Ndagire Sarah walked the red dirt carpet in her perky hairdo and a beautiful blue and white gown. She carried herself like a rich lady in a gomesi, the formal dress of women in Uganda. When I saw her, I was overcome with tears of joy. I had met Sarah in 2006 when she was so sick with HIV/AIDS that she could hardly breathe. She lived in a slum in Kampala and was poor beyond belief, a widow who could not afford to feed her family or send her children to school, one of the hundreds of millions of women who live around the world in extreme poverty. But that was then. Today, just four years later, Sarah was being honored, with 21 other women for an incredible achievement. She had paid off a home that she built for herself in the village of Mukono, and was being awarded the title to the land she sat on. Sarah, who just a few years ago thought she would die and leave her children with nothing, was now a homeowner and one of the very small percentage of women around the world with land in her own name.
Sarah's transcendent moment came because of her partnership with BeadforLife. For many months she rolled beads out of recycled paper and saved her money for a down payment. Beads became bricks and a ladder out of poverty. She didn't eat the profits, worked hard, and became an entrepreneur who also raised poultry. Sarah was the pioneer in Friendship Village. She built the very first of 130 homes, even though the men who helped her thought she would not live long enough to sleep in it. Today she is the proud owner of a brick house with a tin roof. She has a lawn, a garden and 1000 neighbors. The women roll beads to pay off their mortgages and not a single one defaults. On this festival day, Sarah and 21 others call themselves brides, and they march from home to home. Each woman is given a certificate and dances with it on the porch she dreamed about. "This is really a day of glory for each of you," BeadforLife founder, Devin Hibbard, proclaims. She tells Sarah and the others to close their eyes. "Think about where you were and think about where you are now and my challenge to you is to create your next dream as you become homeowners today. What do you want to accomplish in the next three or four or five years? Can you picture yourself and where you will be if you accomplish your next big goal? Because this is not the end of the path. This is only the beginning for you."
In November another 60 women will become homeowners and receive the titles to their land, and in March the last deeds will be given out. The women will sing and ululate and shout "BeadforLife Oye" as they parade through the village. They will celebrate with their neighbors and dance until midnight. They will never fear that they will be thrown out of their home again. They will never worry that they will die and have nothing for their children. They will have an asset they can sell or carry from generation to generation, and a garden so they can feed their family. For when you have a home you are never poor. "Being a homeowner means the pride, the success, the light in your eyes, knowing you have worked hard and you have accomplished great things," Devin reminds them. "Being a homeowner means the confidence and pride to carry yourself like a big woman." Today Sarah is a leader in the village. "Because of BeadforLife I'm so happy and so proud. Sometimes when I sleep in my bed I say every person never lose hope. Let me be the woman determined to win. Because of BeadforLife I have my own house."
For more information on BeadforLife visit beadforlife.org.
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