How did the 22STARS

    Foundation get started?

    Empowered women empower women!












  • Over the years


  • Our Story


    Meet Aidah, Stella and Susan!


    22STARS didn't just pop up out of the blue; it sprouted from the epic friendship trio of Susan Laker (from Uganda), Aidah Wafula (also from Uganda), and Stella Airoldi (a mix of Dutch and German vibes), who crossed paths back in 2009. Picture it: Stella, a young 23-year-old diving into the world of international law, landed in Uganda for a thesis adventure. There she met Aidah, a social superhero working at an HIV/AIDS Information Center in Kampala. Aidah introduced Stella to a group of strong women who were rebuilding their lives after escaping the turmoil in Northern Uganda. Susan, who was just two years older than Stella, stood out among them. While Aidah translated for the girls, Susan's remarkable determination and compassionate nature were evident even without words.


    Fast forward to Stella sending funds each year to Aidah to support Susan's beautiful handmade paper jewelry business - and there it is! Susan took the opportunity to return to her studies. Her three children, who once labored in a stone quarry, swapped rocks for textbooks. When Stella returned to Kampala in 2012, Susan amazed her by conversing in English and demonstrating her new talents. Susan dreamed of spreading the success to other women in her community. That very day, 22STARS Jewellery was born! Stella assisted the women in creating designs suitable for the Western market. Sales profits fueled social programs in Kampala and later in Jinja.


    In 2015, Susan took on the role of project leader for the Jewellery business in Acholi Quarter, Kampala. Meanwhile, Aidah directed her attention to a new group of women requiring assistance similar to Susan's. Aidah relocated to Jinja to support the Danida community, one of Jinja's poorest areas and her father's birthplace. Subsequently, 22STARS initiated a jewellery project in Jinja with Aidah as the project leader. To address the challenges faced by the 22STARS Jewellery business, Stella decided to establish 22STARS as a Public Benefit Foundation in The Netherlands in 2017. Aidah and Susan each established a Grassroots organization in Uganda to manage the social programs for the communities in Kampala and Jinja.


    Susan and Aidah are actively involved in Uganda, while Stella divides her time between on-site work with them in Uganda, assisting with administrative tasks and reporting, and remote work where she concentrates primarily on fundraising. As Susan and Aidah are based locally, they have a deep understanding of their communities' requirements. Stella plays a crucial role as a "bridge" between Uganda and the Western world, translating these needs into actionable proposals and fundraising initiatives. The three women are in contact daily and have at least once a week a longer meeting, either face-to-face or via Zoom, to review progress and address the children's needs.

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    "Together Aidah, Stella and Susan are the trio who run the 22STARS foundation."

  • Our Project Locations


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    Background of Acholi Quarter in Kampala

    Acholi quarter in Kampala is a poverty-stricken community mainly inhabited by Acholi people who fled war-torn areas in Northern Uganda. The community, including various tribes, relies on stone quarrying for employment. Despite economic challenges, the community showcases resilience and unity, reflecting Uganda's cultural diversity. Initiatives like 22STARS empower individuals in the community through education, medical support, and entrepreneurship training, fostering self-reliance and creating lasting positive change.


    Background of Danida in Jinja

    Danida is a neighborhood within the city of Jinja, situated in the Busoga district in Eastern Uganda. This area faces urban poverty challenges like lack of amenities, environmental threats, and health risks. Despite economic struggles, the region is rich in resilience and cultural heritage. 22STARS is working towards creating a more sustainable and prosperous future for the region. Efforts are underway to improve living conditions and create a brighter future through initiatives focused on eradicating poverty, reducing unemployment, and supporting education.

  • Mission & Vision


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    Empowering families through education, entrepreneurship and local leadership


    We believe that economic development and education, along with fostering a strong sense of community, are key to helping communities break free of poverty. Our projects use an integrated approach to community development - focusing on the development of economic, social, natural, human, and cultural capital. Our programs and projects empower Ugandan people to preserve their culture, environment, and society. Our values are: respect, reliability, compassion and transparency.


    Our long-term vision is to have our own education center, where both teenagers and their parents can learn and develop their entrepreneurship skills.

  • Meaning behind the logo


    Stars are used as a symbol of the inter-connectivity and unity of humankind!


    Each person on Earth has access to the vastness of the night sky, by simply looking up. Stars represent hope, guidance and protection; our 22STARS artisans used them during times of war to navigate to a safe place. The number 22 represents transforming dreams into reality in order to make the world a better place. 

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  • What makes us different from other charities


    At 22STARS,we are not just another NGO; we're a community-driven initiative with a heartfor making tangible differences in the lives of children and families in Uganda. Here's what sets us apart from other organizations:


    We don't just parachute in and out of communities. Our roots run deep as we work hand in hand with local leaders and individuals, understanding their needs and empowering them to create sustainable change from within.

    Digital Nomads:

    Our Founder Stella is a so called "Digital Nomad". Allowing her to spend months a year in Uganda and being a bridge between the sponsors and beneficiaries. The Ugandan team learned how to use Online Tools and work partly remote, which saved us during Covid-19. And many Digital Nomads offered their skills to us.

    Sponsor Involement 

    Unlike larger organizations where distance can create a disconnect, we welcome sponsors and donors to visit us in Uganda, see our projects firsthand, and witness the impact of their support.

    Holistic Approach: 

    Education is at the core of what we do, but we go beyond academics. We provide comprehensive support, including healthcare, entrepreneurship training, and community development programs, addressing the diverse needs of the communities we serve.

    Transparency and Accountability

    We operate with utmost transparency, ensuring that every donation is used effectively and efficiently. Our commitment to accountability means donors can trust that their contributions are making a real difference.


    22STARS isn't just another project for us; it's our life's work. We're driven by a shared vision of empowerment and opportunity
    for every child, family, and community we serve. With a small and dedicated team, we're not just employees; we're the founders, pouring our passion and dedication into every aspect of our work.

  • From Product-Based to Donation-Based


    Product-Based Model

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    With the 22STARS Jewellery business (est. in 2013), we have been able to empower families in Uganda, using funding primarily from selling handmade goods. Each product has been purchased upfront from our artisans, taking the sales risk away from them. Additionally, this product-based model has helped us to carry out social programs for the artisans and their children. Although we have faced many challenges such us, production issues, fluctuations in sales, high shipping, packaging, and marketing costs and having to pay 21% tax fo each product sale.... we are still active with the Jewellery shop!


    We started the Foundation to increase the impact of our social programs. Nonetheless because we love the handmade products, and they help us to spread the message of what we do at 22STARS, we continue! We have eliminated our risks, by only accepting small orders for easier to make products. Furthermore, our profits still help our social programs, and we give our artisans the ability to sell their goods directly to visitors who come to visit us in Uganda.

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    Donation-Based Model

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    In 2017 we started the Foundation alongside the social jewellery business. With the main reason being: What about the children who do not have parents who can make jewellery to sell to Europe? Should they not go to school? Of course not! We have seen firsthand the difference that an education makes and wanted to expand our project to enable more children to attend school.


    The donation-based model is perfect for this. As we have the tax-exempt status, it is more attractive for people to donate to us. Also, we are exceptionally transparent with the amount of donations we receive and what we spend it on as no goods or services can be given in return of a donation. People support a specific child over years or donate to a concrete project, which makes things very clear. Our recurring donations, make it possible for us to plan ahead, and avoid the hassle of selling enough bracelets for school fees

  • Your help for people in need is changing lives!






    Who Is Behind The 22STARS













  • Why we changed from

    product-based model to a donation-based model?


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    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. 


    While a product-based model is a great way to help people out of poverty by making sure they become more self-sustainable, the sales are also highly dependent on the Western market. Our production and marketing costs are high, and at times we would sell nothing at all.


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    The donation based-model provides the communities in Uganda with a more stable and consistent income, allowing us to focus on Education, Entrepreneurship, and Local Leadership.  


    The Foundation runs independently from the jewellery business, although we treat the profits as a donation for our projects, enabling our Ugandan artisans the ability to sell their goods directly to the visitors who come to visit the foundation in Uganda.


  • Our Story


    Meet Aidah, Stella and Susan!

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    Together Susan, Stella and Aidah are the trio who run the 22STARS foundation.

    They first met back in 2009 in Kampala, at the time Stella was studying international humanitarian law, which led her to Uganda to do research for her thesis.

    After Aidah met Stella and learned of her background she introduced Stella to several women in need who fled from the war in Northern Uganda, including Susan. Susan and Stella met using a translator to communicate, but no translation was needed to understand Susan's jokes and to see her big heart!


    When Stella started to send money annually to Aidah and Susan for their handmade paper jewellery, Susan took this opportunity to go back to school. At the end of 2012, Stella returned to Kampala and was reunited with Susan. During those few years, Susan learned to use a computer, and read and write in English. Stella's creativity, along with her desire to help war affected people, and her strong connection with Aidah and Susan were the key reasons the 22STARS Jewellery Business was founded a few years later, in 2013.


    In 2015, Susan became our project manager in Acholi Quarter in Kampala. The Acholi Quarter is a camp for internally displaced people. During this time, Aidah focused 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 of Danida,

    where her father was born and one of the poorest areas in Jinja. In 2016, theyecided to make Danida the second location of the 22STARS program.


    As the 22STARS Jewellery business faced many challenges, Stella decided in 2017 to register 22STARS also as a Public Benefit Foundation in The Netherlands, and Aidah and Susan registered respectively a Grassroot organisation to serve the community in Kampala and Jinja, in Uganda.


  • Our Story


    Meet Aidah, Stella and Susan!

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    "Together Aidah, Stella and Susan are the trio who run the 22STARS foundation."

    22STARS was created thanks to the friendship of Susan Laker (Ugandan), Aidah Wafula (Ugandan) and Stella Airoldi (Dutch/German), who met in 2009 for the first time. Back then Stella was 23 years old and studied international law, which led her to Uganda to do research for her thesis. After Aidah, a social worker at an HIV/Aids Information Center in Kampala, met Stella and learned of her background she introduced Stella to several women in need. These women had fled from the war in Northern Uganda, and among them was Susan, who was only two years older than Stella. The girls needed Aidah to translate, but no translation was needed to see Susan's extreme will power and big heart!


    When Stella sent money annually to Aidah to support Susans handmade paper jewellery business, Susan took this opportunity to go back to school and end her illiteracy. Also, Susan’s three children, who worked in the stone quarry to put food on the table, started to go to school. At the end of 2012, Stella returned to Kampala and was extremely impressed, when Susan spoke to her in English and showed her what she had learned. Susan expressed the need to market and sell more jewellery, also from the other women in her community, so that they all would be able to pay for the education of their children. The very same day the 22STARS Jewellery business was created. With the profit of the sales various social programs were set up in Kampala and later on also in Jinja to serve the community.


    In 2015, Susan became the project leader of the Jewellery business in Acholi Quarter in Kampala. Acholi Quarter is an internally displaced camp for people who fled mainly from the war of Northern Uganda. During this time, Aidah focused on a new group of women, needing her help as much as Susan did. Aidah moved to Jinja to serve the community of Danida, where her father was born and one of the poorest areas in Jinja. Not much later 22STARS started with Aidah as project leader in Jinja to also create jewellery there with the artisans.


    As the 22STARS Jewellery business faced many challenges, Stella decided in 2017 to register 22STARS also as a Public Benefit Foundation in The Netherlands. Aidah and Susan registered respectively a Grassroot organisation in Uganda to run the social programs for the community in Kampala and Jinja.


    While Susan and Aidah work on the ground in Uganda, Stella works partly with them in Uganda, helping with especially the administrative work and reporting, and partly remotely, where she focuses foremost on fundraising. Since Susan and Aidah live on the ground, they know best what their local communities need, and Stella acts as a kind of “bridge” between Uganda and the Western world to help translate these needs in feasible proposals and fundraising campaigns. At least once a week the ladies come together, either in person or on ZOOM, to discuss the progress and needs of the children.

  • Our Ambassadors

    Our 22STARS ambassadors represent 22STARS in their city/country and network. By bringing together a group of like-minded individuals with a passion for fashion, a mind for business and a heart for the world we can achieve beautiful things! As our Ambassador you are part of an initiative that provides hope and a better future for our families in Uganda. You will be our eyes and ears on-site and our voice to tell people who we are and what we do. You will share our story through social media and help finding events and retailers where the 22STARS jewellery and the 22STARS Foundation can get involved into.

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    Francesca Giovannini

    Virtual Assistant since February 2018

    Francesca Giovannini is a Italian change-maker. She grew up in Milan, Italy, where she obtained a Bachelor degree in Literature and History. After traveling to South East Asia she decided to help people out of poverty. Hence she did her masters in International Relations and focused on child protection. Francesca loves backpacking around the world, or to be in some remote ashram in India or Latin America, where she loves to practice yoga and meditation.


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    David Wafula

    Ambassador Uganda and Prime Mover

    Pastor David Wafula is one of the prime movers of 22STARS and the husband of Aidah. He met Stella in 2009 and with his help we were able to visit the women in Acholi Quarters and Danida in their homes and listen to their stories. David’s first profession was teaching. He holds a Bachelor degree in Theology and a masters degree in Organizational Leadership and Management. David helps us on the ground in Jinja. In his free time he loves singing and making people laugh.

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    Angelika Wrona

    Ambassador United Kingdom

    Angelika comes from Poland but loves exploring the globe and immersing herself in other cultures. She currently works as a Business Coordinator at Metropolitan Housing Trust in England. Angelika loves photography and has been a vegetarian for almost 6 years and yogini for 2. She believes that everyone can make a difference by introducing little changes in their daily life.

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    Danielle Smissaert

    Ambassador Netherlands

    Danielle is a very busy lady and has always a filled up agenda. Daan, as we call her, likes to go to the cinema or a museum on rainy days. When the sun shines you can find her chilling in a boat on the channels of Amsterdam or dancing at a festival. Daan is a very passionate person and loves to help others.

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    Lianne Schulte

    Ambassador Netherlands

    Lianne Schulte is a model at Maxmodel. When Lianne heard about 22STARS from her friend Stella, she was so enthusiastic that she offered to make use of her fashion network to help with the first photoshoots and be the first 22STARS model. In November 2012 Stella invited Lianne to join her on a trip to Uganda. Lianne loves being on the waves on a sunny day.

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    Stefanie Oeffner

    Ambassador Global

    Steffi is born in Germany and loves traveling. She started traveling in 2010 and couldn´t stop it until today. She came to Uganda in March 2018 and May 2019. From the first day she totally fell in love with Uganda and the people. Uganda was totally life changing for her and she loves to help people!

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    Anne Müller

    Ambassador Germany

    Anne is a very sporty person. In the Summer months she loves to go hiking and to go swimming in the sea and during the Winter months you find her on skis in the Swiss Alps. In November 2017 she came to Uganda to visit our projects and meet the children that she was sponsoring since years now.