A Gift of Hope

My classic Suubi necklace, doubled for a shorter look.

Mother’s Day is coming up, and I bet you’re thinking about getting your mommy dearest a nice potted plant, maybe a macaroni picture from your kids or another bottle of perfumed lotion. Fine gifts, yes, but maybe this is the year to switch things up a bit. Give her something unique. Beautiful. And yes, earth-friendly.

There are lots of eco-friendly gift ideas out there, but before you buy her an elephant poo picture frame, may I make a suggestion? Give your mother a Suubi beaded necklace. Suubi necklaces are handmade by Ugandan women, who artfully roll strips of recycled paper into colorful beads and string them into long, beautiful strands. They have several styles of necklaces available in different color and fashion themes, but each necklace is as unique as the woman who made it.

I came across the Suubi project a few years ago while I was shopping online for Christmas gifts. Relevant Magazine, my favorite publication, was selling these interesting necklaces in their online store so I thought I’d check them out. I looked into the organization and was impressed with what I found. Suubi (which means “hope”) is part of an organization called Light Gives Heat whose mission is “to empower Africans through economic sustainability. To motivate people in the west to ‘be the change they want to see.'” One of the ways LGH does this is by equipping women in Uganda to use skills they already have to earn a living. Several years ago, the LGH founders were visiting an orphanage in Uganda where they met women who met once a week to make paper bead necklaces. Many of the women were victims of a violent war and came from broken homes. The women sold the necklaces to make ends meet for their families, who depended on them for income. Since LGH was founded, about 100 women and their families have become a part of a community that helps them sell their wares worldwide, provides educational opportunities, and empowers them to lift their families our of poverty. What I like about this organization is that their projects are sustainable. The founders of LGH built on the strengths and spirit the Ugandan women already possessed, instead of imposing their own ideas to “fix” their situation.

Once I learned about LGH, I started buying necklaces for nearly every women I know. Everyone has been delighted with these gifts, because they are so versatile. The recycled paper beads are covered in a shiny, hard coating that gives them the appearance of glass. (If you look closely, you can still see text–a reminder of the paper’s previous life!) Their multi-colored strands match everything in your closet, from dressy to casual, and you can double them up, knot them, or wrap them around your wrist for a different look. You are sure to get compliments when you wear one, and they have proven to be a great conversation starter. Each necklace comes with a card that tells the story of the woman who made it. Every compliment is an opportunity to tell someone a story of hope spread the word about this amazing organization!

If you’re gift-giving on a budget, the price might be the best part. The necklaces cost between $12 and $22. Not a bad price for a truly unique gift that will be worn time and time again. (They have also begun selling bracelets and earrings to match.) And since each necklace is unique, you can buy your mother one every year and know you’re getting something new each time. In fact, I wouldn’t mind having another one in my jewelry box…hint, hint!

If you’d like to learn more about Light Gives Heat and their other projects, check out their website or watch the trailer for their soon-to-be-released documentary “Moving On.”

What are your eco-friendly gift ideas for Mother’s Day, or any other occasion? Tell me all about them in the comments, or send one my way! I do have a birthday coming up…


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