Path of Paper began in 2007 when Kathryn O'Grady was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uganda. She was introduced to the Gemakumyino Women's Group, by the United African Orphans and Widows Foundation (UAOWF) and was amazed at the determination and motivation of these marginalized women. They began making beaded necklaces from recycled paper and shipping the products to Kate's mother, Cyndi O'Grady. In the beginning, these beads were sold to friends and family, and in houses and schools where the word quickly spread about the purpose behind the beads. The Virginia Beach Medical Society Alliance was one of the very first supporters of this grassroots program. As Kate's close of service approached, the mother and daughter team realized that the initiative they had begun was not something that could end with Kate's return to the U.S.
Upon Kate's return to Virginia Beach, VA she began speaking to Women's groups, and local middle and high schools about her Peace Corps experience. Often times at these lectures, outstanding people would come forward and express interest in promoting what was not yet named Path of Paper. In 2009 we attended our first Fair Trade Festival in Norfolk, VA. Our weekend involvement in this Fair Trade festival cemented our commitment to the Ugandan artisans and the principles of Fair Trade. This festival exposure expanded our reach beyond friends and family, opening us to a broader audience. Deborah Davis, from Blair Middle School in Norfolk, VA, invited us to attend their annual school fair, which we have now participated in since 2010. Lisa Lyman-Speckheuer has been instrumental in promoting the growth and development of Path of Paper, through selling our products in her Virginia Beach eco-friendly, American, and Fair Trade artisan retail shop. Because of all of the early support we received, Path of Paper has since developed into a sustainable Fair Trade business.
When you buy from Path of Paper, you are directly helping the women of POP provide school fees, medical care, and everyday necessities for themselves and their families. Currently, the artisans receive payment in advance and 50% of all proceeds. The remaining 50% is utilized for overhead and development. Kathryn and Cyndi continue to dedicate their time and energy on a voluntary basis, as does Valerie Kresse, and our interns Chris Kazakis, Meghan Rathbun and Brady Zedd.
On behalf of everyone at Path of Paper, thank you for your support.