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About Us


Beads for Africa is a Canadian volunteer charitable project that designs, makes and sells jewelry to support:

  • at-risk children with diabetes in Nairobi, Kenya

  • toddlers in a nursery school in a Kenyan slum

  • African women who make paper beads


All proceeds from jewelry sales are sent to Kenya to purchase:

  • insulin and medical supplies for at-risk children with diabetes

  • food and supplies for the nursery school

  • paper beads from destitute African women 


Our jewelry is a unique combination of imported African paper beads and locally donated recycled beads.


How We Started


Cathy Benbow Plewes, a retired registered nurse and diabetes educator from Oakville Ontario, worked with two registered nurses and diabetes educators, Jean and Margaret, in Nairobi, Kenya in 2009. After learning about their work and seeing the challenges faced by these dedicated nurses caring for the children with diabetes and the toddlers in the slum, Cathy wanted to support their work.

While travelling in Uganda shortly thereafter, Cathy found paper bead necklaces in a craft market made by destitute Ugandan women. She purchased several of these necklaces, intending to sell them to her friends, and send the proceeds to Jean and Margaret. The paper beads became the inspiration for Cathy and a few friends to expand the possibilities by adding some recycled beads of their own to begin making and selling jewelry to help her Kenyan colleagues. And it grew from then to now...


Cathy, Jean and Margaret

Where We Are Now​

  • ​Over 15 years later, we have a group of dedicated, creative volunteers who meet monthly to design and make jewelry. We receive donations of new and used beads which greatly reduce our costs.

  • During covid, we expanded our product line to offer a variety of hand-sewn items.

  • We sell our products, do speaking engagements and run workshops in many venues in and around Oakville, Ontario. Proceeds from these events are sent to Jean and Margaret twice a year.

  • We are united with our African sisters sharing paper beads and a cup of tea.

  • Cathy has returned to Nairobi every 3-4 years to work with her partners, Jean and Margaret, and watch the projects grow successfully.

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