Through the fundraising efforts of a Laramie-based organization, rural women in Brazil will soon have access to preventative screening measures for breast cancer.
Since its inception in 2009, the Biojewelry for Breast Cancer organization has raised $50,000 through the sale of handcrafted jewelry, with proceeds benefitting a brand-new breast cancer diagnosis center at the Federal University of Goiás in Brazil. The project began as an initiative of the nonprofit organization Partners of the Americas, which connects international communities.
“We wanted to involve youth in our organization, and we thought that the best way of involving youth is to have something that’s hands on, that’s creative and active,” said Dorly Piske, founder of Biojewelry for Breast Cancer and president of the Wyoming Partners of the Americas chapter.
“So, we chose to start this biojewelry project and it was based on an identified need of lack of access to mammogram screenings in the rural areas in the state of Goiás, because that’s where our relationship is.”
The mortality rate in these rural areas is significantly higher than average, Piske said, and the new center intends to double the number of women served, currently 9,000 per year. The $50,000 contribution allowed the center to acquire a service for digitalizing exam images.
To raise money for the cause, volunteers create and sell earrings, bracelets and necklaces created from biological materials from Brazil.
“The majority of these beads are nuts from palm trees, mostly from the Amazon region, and this is a huge, huge variety of them,” Piske said. “Each different type of palm tree will produce a different type of nut, which is then processed in villages, but some of the beads come from different types of plants — it could be vines, or it could be ornamental plants.”
Volunteers meet once a week in the basement of the University of Wyoming’s Cheney International Center. The number of attendees fluctuates week to week but typically includes students from UW and Laramie High School.
Depending on the style, number of beads and type of beads, prices can vary from $5-$25 for bracelets, $10-$15 for earrings and $15-$40 for necklaces.
The items are typically sold at campus events, and Piske often takes some of the jewelry with her when she travels to conferences.
Tamicka Linstead, a University of Wyoming student and intern at Big Brothers Big Sisters, began volunteering with the organization in August and said she enjoyed “being crafty, creating something, feeling capable.”
“They like the open-endedness of the workshops,” Piske said. “Nobody’s forced to do anything that they don’t want; they can choose what they want to do. They can choose the beads that they like, and I help them with the techniques, too.”
Piske plans to visit the new breast cancer diagnosis center in the near future and meet with the medical team there to determine the organization’s next steps. In the meantime, volunteers will continue to create biojewelry, she said.
She said it was exciting to see how a combination of lots of small actions — “bead by bead, bracelet by bracelet” — can culminate in something meaningful.
“Believing in an idea, acting on it, mobilizing supporters, and persisting make achieving goals such as this possible,” she said. “The sum of countless small contributions can have an impact, make a difference.”