Buy a hat. Change a life.
That is the tag line for Krochet Kids International, a Costa Mesa, CA-based non-profit that empowers people to rise above poverty.
You might be skeptical, thinking “How can buying a hat change a life?”. Let me tell you how.
I first met Stewart Ramsey in the Apple Store. In an attempt to free up memory on my laptop, I had inadvertently deleted my entire iTunes library (ekk!). These types of crises tend to happen at the most inopportune moments: I had a million papers to grade for my course.
I planed to make the most of my waiting time, so I brought the papers with me while I waited for someone at the Genius Bar. (Those guys really are geniuses! Thanks guys!). Stewart asked what I had so many papers and I explained. After he found out I was into fashion, he told me about his organization, the Krochet Kids.
Stewart (right) and his friends Kohl(left) and Travis(middle) grew up together. They started crocheting beanie hats in high school, at first just because they liked having new hats but not spending a lot of money on them. They, people started asking them for hats. Entrepreneurs at heart, they started making custom beanies to sell to friends. The proceeds from the sales when towards their prom fund. (Check out those pastel tuxedos. 1980s ethos all the way!)
Each of the three gentlemen attended different colleges. They would reconvene in the summer to catch up, crochet, and volunteer abroad. They saw the overwhelming poverty in other countries and felt compelled to make a change. Stewart took a trip to Northern Uganda and knew he had to help. Most of the population lives on less than $1.11 a day, experiencing malnutrition, unemployment, and disease. Most consume$0.11 worth of food a day. This means the average Ugandan eats 1-2 meals a day. Ugandans mainly live in huts like the one below, where 5 or more people sleep in tight quarters.
The team decided that they would teach women in Northern Uganda to crochet, and then sell their hats. So what makes this organization different than other companies dedicated to humanitarian aid? First of all, Krochet Kids has a unique model of teaching and reinvesting in it’s beneficiaries and keeping overhead minimal. Krochet Kids invest 80% of it’s sales proceeds and 100% of it’s donations directly back to the women in Uganda. The original group of beneficiaries consisted of 10 women – all eager to learn a skill. Teaching a skill is much different than humanitarian aid – which only focuses on providing goods and services to the communities temporarily. While humanitarian aid is temporarily effective, it doesn’t empower the native communities to be self-sufficient. The Ugandan people want to work and provide for their families, not simply rely on donations and aid. They are eager to learn skills that empower Ugandans and grow sustainable commerce and communities.
In addition to teaching them to crochet, Krochet Kids International has a 3 year program for each of the women, that teaches them about: savings, loans, budgeting, market feasibility, business planning and offers mentoring throughout the entire process. The goal is to make each of the women completely financially independent and to educate them in other areas besides crocheting. Beneficiaries of the program have gone on to be community leaders, school teachers, and small business owners.
All with hats like these:
Krochet Kids International has experienced enough growth that it now has 70 beneficiaries in Uganda, and is trying to expand it’s program further. You can help, too! Buy a hat here: Krochet Kids International Store
It’s a good thing I deleted my iTunes library, I would never have know about this amazing organization!
*Photos are from the Krochet Kids International official site and from their annual benefit gala.