by Sarah Tompkins ’10
Sitting on her Odell’s bed, Sara Wroblewski ’13 is changing the world. The jars of hand-blown glass beads, yards of leather lace and clusters of tags that surround her constitute her immensely successful One Bead organization. What started as a seedling of an idea to support a primary school in Nairobi has taken root and flourished into a thriving non-profit organization.
During the summer of 2011, while on a trip to Kenya to visit the family of a William Smith classmate, Wroblewski was presented with the opportunity to shadow Anselm Croze, a local glassblower and philanthropist. It was through Croze that Wroblewski was introduced to the children at the Oloosirkon Government Primary School: vibrant faces, enthusiastic for their studies – but without pencils and books. “Seeing the children for the first time, I was introduced to the concept that one could have so little, but still have so much,” she says. Driven by the need to give back, Wroblewski conceived One Bead. With the assistance of Croze, she began selling beads made of recycled glass – each handcrafted by Croze – to earn enough money to fund the purchase of books and supplies.
In weeks, Wroblewski had sold enough beads at $12 a piece to surpass her goal, expanding the project to support further developments – the installation of electricity, the establishment of a permanent water supply and the creation of a fence to keep out intruders.
To date, One Bead has raised nearly $40,000, including a $10,000 grant as winner of the Colleges’ “The Pitch” entrepreneurial competition, a program that pairs students who have big ideas with the mentorship of alums. The grant allowed Wroblewski to register the organization as an official 501(c)3 non-profit.
Since those first beads, Wroblewski has twice returned to Oloosirkon, and her operation has grown beyond HWS; One Bead has customers around the world, thanks to a thriving website and blog. “It’s been amazing to see my college stand up with me, to see them give back as a community and support me,” says Wroblewski, who just completed a 1,200 bead order for William Smith Congress.
The most rewarding aspect of Wroblewski’s work is creating a meaningful bond between customers and the children. “I’m not just a girl with an idea anymore,” says Wroblewski as she carefully strings a glass bead. “I’m part of something that is much bigger than myself.”