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Performing Art
Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Jun. 9, 2010 7 years ago

Sarasota 'nomad' publishes essay from the heart

by: Heidi Kurpiela Contributing Writer

Five years ago, Kim Bass left for Uganda to help her friend set up an office that would later spur a fair-trade grassroots movement rooted in jewelry — bead necklaces, to be exact.

A real-estate investor with a business background in risk management and disaster preparedness, Bass, 51, was enjoying the height of Florida’s real-estate boom when her friend, Torkin Wakefield, asked if she’d be interested in joining the BeadforLife volunteer staff working out of Kampala, Uganda.

The organization, which launched in 2004, was working to create fair-trade opportunities for impoverished Ugandan beaders, many of whom earned $1 a day crushing rocks in a quarry on the outskirts of Kampala, the capital of Uganda.

Inspired by a group of female villagers who handcraft paper bead necklaces, Wakefield, the wife of an infectious-disease doctor working out of Uganda, formed a team of volunteers whose primary focus was to find fair-trade markets for the women to sell their work.

The operation — BeadforLife — at first functioned out of Wakefield’s home, but soon the organization outgrew the space. Bass, an Indian Beach resident, arrived to move the effort into an office with the help of her niece, a nurse who came along to open a non-profit medical clinic for people in displacement camps in a remote area of Uganda.

During her six weeks in Uganda, Bass would e-mail short stories home to friends and family, copying writer Rita Golden Gelman, whom she had befriended over the Internet after reading Gelman’s 2001 best-selling memoir, “Tales of a Female Nomad.”

“The Awakening” is a story Bass wrote about her experience walking through Kampala after meeting a group of Ugandan beaders.

“I remember walking through the capital city and just crying,” Bass says. “I saw what the people did for a living — pounding stone into pea gravel, making $1 a day — and here was this group (BeadForLife) showing them how to make more than $1 a day with something that didn’t require such physical labor.”

What happened after Bass burst into tears still moves her to this day. As soon as she started crying, Bass was taken to a local living quarters and asked if she needed someone to be with her while she wept.

“I was just sobbing when I realized that even within our own families and close communities, most of the time, we cry by ourselves,” Bass says. “There, it was tribal. There, nothing was experienced alone, be it good or bad.”

The story was so poignant and raw, Gelman asked Bass if she could include it in her latest book, “Female Nomad and Friends: Tales of Breaking Free and Breaking Bread Around the World.”

The book, published this month by Random House’s Three Rivers Press, is an anthology of essays written by people who have taken risks, embarked on adventures and made cultural connections with people all over the world.

The author received more than 1,000 submissions for the book. Gelman’s was one of 41 selected for publication. The $15 paperback also includes more than 30 international recipes collected by fellow nomads. All contributors have agreed to donate the book’s royalties to an educational scholarship fund for needy children in New Delhi.

“I’ve always been a writer,” says Bass, who’s published dozens of technical articles on business and home safety. “This story was really the first thing I’ve had published that was written from the heart.”

Meet the Author

Kim Bass will read from “Female Nomad and Friends” at a book-signing and bread-breaking event from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, June 10, at everything but the girl, in the Rosemary District. Enjoy global appetizers, prepared from recipes included in the book. For more information on the event, call everything but the girl at 954-8800. For more information on “BeadForLife,” visit

“Female Nomad and Friends” is available at all major bookstores and online.

Contact Heidi Kurpiela at [email protected].

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