Path of Paper: A nonprofit with a rich story

Natalia Miasko

Path of Paper is more than just a Fair Trade, a nonprofit organization that sells jewelry; it is also a way for mother-daughter duo Kathryn and Cindi O’Grady to repay a group of women who had an immense impact on their lives.

Last month, an assortment of unique beaded accessories was displayed for viewers to browse and buy at the Path of Paper Virtual Fair Trade Festival, but behind its colorful facade, this jewelry shares a story of hope. Each item is one of a kind and handcrafted by women in the Iganga township of Uganda from recycled paper. The Path of Paper organization, which distributes their products, helps these women provide education and medical care for themselves and their families.

By joining the Path of Paper club at PA, attending events to learn more about the organization, and even buying some of the products, you too can help support these women.

Path of Paper began in 2007 when cofounder Kathryn O’Grady was volunteering in Uganda with the Peace Corps.

During O’Grady’s stay in Uganda, she recalls a member of  the Gemakumyino Women’s Group (a loosely organized support group in Iganga) approaching her and saying, “We have all these skills, we’re connected, we want to do something with our hands.” Because of this, Kathryn brought in another Ugandan woman to train members of the Gemakumyino Women’s Group in making paper jewelry, a common practice in Eastern Africa.

She also reached out to her mother, Cyndi O’Grady, to ask if anyone back home in Virginia Beach would be interested in buying paper jewelry from the women. With Path of Paper continuing to grow and thrive 10 years later, you can guess the answer to Kathryn’s question.

Throughout Kathryn’s time in Uganda, the members of the Gemakumyino Women’s Group looked out for her, introducing her to people and teaching her the native language. Her mother Cyndi, known as “Mama Kate” by the Ugandan women, said that “Kate did get sick, very sick, several times while she was a Peace Corps Volunteer,” and expressed that as a mother 1000 miles away, she struggled with this.

However, the group of women took care of Kathryn whenever she fell ill. “They’re my safety net,” she said.

Cyndi agreed, adding, “For that, I owe them a debt of gratitude and life that I can never repay.”

And so for this reason, Cyndi said, “We are nonprofit, Fair Trade until the day we die.”