Our mission is to empower families in Uganda to rise above poverty through Education, Entrepreneurship and Local Leadership: we want them to become self-sustainable!
We believe that economic development and education, along with fostering a strong sense of communal belonging, are key to helping communities break-free of poverty and empower them to protect and maintain their culture, environment and society. Therefore, our projects represent an integrated approach to community development, focused on the development of economic, social, natural, human, and cultural capital.
What makes us different from other organisations is that our projects are aimed at strengthening the community as a whole. We work in the poorest areas of Kampala and Jinja, where the need for even the most basic essentials is high. Through our project managers, who themselves are members of these communities, we can communicate with the community directly to understand what they see as their principal needs. Our intention is to collaborate so that our projects can have the most effective impact, with enduring results.
22STARS' meaning. Stars are a symbol of the interconnectivity and unity of humankind. Each person on Earth has access to the vastness of the night sky, by simply looking up. For millennia, we have looked to the stars for guidance and navigation, for hope and protection. We chose 22 as a number with a long history of representing change for the better – for making even the most ambitious dreams a reality.
Our long term vision is to have our own education center for both children and their parents where they learn entrepreneurship.
Meet Susan, Stella and Aidah
Susan, Stella and Aidah are the trio who, together, run the 22STARS foundation. They first met back in 2009, when Stella was volunteering at an AIDS Information Center in Kampala, where Aidah was working. Stella told Aidah about her background in International Law and her thesis on Post War Victims and Aidah quickly connected Stella to Susan. The women met using a translator to communicate, but no translation was needed to understand Susan's jokes and to see her big heart! Susan was certain that she would see Stella again in her life, and she wanted to make sure that when that happened, she would be able to talk to Stella directly. When Stella sent money annually to Aidah and Susan for their handmade paper jewellery, Susan took this opportunity to go back to school.
And Susan was right, at the end of 2012, Stella returned to Kampala. Susan learned not just English, but she also learned how to read, write and use a computer. This meant that Susan and Stella could chat directly this time, without Aidah in between. Time passed and in 2015, Susan became our project manager in Acholi Quarter in Kampala. The Acholi Quarter is a camp for internally displaced people - like Susan - who fled from the civil war between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and Joseph Kony in Northern Uganda.
Aidah, she of course, was still in the picture! Aidah could focus on a new group of women, needing her help as much as Susan did. Towards the end of 2015, Aidah moved to Jinja to serve the community where her father was born. This place, called Danida, is one of the poorest areas of Jinja and in 2016, we started our second 22STARS program there. Currently we send 190 children to school in Kampala, and 125 children in Jinja and also run our 5 development projects in both communities.
While Susan is our local project manager in Kampala, Aidah is our local project manager in Jinja, and Stella, well she works from anywhere! Susan and Aidah know best what their local communities need, while Stella's unique nomadic lifestyle is also advantageous to the foundation. Stella spends about 5 months of the year in Uganda, bringing visitors to the foundation’s projects, making payments, and helping where needed. The other 7 months she connects with donors around the world and makes sure operations run smoothly. If you would like to become a part of our team, please don't hesitate to send us an e-mail.
Project Manager in Kampala
For 20 years, Susan has lived in the Acholi Quarters in Kampala. The Acholi Quarters is a camp for internally displaced refugees coming from Northern Uganda. At 13, Susan became pregnant; she is HIV positive, and has survived cancer and tuberculosis. But this has not stopped her! Susan is a phenomenal woman who proves that nothing is impossible. When she became too weak to crush stones in the quarry with her children, she started making jewellery. With the money she earned, she went back to school, enabling her now to work for the foundation and help many more women and children. Susan has three children, aged 17,19 and 21. Susan loves cooking, dancing and making jokes.
Founder / Executive Director
Stella was born in Germany, but grew up in the Netherlands where she studied International Law. Stella went on to receive an advanced Master's degree in Human Rights and Democracy. Stella first visited Uganda in 2009, and when she returned in 2012, she realized that she could have a greater impact working on the ground, joining forces with Susan and Aidah. Through Stella’s experience and education, she gained a clear understanding of how developmental aid could be improved in order to maximize the benefit to local communities. This is how 22STARS was born. Stella rents out her home in Europe and leads a basic nomad lifestyle in order to devote her time to helping people in need. Stella spends about 5 months of a year in Uganda and the other 7 months she is all over the world: frequently speaking at conferences about the importance of making a Social Impact and working remotely. Stella loves sleeping under the stars and calls herself a Social Impact Nomad.
Aidah Namboza Wafula
Project Manager in Jinja
In 2009, Aidah was working in an AIDS information center where she met Stella. Aidah introduced Stella to Susan, and was the initial contact between both ladies, until Susan became fluent in English. Aidah now runs our projects in Jinja, in one of the poorest areas called Danida. Aidah and her family were born there, but Aidah was able to escape poverty and go to school as a child. Now she has a deep urge to help others in need, who were less fortunate then herself. Aidah is married to David Wafula, who used to work at the same organization AIDS center where she met Stella. David helps Aidah with a lot of her work on the ground, to make sure that everything runs smoothly. Aidah also loves making jewellery, and making clothes out of African fabrics. Aidah loves her four children, as well as singing and dancing.
Staff / Volunteers in Uganda
Without these wonderful people on the ground we would not be able to manage all our projects and kids!
Peace is sponsored and in S-4 boarding school. She is very enthusiastic and outgoing and helps us during her holidays with our after school activities. She loves dancing and singing. Location: Kampala.
Derrick is sponsored and in S-2 in adult school. Derrick helps us out with all technical related stuff and our after school project. He loves football. Location: Kampala.
Beatrice helps us with our nutrition project. She cooks every Sunday for all 200 kids and buys the food for them. She loves cooking. Location: Kampala.
Sekate Philosophy is a motor-taxi driver and is who we send regularly to town to buy things for our projects. He loves to sing and play football. Location: Kampala.
Richard has two medical diplomas and owns a small farmacy in Acholi Quarters. He helps treat our children when they are sick. Location: Kampala.
Lilian loves to help with the cooking for our children in Kampala every Sunday. She also loves being with the visitors when they are here. Location: Kampala.
Masika Doricka is sponsored and goes to S-2 boarding school. Masika is always smiling and on her holidays enjoys loves washing dishes and cooking for us. She also loves reading a lot. Location: Kampala.
Alice is at the Foundation 22STARS in Kampala almost everyday, running small errands for us. She loves helping us with the kids on Sundays and she is very concerned about their hygiene, always making sure they wear clean clothes. Location: Kampala.
Margret is part of our small business training team and she loves cooking for the kids on Sunday. She is our Kampala community mobiliser. She is a very outgoing woman and she loves dancing to welcome any visitors we have to our project. Location: Kampala.
Aboo Norah spends her time with us by counselling our children, as she is a teacher by profession. She likes singing and dancing, and one day she would love to build her own school. Location: Jinja.
Irene is our Jinja community mobiliser. Irene never went to school and is very grateful that her kids have this opportunity. She is passionate about what she does, and her dream is to build a day-care and help other children in need. Location: Jinja.
Ruth loves helping to cook for the kids on Saturday in Jinja. She is very outgoing and talkative. She enjoys spending time with her friends and she likes to run and play netball. Location: Jinja.
Lukia helps us cook for the children on Saturday in Jinja and to keep our office clean. She loves dancing and having fun with her friends. Location: Jinja.
Doreen helps us by teaching the children after school. She helps them with their homework and to make sure they do well in school. Doreen loves singing and dancing. Location: Jinja.
Pastor David Wafula is Aidah’s husband. He holds a Bachelor degree in Theology and a Master's degree in Organizational Leadership and Management. In his free time, he loves singing and making people laugh. Location: Jinja.
All board members are volunteers, and have been to Uganda to visit 22STARS. Each of them also sponsors several children.
Klaus Friedhelm Muller
The Remote Team
Why we changed from a product based model to a donation model
While the 22STARS FOUNDATION was established in 2017, the social business 22STARS JEWELLERY was founded in 2013 and its story began back in 2009, when Stella Romana Airoldi went to Uganda to do research for her thesis in international humanitarian law. She met Aidah Wafula who introduced her to several women in need.
In particular, Stella was touched by the story of Susan Laker. There, she became pregnant with her first son. Stella admired her bravery and wittiness, and the two soon became best friends. Stella's creativity, along with her desire to help war affected people and her strong connection with Aidah and Susan were the key reasons 22STARS jewellery was founded a few years later in 2013.
With the jewellery business, we have been able to empower families in Uganda for years, using funding primarily from selling handmade goods that were made by the 22STARS artisans. This product-based model empowered our families in Kampala and Jinja and helped us to carry out our social programs on the ground. Artisans like Susan Laker, were able to go back to school and offer education to their children. We are still active with the 22STARS jewellery shop and continue to change lives, however, as product sales are very unpredictable and we wanted to widen our reach, we started the 22STARS FOUNDATION alongside the social jewellery business.
We saw firsthand the difference that an education makes and wanted to expand our projects to enable more children to go to school and also educate their families with entrepreneurship skills. While our product model is a great way to help people out of poverty by making sure they become self-sustainable, the sales are also highly dependent on the Western market. Our production costs and marketing costs are high and at times we would sell nothing at all. This is why we switched to a model that provides the communities in Uganda with a more stable and consistent income and allows us to focus on Education, Local Leadership and Entrepreneurship. The Foundation runs independently from the jewellery business, although we treat their profit as a donation for our projects, and our Ugandan artisans are able to sell their goods directly to the visitors who come to visit the foundation in Uganda. This change in model means that we are able to carry out our projects now on a much larger scale.
Our local project managers Susan Laker (Kampala) and Aidah Wafula (Jinja) are thrilled with the new livelihood projects and have already reported the positive impact the projects are making. We plan on increasing this impact. You can make a difference by sharing the story of 22STARS, become a recurring donor for our social projects, sponsoring a child long-term, or donating some of your time and skills and visit us in Uganda.
Thank you for your support!