A simple string of beads made and sold through a uniquely sustainable business model has seen the Amy Biehl Foundation (ABF) in Cape Town, South Africa benefit by R1 062 464. Through sales of the Relate cause bracelets, regular monthly payments made over the last few years have culminated in this magical milestone of more than R1 million.  Knowing that through this money 354 children will be kept safe through the ABF’s work is just one of the motivating factors in promoting this product. 

More than 130 000 of these bracelets were sold over a five year period – a retail success story – and the goal is to raise another million Rand over the next three years. Brightly coloured beads, lovingly threaded by unemployed gogos (grandmothers) and township residents bring much needed employment and purpose into many people’s lives. Wearing this bracelet shows commitment to change and with the selection of fashionable and funky colours anyone would be proud to sport these bracelets on their arm with the knowledge that they are supporting a cause.

The Amy Biehl Foundationwas born out of the tragic murder of American Fullbright scholar Amy Biehl in a political mob township attack in 1993. Amy’s parents were instrumental in keeping her memory alive by founding the ABF in 1997. The management was taken over by Kevin Chaplin in 2006 and under his directorship he has raised the public profile to extraordinary heights. The five well established afterschool centres in Gugulethu, Phillipi, Bonteheuwel and Khayelitsha cater for over 2000 children and are the foundation of the organization. Raising funds to build a headquarters in Sybrand Park, Cape Town that offers entrepreneurial skills development programmes was part of the vision and this year the Head office opened. In 2016 300 children from 18 to 25 will benefit from these courses.

With high credibility amongst the many NGOs in the city, the ABF is in the top 12 of the Relate beneficiaries.  A success story built out of tragedy has created a solid platform of hope and commitment and turned around many young children’s lives.

Such a simple solution to giving from wherever you are in the world, with the knowledge that not only are you  supporting the cause that you ‘relate’ to but that through this product previously disadvantaged people have employment – a simple circle that shows a never-ending cycle of support.

As a show of their commitment to transparency and accountability, each handmade Relate bracelet comes with a signature “R” bead of authenticity and is a simple way to support a cause. The name Relate says it all as each of the causes supported have carved a solid relationship with the organization and its publics.  

Relate has already raised raised R31.2 million and looks to collaboration and partnerships to achieve their goals. Dealing only with credible brands they sell through their online shop and the public can choose the cause they wish to support, both local and international. From the UN project Free and Equal  rights, Bonos’s WHO campaigns,  the Endangered Wildlife Fund to thePink Drive as well as a variety of South African retail brands this is the gift that shows we can all be socially responsible in a simple yet effective way.

An armful of bracelets is a caring fashion statement!

This article was first published by Imagine Mag on 01 February 2016 and is available online here