The Akola Project is changing lives. Akola is a one of a kind organization, in that their founder, Brittany Merrill Underwood was honored by Levi as one of 50 women around the world who have changed the political, cultural, and spiritual shape of the future. In 2015 Brittany was also named the “Best Person in the World,” by Yahoo!.
A ten minute meeting in 2004 changed Brittany’s life, and set into motion the creation of The Akola Project. She met a Ugandan woman, Sarah, who took care of 24 street children in her own home. Brittany found that women across the country of Uganda care for an average of ten children each, but it would not be uncommon for more to live in their homes. After raising the funds needed to build an orphanage and more than 20 water wells, she went on to launch a new sustainable model to uplift these women and children.
The women of the Ugandan community named it Akola, which in their local dialect means “to work,” and now Brittany has redefined the social-business model so that it can empower women around the world. The non-profit social enterprise sees 100% of its profits reinvested into their social mission to both employ and equip the so-called unemployable, not just in Uganda but also in Dallas. More than 400 women have been lifted from poverty, along with the estimated 4,000 children that those women cared for.
Akola offers shoppers handmade jewelry, including earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. The pieces are exotic, made of traditional materials such as Ethiopian hand-cast metal beads, and natural materials such as horn, sea glass, and stone. Along with employing Ugandan women, there are also Akola Dallas members who are able to earn a living wage in the United States hand crafting the Akola Contemporary collection, a collaborative effort between both groups.