We believe there must be an increase in knowledge and skill sets in order to see true behavioral change in our beneficiaries. One of the objectives of our life skills trainings are to increase our beneficiaries’ knowledge and skills in areas that will improve their environment, their family life and their self-confidence.
In Uganda, we offer classes on psychosocial topics such as parenting, conflict resolution, building your-self esteem, communication, creating community in your neighborhood, and more.
“I laugh all the time when I’m at 31 Bits. I forget my problems when I am there. I’ve learned about respecting people, loving one another, and about communication. I know this job will change the future of my children. They will have jobs and a place to call home.”
– Anek Alice
“31 Bits is changing my life a lot. The psychosocial training is helping me solve my problems. In the future I’m going to be a better person because I’ll know how to solve my problems on my own without running away from them. The teachers are helping us understand business. They said not to just think about right now but look ahead for the future. I’ve realized there is a broad future ahead of me! Everyone here is treated lovingly and equally. When I have difficulties making jewelry, the managers encourage me. It makes me realize I shouldn’t give up. I know you people want to change my life and empower me so I’m going to show you that I’m ready for it!”
– Aciro Beatrice
The Bali Workshop is on a beautiful property filled with lush foliage, plenty of shade, and the cutest miniature Pomeranian pup named Mochi. The workshop is filled with quality materials, excellent tools, and the necessary protective supplies. One minute, the room is filled with silent concentration, the buzz of polishing, and the clicks of hand tools, and the next minute, it’s full of jokes and chatter and laughter. We think it’s perfect.
When you step through the gate in our Uganda headquarters, prepare to be greeted with an ear-to-ear smile from our groundskeeper, Charles. You might catch a glimpse of the lush plants or the colorful painted walls. Most likely a soccer ball will be kicked to you by one of the many toddlers running around. But the best part, is the dozens of female artisans that will greet you and thank you for visiting. It’s truly a place of joy.
We wish you could hear the eruption of laughter and conversations that take place during the making of this jewelry. Friendships are formed, wounds are healed, and hope is given. 31 Bits goes beyond lovely design and masterful innovation, it’s providing people in Uganda and Indonesia with the resources they need for a flourishing future.
In both Bali and Uganda, safety in the workplace is of utmost importance. Artisans are required to follow our safety guidelines to make sure they are using best practices with their techniques and handling of materials.
We are committed to upholding the fair living wages of every place we work. Every piece of jewelry is paid for at a fair, agreed upon price. The artisans make a sustainable monthly salary that allows them to provide for their families and save for their futures.
The ultimate goal of our program is to provide beneficiaries and their families with the skill sets and resources necessary for being financially stable and successful. One of the artisans in our program said, “We’ve learned things we thought we would never learn, like budgeting, balancing, how to save, and how to start a business.” Based on our Uganda impact report, 31 Bits is the main source of income for 88% of our Ugandan artisans’ households.
Most of our Ugandan artisans have never made a sufficient income nor have they ever received an education. As a result, they know very little about how to spend their money, making our Financial Education one of the most important parts of our program. We provide weekly classes focused on teaching financial skills such as saving, planning a family budget, and using a bank account. The classes also provide our beneficiaries with an understanding of poverty, how to set goals for the future, and how money is connected to building your character.
“Before 31 Bits, I lived in a house with only one table and two plastic chairs inside. I made hardly any money. Since working here, I can send my kids to school and buy household supplies. There has been great change in my life.”
– Akullu Sarah
“To me, success means helping people and providing support for my parents and my family. It’s a tradition to help your family live better. It’s important to me to live close to my family again. I want to save money to open my own business in Java [near his family] someday. I’m also saving for my wedding!”
Our Ugandan artisans are able to use their income to invest into land, their homes, and livestock. In a 2014 survey, we found that 57% of our beneficiaries own livestock. (Altogether, they own 24 cows, 29 sheep, 17 pigs, 120 goats, and 394 chickens!)
53% of our Ugandan artisans own agricultural land and 39% of beneficiaries bought their own home. This is Adokorach Ketty smiling in front of her new, almost completed home! (Think she’s excited!?)
31 Bits offers small loans for purchasing bikes and other small assets. Owning a bike is a huge accomplishment for our beneficiaries. For most of them, it’s the most expensive thing they’ve ever owned and meets a practical transportation need. Over 120 loans have been distributed to beneficiaries!
Our Savings Program provides training and hands-on experience in learning how to save. Many women do not trust keeping their money at the bank, so in turn they withdraw it all and then spend it without realizing where it has gone. Saving a percentage of their income at 31 Bits is a safe option where they can trust their money won’t disappear. It also gives our business managers an opportunity to advise beneficiaries on how to save for future business endeavors and goals. 93% of beneficiaries are saving at 31 Bits!
It’s so encouraging to us when a woman joins our program and instantly sees hope for her future. Beatrice joined 31 Bits last year and told us: “I’m seeing the changes in my life. I don’t stay at home Monday thru Friday; instead I go to work! I’m earning something! After 5 years here, my life will be totally changed. I’m going to send my kids to school and save enough money for a business! I never knew about saving money before. I’m learning how to handle my problems and how to talk to people…now I am smart!”
– Babirye Beatrice
Many of our Ugandan artisans are dealing with tough situations, resulting from both current and past circumstances. Our onsite counselor, Gladies, has an open door policy, allowing one-on-one time to meet with beneficiaries throughout the work week. 85% of our artisans use our counseling services
Gladies has over eight years of experience mentoring and counseling women in problem solving, decision making, grief, marriage, and more. She is an amazing listener and provides support and care for the 31 Bits community. She knows when she should listen and comfort and she knows when it’s time to lighten the mood. Gladies finds fulfillment in the ability to pour into other people. She told us, “I am continuing to grow at 31 Bits. I’ve always wanted to help people….I wanted to start my own organization, but didn’t have a way to do it. 31 Bits has given me a way to help people.”
Arach Nighty grew up a child enslaved to the war in Eastern Africa. (You can read more about this in our Uganda section). She never had a chance to go to school, and didn’t think her own children would ever get to either. When she escaped the war, her community did not welcome her back. When she got a job at 31 Bits, this is what she said:
“Gladies was the first person to listen to me attentively and treat me like a human being. I would pick her up and carry me on her back if I could! Gladies took the time to listen to my story and write my name down. Now I walk with my head up and I am free!” – Arach Nighty
Our health courses cover a variety of topics such as nutrition, hygiene and sanitation, family planning, HIV and STI awareness, and prenatal care. In a culture where sickness is associated with an extremely negative stigma, 31 Bits provides an environment where women can speak freely about their health. They can seek advice, treatment, and counseling in a loving and caring atmosphere.
We partner with a local organization in Uganda called TASO to provide onsite HIV testing. We connect those who test positive with the necessary medication and education for treating HIV. We also work with local organizations to provide cancer screening and Hepatitis B vaccinations.
One of our staff’s favorite programs to teach is our physical fitness classes! From self-defense to aerobics to Zumba, we blast traditional Ugandan tunes (and occasionally some Taylor Swift) and get our bodies moving!
“When I came here I was very weak. I was recruited through TASO (An HIV/Aids health organization). I was very tiny and very weak. 31 Bits gave me a miracle. If you see what I have now, those are things I never thought I would have.”
– Apio Harriet
“God changed my life. I went to TASO and they gave me strength and medicine. I get stronger by working hard. I want to provide a better future for my kids. I will work hard for their future. I knew this job would give me strength. I didn’t have all the knowledge of starting a business. Being a widow and HIV positive is not easy. Few people want to be near you, even your relatives. They treat you like an orphan. 31 Bits taught us to work together and now we are normal human beings!”
– Awekojok Christine
The ultimate goal of our program in Uganda is to graduate each artisan with a successful business of her own. This will allow her to maintain a sustainable income without depending on the Western market. It will also enable her to employ others from the community and help build the local economy.
Our business classes provide education on developing a business plan, identifying skills and resources and developing a marketing strategy.
We bring the our artisans on field trips so they can learn from local business owners. Each artisan spends frequent one-on-one time with a mentor for guidance and support as they develop their business and prepare for graduation.
Our business mentors visit our artisans’ new businesses frequently so they are able to offer adequate advice. Here is a photo of a visit to Obita Margrate’s land. Margrate learned farming skills and now grows potatoes and greens. By selling her produce, she has earned enough income to build her own home, and is now building a home for her son.
Lillian recently opened a convenience shop in a the small town of Laroo. Conveniently, she is able to rent a building for the shop that is near her home. Her bestselling items are cooking oil and eggs. She hopes to get a fridge soon so she can sell soda too! She told us one of the most important things she learned in the 31 Bits business training is how to keep track of what she buys and sells.
Acan Picha is the mother of two adorable children and has one of the sweetest personalities we know. She purchased two boda bodas (motorbikes commonly used as taxis) and rents them out to drivers. Not only is she providing jobs for people, she is also using that income, combined with her savings at 31 Bits, to purchase land where she plans to farm poultry and agriculture. She still has a couple years left at 31 Bits – we can only imagine how much further she’ll continue to grow by the time she graduates!
Oceng Nighty is lights up our headquarters. She is always laughing and steals the show with her dancing at all of our parties. She also runs a large rice plantation that is doing extremely well. With only a year left at 31 Bits, Nighty is leading the pack as a strong example for how agriculture can transform one’s economic status.
We strive to create a strong family atmosphere for our artisans and staff members both at 31 Bits and in their own homes. We discovered in our annual evaluation in Uganda that having a strong family and support system is what they value most in our program.
For real empowerment to take place, it’s important for the whole family to be involved. Our quarterly Men-To-Men Talks in Uganda provide an opportunity for our artisans’ husbands, fathers, and adult sons to have honest discussions about their part in improving the well-being of the family. 75% of married women at 31 Bits have husbands who are attending Men-to-Men Tal
Many of our artisans in Indonesia moved far from their families in order to find work. Fauji is one of our original artisans in Bali, and started with 31 Bits in the summer of 2016. His family lives on the island of Java. The long commute prevented him from seeing his wife and three young kids very often. Since starting with 31 Bits, Fauji was able to move equipment to Java, and can work the majority of the time from home. This allows him to have a full-time job while being able to spend time with his family!
In our annual evaluation, we discovered through their incomes at 31 Bits, our Ugandan artisans are sending 384 children to school and providing daily meals for 558 children! 28% of our artisans care for non-biological children in addition to their own.
It’s unlikely to find a husband and wife in Uganda who start businesses together, so this story of Nighty and her husband is truly a rare success story! After taking the 31 Bits business courses and participating in Spouse Day, they started an extremely successful Cassava business. (Cassava is a root used in traditional Uganda dishes.) Nighty has learned so much since she started at 31 Bits. She said: “I’m learning how to budget and keep a record of our spending. The finance teacher told us ‘Time is money’ …we need to value our money. We’ve learned to think positively about ourselves and our lives. When we pray here, it changes how we look at things.”
As part of our efforts to develop strong families, we offer opportunities for the whole family to get involved. Throughout the year, we host “Spouse Days” in Uganda where our artisans’ spouses and kids can visit the headquarters, learn about what we do at 31 Bits, and hear from speakers on different topics such as character development, communication, family dynamics, decision-making, and more. This photo is of Atoo Florence and her husband Jimmy at Spouse Day, right after attending trainings on income generating activities and family financial decision-making.
Our headquarters is a kid-friendly environment and we welcome under-school-aged children to join their moms at work! Whether it’s kicking a soccer ball around, playing jump rope, or sneaking candy from the office, we never get tired of the smiling faces and giggling kiddos.
Once in a while we find kiddos playing in the mud – but it won’t stop little Gideon from having a good time
Each of our beneficiaries makes an income that is sufficient for sending their children to school. They are playing a part in raising up the next generation to be educated dreamers who will continue having a positive impact on their community
Ayero Jennifer is a single mother of six children and stands out for how much she has valued her children’s education since working at 31 Bits. She has already put two of her children through college, one of whom is now a teacher and the other works at a hotel in town. Jennifer also recently started her business selling fish and so far, it is doing well. She hopes to use the money she earns to purchase land, which will ensure even more security for her and her children’s future.
A person feels valued when they are known, so our staff members make it a priority to know each of our artisans by name and truly care about their lives. Every week our managers meet with each beneficiary to check in with both their progress at work as well as their personal lives. 31 Bits isn’t just a workplace, it’s a family.
One of our artisans, Mahfud, couldn’t have said it better: “We’re not just friends, we have become like a family.” We value friendship among our artisans and believe everyone deserves to feel known. Having a strong support system is one of the things they value most about working together. When one person is struggling, whether at work or personally, the other artisans lift him up.
At 31 Bits, we care for our women holistically, including providing them with a strong, supportive community. In a 2014 evaluation, 87% of our artisans said they feel they have strong social support since being at 31 Bits. Acan Picha and Anena Irene didn’t know each other before 31 Bits but since sitting next to each other, they’ve become very close friends.
Abio Vicki was abducted as a young child by the LRA (you can learn more about this in the Uganda section of our site). She grew up in a war and when she finally escaped, she had no family to return to and no way to earn an income. We’re so thankful she is now an artisan at 31 Bits. Vicki recently told us, “Had it not been for 31 Bits, I’m not sure if I’d be alive right now. I used to think about committing suicide because I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. Now I have a family and I belong. I’m so happy.” Vicki is building a home on land she recently purchased and is almost done raising enough capital to launch her business: selling fish in the local market! Vicky’s razor sharp focus is extremely inspiring to the other women in the program.
We think one of the best ways to get to know someone is by sharing a meal, so we offer lunch at a discounted rate at our headquarters to promote spending time with the Bits family. This is our incredible cook Sophie who amazes us by cooking for our team of 150+ ladies every single day
“People here socialize based on class. I didn’t have a community because I was so poor, so I lived alone. Everyone at 31 Bits is friendly and now I have found my community. I moved in with some of the women I work with. People now talk to me and my new community has given me confidence. We take care of each other.”
– Atoo Grace
We think the best way to start a week is with prayer, so every Monday morning our staff and beneficiaries take turns leading a time of worship and prayer. We love walking into our headquarters to the sound of singing, often followed by some pretty amazing dance moves.
We have A LOT of fun at the the 31 Bits headquarters! In a 2014 survey, we weren’t surprised to find out that 68% of our artisans love to dance and 88% love to sing! Maybe we should start a band!?
Our quarterly Serve Day provides an opportunity for our beneficiaries to go into the community and use their skills and knowledge to make a difference. They’ve volunteered at hospitals, prisons, orphanages and more, hoping to impact their neighbors and make the community a better place.
In Indonesia, the market for metal jewelry has decreased over the years, but these dedicated artisans continued to master their skill. We are honored to help them preserve their art form by designing pieces that give their traditional techniques a modern twist.
Indonesia and Uganda are rich with beautiful resources and incredible talent, but corruption in the supply chain and poor infrastructure has limited their access to the global market. We’re able to provide our artisans with an opportunity to get their art in front of you, our customers who value how your stuff is made.
Our artisans take pride in their work. Knowing their art is being worn by people across the world brings them so much joy. One of our Indonesian artisans, Fauji, told us: “My favorite pieces to make are the hardest ones, because they show the most skill. My skills are growing because we share ideas with each other, we improve through teamwork.”
We are ecstatic to announce that over the last three years, we’ve graduated 53 artisans from the 31 Bits Uganda program! These women worked diligently to support their families, receive education, and start businesses of their own. From starting a salon to a dress company, from creating a charcoal business to raising pigs, these graduates define success in our program. Their kids are in school and healthy. They have successfully saved money and started their own businesses. Some are even employing others from the community. They are confident and strong, They are happy and whole. They’ve risen above poverty and are living empowered.
Our graduation ceremony is filled with speakers, cheering, and songs. Each of our graduates receives a cap and gown which are a huge symbol of success because our artisans never dreamt they would have that opportunity.
We bring in a photo booth, decorations, graduation gifts, and have a huge feast topped off with a cake! And of course our graduation party has performances, dancing, and a DJ. It’s a tough party to close down!
Every graduate will always be a part of the Bits family. We provide a support group for 31 Bits alumni to attend every three months after graduating from the program. This is a chance for our counselors to follow-up with graduates, offer extra trainings, provide counseling, and hear updates.
At 31 Bits, our motto is “Once a Bitsy, always a Bitsy!” This means Alumni are welcome to sit in on different classes when they need a refresher and can continue using our savings and loans programs. Alumni even come back to share about their success and encourage others in the program to continue working hard! Our mentors and counselors visit graduates in their homes and businesses every quarter to follow-up on their progress.
“I used to work carelessly in different places for small payment. I didn’t know how to work well. At 31 Bits I learned how to work well. When I was struggling to make the beads, the team came around me. They are good people. I tried so hard to bring people like them closer to me. We will continue to work, and when we graduate, we want to come back and tell our story to the new people. They should learn from us.”
– Lakot Rose
Laker Mary was one of our 8 graduates in 2015. She has her own charcoal business and sells at a great location in town with high foot traffic. She uses her income to support seven kids. Her husband has a mental illness so she is the main financial supporter of the family.
Hellen is known amongst the 31 Bits family as “Mama Hellen,” as she is looked to as a leader by many. Mama Hellen owns and operates a piggery, in which she reproduces and sells pigs. As a widow and mother of five, Mama Hellen says that her favorite memory is “The day when God joined me together with 31 Bits.” She has a contagious joy and enthusiasm for life that has impacted us all…not to mention she has the sweetest giggle when she thinks something is funny! Since graduating from 31 Bits, Mama Hellen is thriving and making the best “mendozi” (African donut-style pastry) in town! Between her impressive cooking skills and business knowledge, we are confident she will continue to be successful!
Enter your email for our “sneak peek” list and be the first to know what's new at 31 Bits.