Provo local Matthew James is making and selling jewelry to support the orphanage he started in Uganda.
According to James, many Ugandan children have lost their parents or were abandoned by them, leaving many children to beg for food, water and shelter.
James witnessed this during his first experience in Uganda.
“My experience in Uganda was something so powerful that I knew it was lifelong calling, it was a lifelong relationship that would never go away,” James said.
James built the orphanage through donations, giving new lives and a stable home to 160 orphans.
“They have so little and they suffer so greatly,” James said. “They lost their parents, but they are the most hopeful, kind, compassionate, free, loving people that I have ever spent time with, and being with them makes me feel so liberated and at home.”
James recognized the need for funding the orphanage, causing him to start his own jewelry-making business called Gem Studios.
Jake Reedy, one of James’s roommates, has taken the initiative to teach these jewelry classes.
Reedy has seen how these classes have changed customers’ hearts.
“They leave and they are excited about the fact that they made something, but they are excited about the fact they feel philanthropic,” Reedy said.
A portion of the class fees go to fund the orphanage. Profits from the Gem Studio has given the orphanage better education, clothing, food and has improved the children’s overall comfort level.
“Their life is already decided before they are born, and my goal with those children is that they will able to grow up in a safe environment where they will be free to make their own decisions,” James said.
James said that every gem polished in his studio represents a child in Uganda hoping for a shinier future.