Magazine Feature / People

Student peddles beads to send African girls to school

woman with beads

April Guy has raised $4,000 selling beads, which was enough to send 30 girls to high school for a year in Africa. PHOTO BY: Wayne Armstrong.

Thirty African girls were able to attend high school this year thanks largely to the efforts of one person: DU’s April Guy, who helped provide scholarships for the girls by selling bead necklaces they had made.

Guy had decided to go to Africa for an internship after learning about a girls’ empowerment program Meru, Kenya.

Since Guy had developed empowerment curricula for a previous job, she began developing a culturally applicable program for the girls she would meet. Then, in July 2006, she left for Africa.

Within two days of arriving in Meru, Guy knew that there was a need far greater than her curricula could provide.

“The second day I was there, a group of girls came to me and told me they had all been kicked out of secondary school because they couldn’t afford it,” recalls Guy, who will graduate in June with master’s degrees in international studies and social work. “Elementary school is free there, but high school is not.”

Over the next several days, girls approached Guy everywhere she went. Then, a Peace Corps worker passing through showed Guy a necklace made of paper beads that children had made in a nearby village.

“I thought, ‘People would pay good money for these!’” A scholarship program was born.

As news spread about the necklace campaign, girls flocked to Meru. Guy had originally hoped to raise enough money to send 10 or 11 girls to school, but one day, a group of 15 girls arrived from a village 30 miles away.

“They pleaded with us to let them participate,” says Guy. “We couldn’t say no, but we couldn’t make promises, either.”

Guy says she spent 10 minutes showing the girls how to make the beads and sent them home with the agreement that she would go to their village in one week and collect their beads.

“I made the trip, which was completely insane,” says Guy. “It took three vehicles and a five-mile walk to get there. It made me realize what they had gone through to find us.”

Guy arrived at a one-room house where all of the girls welcomed her.

“There were beads everywhere,” Guy remembers. “All over the table, the floor, in bags. I could see the hope and faith on their faces as they stared at me.”

And then one of the girls said a prayer.

“She was an orphan, her parents had died, and she raised vegetables for her food and to sell,” Guy recalls. “And yet, she thanked God for her life. I fell on the floor and I cried. I knew right then and there that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.”

Guy returned to Denver after seven weeks carrying 200 necklaces and the hopes of more than 30 African girls. She sold the necklaces for $10 apiece and even received checks from people who just wanted to help put the girls through school. She received another shipment of necklaces and continues to sell them. 

So far, she has raised $4,000 and, thanks to help from people in other countries who are now also selling the necklaces, all 30 girls received scholarships to attend high school this year.

“April is a creative and energetic leader, willing not only to think outside the box but also to follow through with the actions required to see the impossible happen,” says social work Assistant Professor Michele Hanna. “I am very proud of her and her accomplishments.”

Now, on the verge of graduation, Guy admits that she’s not quite sure where her path will lead.

“I know that something wonderful is going to happen. I just have to be open to the possibilities,” she says. “That’s how I got to Africa, and I feel like the next step will fall into place as well.”

To purchase a necklace, contact April Guy at or call 720-629-7929.

This article originally appeared in The Source, May 2007.

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