational training programs in tailoring and design.