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!