April 08, 2020 8 min read

Bracelets for a Cause and the Story Behind Bead the Change

The idea behind Bead the Change started when founder Ryan took a trip that not only changed his life but inspired him to change the world. Here is the story of how Bead the Change began, the inspiration behind the concept of bracelets for a cause, and how charity bracelets can, and will, change the world for the better.

The Trip of a Lifetime

Little did Ryan know that a backpacking trip would end up transforming his life. What began as a two-month backpacking trip across Southeast Asia turned into a two-year trip of a lifetime that spanned over twenty countries and several continents. What’s more, this transformative trip inspired Bead the Change and its mission to change the world for the better, one bead, one charity bracelet at a time.

Among the many places he visited, Ryan spent some time at a monastery in India. There, he met the Dalai Lama. He also volunteered to work with refugees in Myanmar and spent valuable time living with a family in a remote village of Cambodia. As you can imagine, all these experiences were incredibly enriching.

However, they also opened his eyes to the devastating conditions that plague not just Asia but our entire planet and its inhabitants, both humans and animals. So many of the villages he visited were undeveloped and suffering from abject poverty. What’s more, their governments lacked the infrastructure for self-sustainment. As a result, communities lacked basic sewage and waste management systems. Children played in streets filled with trash and bathed in contaminated water supplies.

As an environmentalist at heart, Ryan quietly vowed to do his part someday to help the world solve at least some of its problems. As his trip extended from weeks into two years, the seeds of Bead the Change began to sprout.

Bracelets For A Cause

Bracelets for a Cause

After returning home and taking some time to reflect on his experience, Ryan realized he was motivated to make a real difference. He developed the idea of creating and selling 100% recycled charity bracelets to help raise awareness for crucial environmental issues like endangered species preservation and ocean pollution, to name a few.

Two of the places Ryan visited during his trip inspired the idea of using bracelets as a way to support environmental causes. One was the Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia and the other a small village in Western Africa where beadmaking was an integral part of the culture.

Bracelets for Protection and Luck

Each time Ryan visited one of the hundreds of temples in Asia, he received a bracelet that had been blessed by a Monk. According to the teachings of Buddhism, both the blessing and the bracelet provided protection and good luck.

Buddhist bracelets come in a variety of materials and colors. They become a sort of personal talisman, giving you protection against negative energies. Most are made from Tibetan rope or string, while others are made of beads as a reflection of Buddhist Manta beads, or prayer beads.

The string bracelets are made from Tibetan rope and tied with knots. While the Tibetan Buddhist ties the knots, he recites mantras as a blessing and protective ritual. Like many travelers, Ryan received a great deal of these bracelets as he traveled. He came to appreciate the craftsmanship as well as the spirit in which they were given. The bracelets were beautiful, but they also represented so much more, from the Buddhist culture to the spirituality and generosity of the people.

Bracelets For A Cause

Ghana Beadmakers

Part of Ryan’s journey took him to a small African village, where he was inspired by the beautiful recycled glass beads the local beadmakers created. These artisans have a unique process for making their glass beads from recycled bottles. It was so unique and in line with the conservationist efforts behind Ryan’s vision that all Bead the Change beads come from Ghana.

Ghana has used glass beads for ceremony as well as decoration for centuries, dating back to the 16th century. It was then that Europeans brought glass beads to Africa as part of the trade industry. They traded beads for gold and, other commodities. In Africa, European imports sparked the creative sector. Artisans in Ghana used the imported beads at first, but then made their own using recycled glass.

The process was unique in that Ghanaian artisans ground the glass into a fine powder, then mixed it with dyes. As a final step, they re-fired the glass in clay molds. Ghana's contemporary beadmakers follow a very similar process today.

In Ghana, glass beads are a status symbol, representing prestige and wealth. Though, they also have a more profound, more spiritual significance. In some regions, select glass beads are thought to possess supernatural powers, including healing properties. Young women wear strands around their waists to bring about fertility.

Ghanaian beads are made using several techniques, and all of them use recycled glass. The traditional method is to powder the glass. Other variations include pulverizing the glass and adding ceramic dyes.

For translucent beads, the glass is left in larger fragments before re-firing. That allows the glass to keep some of the original transparency. Still, other varieties include painted designs, which came about 30 years ago. These beads are brighter overall and give a contemporary look. The paint is a mix of glass powder, water, and ceramic dye.

Bracelets For A Cause

The Bead the Change Mission

Ryan’s experiences in Asia and Africa were so compelling that they inspired the creation of Bead the Change. In particular, the craftsmanship and symbolism behind the bracelets in these two vastly different cultures inspired the organization’s flagship product, which is the charity bracelet.

Quite literally, Bead the Change is dedicated to saving the environment one bead, one bracelet at a time. The beads serve many functions. They raise awareness about the various environmental causes Bead the Change supports. Wearing one of our bracelets spreads that awareness. Furthermore, the very existence of the materials advances the cause because they are made from 100% recycled glass and plastic.

Finally, the beads themselves are made by true artisans in Ghana. Thus, the beads are made by hand. They have as much culture and spirituality infused in them as they do glass and dye. What better product to share with our generous customers than a beautiful, high-quality piece of jewelry that represents so much more than beads and string?

Bracelets For A Cause

Bead the Change Bracelet Beads

For Bead the Change’s charity bracelets, Ghanaian artisans use the traditional method of beadmaking. It’s a complex, labor-intensive process that we believe makes our bracelets for a cause so special and representative of our mission.

Finding a Beadmaker

In order to find the best bead maker, Ryan traveled back to Ghana. He sampled beads from dozens of local artisans, searching for the perfect beads for his charity bracelet concept. His patience paid off, and he found a beadmaker who made the beads in several vibrant colors. While quality was important, Ryan also wanted the best craftsmanship in every bead.

Bracelets For A Cause

The Beadmaking Process

The process begins by washing glass bottles and then sorting them by color. Next, the beadmaker crushes the glass with a mortar and pestle until it turns into a fine powder. The artisan then sifts the powder to capture the finest grains.

To create colors, beadmakers add ceramic dyes to the glass powder. Then, they pour it into molds made of termite clay. The molds are coated in kaolin, which is a talc-like natural substance that keeps the beads from sticking to the molds when they are fired. Next, the molds are placed in traditional termite clay kilns and fired at 650 to 800 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes.

After firing, the artisan uses an awl to make a hole in the center of the bead. They use a second awl to turn the bead within the mold and shape it as the glass hardens. Finally, they leave the beads to cool for at least an hour.

The beads look white when they come out of the kiln. After they cool, the artisan washes and polishes each bead by placing it in a smooth stone bowl. They rub the beads with sand and water until the vibrant colors emerge.

Bracelets For A Cause

Choosing the Right Cord

In keeping with the mission of promoting conservation and cleanup efforts, Bead the Change bracelets had to have just the right cord material. Ryan knew from the beginning that the best choice was Recycled Plastic Water Bottles (rPET). While you wouldn’t guess it, that material is challenging to acquire.

Most of the suppliers are based in Asia, and communication barriers slowed the process. Too much of the message got lost in email and phone calls. Once again, Ryan traveled to Asia to meet with company representatives in person. After a few months and many meetings, Ryan secured a manufacturer to make the cord.

Bracelet Design

Once the beads and cord were squared away, the next important step was designing the bracelet. Because of the rPET cord, the method of assembly was predetermined. The design had to be a tie-knot design that the wearer would adjust by tightening or loosening the knot.

Ryan met with various jewelry makers to sample designs and prototypes. Once the design was chosen, it was time to create the first batch order of bracelets.

Bracelets For A Cause

Where Your Donation Goes

Bead the Change supports organizations that are working to make a better world. The efforts we concentrate on fight for water relief, reforestation, ocean cleanup, climate change, and protecting endangered species like the rhino and elephant, which are poached for their ivory.

When you buy a Bead the Change bracelet, we give 10% of your purchase directly to an organization that supports one of these crucial environmental causes. So, when you buy a bracelet, you show your support by wearing the bracelet, but you are also making a direct and significant financial impact on the future of our planet and its people.

Our Charity Bracelets

While the basic design of our recycled bracelets is the same to show how connected we are, we carry different color designs for each of our supported causes. For example, our vibrant turquoise Ocean Bracelet represents our commitment to helping clean up the world’s oceans from the plastic and other toxins that poison our marine ecosystems.

Our ocean bracelet helps fund an organization called Ocean Cleanup, which has developed advanced technologies to remove plastics from the world’s oceans. Some of our other styles include our Water Relief, Reforestation, Protect the Elephants & Rhinos, and Climate Change bracelets.

Bracelets For A Cause

Affecting Change Around the World

What began as a backpacking trip across Asia became a life’s mission to affect change around the world. Bead the Change is beyond one person’s vision now. We are a growing organization that is bringing awareness and environmental change through bracelets for a cause. Our world is amazingly beautiful, complex, and much smaller than we think. It’s up to all of us to care for it as well as the species that inhabit it with us.

Due to human activity and industrialization, our planet is in trouble. We depend on the ocean and the life within it to sustain us. Species everywhere are depending on us to support them with clean water and undisturbed habitats. We have much work to do in both areas. Population expansion, pollution, and other misuses of our natural resources are threatening our animals and our planet as a whole. Climate change is threatening our species as well. Rising temperatures are changing their habitats and their ability to reproduce and find food. It’s up to every one of us to change these conditions before it’s too late.

At Bead the Change, that is precisely what we are doing, one bracelet at a time. Our organization has gone from concept to reality, and our goal is to expand our reach in the coming years. Wearing a Bead to Change bracelet means being a part of our mission to change the world for the better.

Bracelets For A Cause

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