Billie Johnstone has a history of working with children and their families as a school social worker and clinical practitioner. After retirement from the Tacoma School District, she returned to South Africa, finding the lives of children overwhelmingly horrific. She pledged financial support to an orphanage and the youth programs in Soweta to benefit these children.
Sparked by a passion for gemstones, crystals and rare trade beads, Billie embraced an inspiration to create a business of handcrafted jewelry as a means to support the orphanage. Billielepahnt Designs changes lives. Each one is custom designed made up of semi-precious gem stones, Swarovski crystals, hand blown glass, vintage African trade beads and other natural materials with gold and silver components.
Original necklaces by Billieielepahnt Design featuring African trade beads.
Q: What are African trade beads?
A: Africans often used beads for currency, (often referred to as African money). Wealth and social status could be easily determined by the quality, quantity and style of jewelry worn. The success of this form of currency can largely be attributed to the high intrinsic value African people put upon decorative items.
I am a philanthropist giving away 100% of my artistic endeavors to an African orphanage and other charities. “Ubunthu”, an African word, meaning “humanity to others.” Proceeds are donated to Soweta youth programs and non-profit organizations in Kliptown, South Africa.
This is unbunthu.—Billie Johnstone
Soweta Kliptown Youth (SKY) provides hopes and serves to some of the most neglected children in South Africa.
Conditions in Kliptown:
There is a health crisis that leaves many children orphans, with high mortality rates, as well as no access to health care. There is a lack of infrastructure. Many homes lack electricity and plumbing. There are no schools, clinics or libraries.
There is a lack of opportunity as unemployment is extremely high. Most adults lack education or sources of income. Youth have few productive outlets.
Yet, there is a wealth of spirit. Kliptown is blessed with home and a caring community.
For more information please visit http://www.kliptownyouth program.org.za
“If I could, I would purchase all of Billie’s jewelry! What a stunning story! What a remarkable cause! My first visit to Fairweather’s! What an enjoyable evening! Thank you for having Billie here!” –Seattle Art Walk patron wearing a Billie Johnstone original necklace with the artist Billie Johnstone.