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Who is behind the 22STARS KIDS Foundation?

Stella Romana Airoldi

Hello world! I thought it would be nice to introduce myself, as I am not only the founder of 22STARS KIDS, but I am also the person running it and I am thus in charge of everything. So for all questions you have, I am the right person to ask them too.

In 2013 I founded the social business 22stars, designing and selling globally jewellery made by post war victims in Uganda. In 2016 I started in addition with the 22STARS kids foundation, we are sending over 85 children to school long-term and cook every week a meal for them with fish or meat. I also started organizing social workations in Uganda to fund more money for the foundation. A few times a year I spend months at a time in Uganda making new designs with the women, checking on their needs and how the children are doing and paying their school fees. Whenever I am not in Uganda, my work is a big mix of everything. Designing new collections, writing product descriptions and stories for the website, social media, finding new retailers, keeping contact with customers and sponsors, the list goes on. I do this most of the time from my laptop while traveling the world and meeting with my friends from the Digital Nomad community. This year I also organize a social workation in Uganda in July, August and October.

I am living since 2012 nomadic, before that I used to have a “normal room” somewhere and lived as an expat for a couple of years all around the globe. Regarding the questions “where are you from and what is your study background”, my answer is, well I was born in Germany, but moved with 6 years to several places in the Netherlands. My dad moved to Switzerland and my mom is half Italian and my step dad used to be most of the time in France and Scotland for family. So, since I am a child I am used to visit family all over Europe. I have no real family in the Netherlands, besides my mom who moved to Breda a few years ago. Still I would consider myself to be from the Netherlands and to be Dutch.

From 2004-2010 I studied law and criminology in Leiden in The Netherlands, with a particular focus on international war criminals. In 2008 I decided to travel around the world for about eight months. Wherever I went I was regularly confronted with poverty and injustice. For that reason, I decided to do a master degree in Public International Law and worked for a development organization where I learned that the best way to help people out of poverty is by making sure that they can provide for themselves. I wrote my thesis about girl child soldiers in the Lord Resistance Army of Joseph Kony and visited Uganda in 2009 to do research. I interviewed a couple of post war victims who happened to make jewellery from recycled paper to survive. This is how my passion and interest for Uganda stated. Every year I would order some jewellery just as gifts for my friends. And in the meantime, I worked at a law firm in the Caribbean, the European Union Delegation in China and I did an advanced master degree in Human Rights and Democratison in Italy and Spain.

My next big step would be either moving to a conflict country like Afghanistan or Iraq (I was specialized in IHL; law of war, and always thought this would be my dream) or starting at a big law firm (my parents dream), and doing 22STARS just as a hobby at the side. But then a lot of things changed. After my 2 master degrees, traineeships etc I felt kind of exhausted already with my life, before even starting “the real job” at a law firm or moving to the military barracks of a conflict country. I was not that sure any more about my own dream and after my first interviews with big law firms I realized that I also did not wanted to live my parents dream. I own a house in the Netherlands, and figured out that if I rent it out and start living a low cost nomadic life in Africa I can focus a bit more on my hobby (22stars) and regain energy before committing to a big job. So, I travelled in more than 18 countries in Africa, spend most time in Uganda and the Nomad Cruise became basically my second home base. Seriously, it is quite special for me to be sleeping 2 weeks straight in the same place. Haha. I don’t think I have to tell you what happened with the “big job” step…haha. I took my own small steps the past few years, and the best is, more and more people joined me on my way!

I am not walking alone anymore, but met so many amazing people, especially also people I met through the Digital Nomad community, and in particular Nomad Cruise, are walking with me to help me realize my dream. My hobby became a big thing! My dream is not, as I thought, living myself in a conflict country focusing on laws written for times of war that terrorist not really care about anyway, but helping people from conflict situations to gain hope again! To stop them from suicide, but to help them have a future again! I am achieving this through my jewellery project, which has been growing that fast that I have two production units now in Kampala and Jinja, and by sending the children to school!

"Education is the best way to fight poverty and disease."

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