Stella Romana Airoldi
Stella runs a social business called 22STARS and inspires others to think about the impact they can make with their business. In 2008, Stella decided to travel around the world for about eight months. Wherever she went, she was regularly confronted with poverty and injustice. For that reason, she decided to do a master degree in Public International Law and worked for a development organisation. Here, she learned that the best way to help people out of poverty is by making sure that they can provide for themselves. She wrote her thesis about girl child soldiers and visited Uganda in 2009 to do research. She interviewed a couple of post war victims who mainly where widows and HIV positive and who happened to make jewellery from recycled paper to survive.
In particular, the story of Susan Laker – a woman near her age who, at 13, was forced to seek refuge in military barracks, where she got pregnant with her first son – touched Stella’s heart. Stella wanted to help Susan out and this is how her passion and interest for Uganda started. Every year she would order some jewellery just as gifts for her friends. And in the meantime, she worked at a law firm, the European Union Delegation in China and did an advanced master in Human Rights and Democratisation. Within a few years she saw the impact that she was making, Susan went back to school and learned English and was able to communicate directly with Stella without translators. Also, her kids started school and from their tiny mud room without windows, door, electricity and water, they moved within the Acholi Quarter slum into a solid one bedroom house with electricity, a window and a door that could be locked.
To spread this impact Stella decided to make Susan project manager of a larger group of women who had similar stories and were also making jewellery. In 2013, the social enterprise called 22STARS was founded. Stella helps now the women in Uganda designing their paper jewellery and finding international and national market to sell their products on. In addition, she helps the women with income generating activities, social support, medical treatment and English classes. The project evolved and there is now also a project unit in the Danida slums in Jinja. In 2016 Stella also started the 22STARSKIDS foundation to raise money for school fees, medicine and food for the children in the Acholi Quarter community and sponsors over 150 kids on a long-term. Susan is a big help on the ground and keeps a close eye on the kids who we are sending to school and families. A few times a year, Stella spends months at a time in Uganda making new designs with the women, checking on their needs and how the children are doing. Whenever Stella is not in Uganda, her work is a big mix of everything, designing new collections, writing product descriptions and stories for the website, social media, finding new retailers, keeping contact with customers, fundraising and in particular sharing her stories at diverse events. She does this most of the time from her laptop while traveling the world and meeting her friends from the Digital Nomad community. This year, Stella also organized SOCIAL WORKATIONS to Uganda to raise extra money for the 22STARS kids foundation. Come coworking, coliving and traveling in Uganda and make an impact with her!