Doing what you love to make a difference

R.J. Gallagher Jr.

“To educate girls is to reduce poverty.”

— Kofi Annan; Former U.N. secretary general

There is a really cool surf shop on the 101 Pacific Coast Highway in Encinitas, California, that feels totally absorbed in old school in some ways but way ahead of the curve in others. The story behind the shop centers around the quintessential diehard surfers back in the day who started making their own boards, and then things grew from there.

Bing Surf Shop is a quaint store but it has a global connection. It carries many of the surf fashion lines that most beach lovers would expect, but this is where I became familiar with Krochet Kids Intl. When I was checking out some of the cool tees in the shop, I noticed some with a distinctive pocket on each shirt. I took a look at the label, and Krochet Kids created them all. That’s when I read the rest of the content on the label.

Krochet Kids is a story of three buddies that grew up together in Spokane, Washington. They began crocheting in high school and their unique products became popular with their classmates. Friends and family encouraged the threesome to teach people in developing countries how to crochet as a means of breaking the cycle of poverty. So, they spent time during their summer breaks during college volunteering and teaching children in developing nations how to crochet.

Because of the ongoing civil war in northern Uganda, entire generations had been relegated to living in government camps. They were completely dependent on government aid organizations for all of their needs. It was time for a change. That’s when an idea came to life. Could something as simple as crocheting break the cycle of poverty and government dependence in Uganda? Got to start somewhere, right?

They quickly discovered that crocheting and being paid a fair wage for a good day’s work allowed women to provide for their families, ultimately helping them rise above dependency and poverty. Empowerment also was realized; a great value-add that will prove to be priceless over time. All of this was accomplished from something as simple as creating a unique and desirable product produced with a hook and yarn. And love.

They immediately formed their nonprofit, and their mission of providing an opportunity for independence and empowerment began. They are committed to making an impact by working with highly vulnerable women in poverty-stricken regions of the world. They are of the belief that empowered women transform their families and communities and provide the opportunity to rise above poverty and dependence. Their beliefs have been proven right.

They attained their nonprofit status in 2008 and have been making a difference by creating a sustainable cycle of employment and empowerment ever since. The statistics provided on their website ( represent their positive impact. The results they have seen in their locations in Uganda and Peru are quite noteworthy. Their positive impacts also shout out that if you want, you can make a difference out there in the big world. Pick a spot and cause dear to you. What are you waiting for?

R.J. Gallagher Jr. is a three-decade resident of the Roaring Fork Valley community. He has proudly served and continues to serve on numerous nonprofit boards including the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, Aspen Community Foundation and Komen Aspen. His firm, Forte International, is a supporter of local philanthropy that makes a difference on a global level. “Philantopia,” is a monthly column of The Aspen Times focused on philanthropy and community involvement. R.J.’s always open for ideas. You can reach out to him at


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