w e av i n g to ge th er on tw o co n ti n en t s akolaproject.org
who we are
Akola offer s s t u nni ng je w el ry an d ac c esso r i es h an d m ad e wi th c are by wom en who are empowe r e d t hr ou gh t r a i n i n g an d em p l oy m en t by t h e Ako l a P roj ec t to u p l i ft thei r families o u t of p ov e r t y. 10 0 % o f sal es r ev en u es ar e r et u r ned to the women and Akol a Projec t de v e lop m e nt i ni t i at i v es i n c l u d i n g vo c ati o n al tr aini ng c enters, c l ean water w el l s, an d h eat h i n i t i at i v es. Akola Pro je ct b e li e v e s i n eq u i p p i n g w o m en t o b ec o m e en tr e p reneu rs, l au nc hi ng l oc al b usinesse s w i t h t he he l p o f th e sk i l l s l ear n ed an d i n c o m e s aved throu g h the P roj ec t. the vision of a kola i s t o c r eat e a g l o b al ac c esso r i es b r an d that i s made by and fu l ly b en ef i t s m ar g i n al i zed w o m en .
As a sophomore at Southern Methodist University, Brittany Merrill Underwood, 19, spent the summer of 2004 in Uganda teaching in a boarding school. While she was there, she met Sarah, a young women caring for 24 street children who had sought shelter in her home. The womanâ€™s compassion and selflessness challenged and moved Brittany to change the direction of her life. Brittany returned to the states with a mission to raise a million dollars to build an orphanage for the children who slept on Sarahâ€™s floor. Upon graduation, Brittany moved to Uganda to see the orphanage built to completion. The orphanage project was completed in 2009 as a home to 180 street children, and was featured both nationally and internationally on CNN. akolaproject.org
empowering families through
While living in Uganda, in 2007 Brittany and her team were inspired by other Ugandan women who committed to care for orphans in their homes. Akola Project’s unique model was created to empower Ugandan women who, on average, care for 7-10 dependents. Brittany believed that through empowering 200 women, she could multiply Akola’s reach to uplift the lives of children in Northern and Eastern Uganda. Developing a social business in rural Uganda did not come easily. Brittany and her team first had to develop infrastructures in the partner villages including 23 clean water wells and two training centers. Seven years later 200 women are enrolled in the Project that has elevated over 1,600 individuals out of extreme poverty. Akola Project’s high-quality, fashionable products have been sold in over 250 boutiques throughout the United States and have been worn on the Today Show. akolaproject.org
weaving women together on
Brittanyâ€™s long-term vision is to create a global fashion brand that is both made by and fully benefits marginalized women. Akola has a vocational training center in Northern Uganda that will train and employ women displaced by war to grow and spin cotton. Brittany opened a vocational center in Eastern Uganda to train and employ women to weave the cotton yarn made in Northern Uganda into well-designed woven fabric. In 2014, Akola Project is expanding to the US to provide an economic alternative to sexually trafficked women in Dallas. Brittany is forming a group in Dallas, TX to train women in industrial sewing and plans to employ them to do the finishing work on textiles made in Uganda, creating a global brand that trains, empowers, and employs marginalized women around the world.
Akola Projectâ€™s unique model begins with building infrasture in the communities, including the drilling of 23 water wells and the construction of two vocational centers to date. Akola partners with local community leaders to identify women with few opportunities and many dependents and spends years investing in their training and education.
Akola employs women, allowing them to generate income to uplift their families from extreme poverty and pay for basic needs including school fees and medical costs. Akola products are sold in over 250 boutiques nationwide with national and international press. Akola encourages sustainable development by facilitating savings and loans associations for the women. Akola encourages the women to save 8-30% of their income to start local businesses, providing genuine sustainability for generations to come.
dependable employment savings + loans associations
high-quality, fashionable products
our model creates
27 LIVESTOCK BUSINESSES
62 akola women have graduated the project as local business
13 RETAIL BUSINESSES 9 CULINARY BUSINESSES 5 TAILORING BUSINESSES 5 FARMING BUSINESSES 1 CLOTHING BUSINESS 1 LANDSCAPING BUSINESS 1 BRICK-MAKING BUSINESS 7
a story of
Yangi Hellen is 50 years old and is from Koboko, a village in Northern Uganda. She moved to Southern Uganda to escape government run internally displaced camps after 20 years of civil war claimed the lives of her family members and decimated her community. Hellen joined the Akola Project in 2010 to generate income to uplift the lives of her family members and other dependents. Over the last four years, Hellen has worked to make beautiful jewelry designed and sold by Akola Project. During this time she received vocational training and generated revenue from her work, allowing her to provide for her seven children and send them all to school. Akola Project placed Hellen and her friends in a village savings and loans association. Through this group, Hellen saved enough money to purchase chickens and a boat for fishing! Hellen says that working with Akola Project “is good for me because I can leave struggles at home and enjoy my work. It makes me feel free.” She hopes to continue to earn money to make her livestock business sustainable. Through Akola Project, Hellen has learned about hygiene, family budgeting, childcare and grown in her faith. In 2012, Hellen was promoted to Akola Supervisor and now trains and facilitates Akola’s newest women’s group in the Nabukosi village. Hellen feels very proud that through her work with Akola Project, she is able to pay school fees and is able to carry the burdens of her growing family. She is excited to become one of the first trainers for the new Eastern Uganda Vocational Center. akolaproject.org
coming to dallas in 2014
200 women trained + employed 1,600 empowered in n. + e. Uganda
Ugandan paper beads Meticulously hand rolled and hand strung with care, these pieces showcase the Ugandan craft of paper beads. The 10 color ways represent each seasonâ€™s latest colors and come in 6 different styles.
horn This season Akola Project collection reintroduces beads from the indigenous ankole cow horns. This horn that would otherwise be thrown out, is given new life as gorgeous jewelry.
ethiopian metals Handmade by local artisans, these beads are created from former artillery shells in wartorn Ethiopia. The metal from the shells is melted down and reshaped in a redemptive way to create beautiful jewelry. We pair the metal beads with turquoise in these exquiste designs.
kenyan sea glass Akola Project expanded our investments in East African economies this collection with the introduction of beads from Kenya. These stunning sea glass beads are hand selected in Kenya and brought back to our Ugandan studio for the Akola Project women to work with.
Brittany’s awards & other achievements
Brittany has been featured on CNN’s Young People who Rock, she was awarded the distinguished Emerging Leader Award from SMU in 2013, has been awarded the Dallas Women’s Foundation’s Young Leader Award for 2014 and has been honored by clothing manufacturer Levi as one of 50 women around the globe who have changed the political, cultural, and spiritual shape of the future. Underwood completed a Master’s Degree in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary in 2013 and continues to devote herself to improving the lives of women and children as the Founder and President of the Akola Project. In 2014, she was asked to join the elite mentoring class for the Laura Bush Women’s Initiative.
akola project pr inquiries:
Emily Heger firstname.lastname@example.org
Christi Jones email@example.com
Caroline Rader firstname.lastname@example.org
Suzanne Zieman email@example.com