As a successful media-mogul, Russell Simmons, wears many hats – from hip-hop impresario to television producer to jewelry executive.
But despite all the accolades, it’s his charitable efforts in Africa that could be his most shining achievement.
Sensitive to the plight of disadvantaged African people, Simmons went on a fact-finding mission in 2006 to countries like Botswana and South Africa and witnessed concrete examples of how the diamond industry contributes to the overall self-empowerment of African people.
From that experience – the Diamond Empowerment Fund (D.E.F.) was born.
Simmons Jewelry Co. started The D.E.F. to engage the entire diamond and jewelry industry in raising funds to benefit educational initiatives in African nations where diamonds are a natural resource.
But it’s not just the jewelry industry that’s getting in on the act. Celebrity supporters from Beyonce and Ludacris to Penelope Cruz and President Bill Clinton have given their time to the cause.
And much like Lance Armstrong’s “Live Strong” yellow bracelets, the D.E.F. has generated serious support from the sale of their malachite ‘Green’ fashion bracelet, which symbolizes the care for the planet earth – and more specifically, the continent of Africa.
The CIDA City Campus in Johannesburg, South Africa is the D.E.F’s first worthy beneficiary. Founded in 2000, CIDA (Community and Individual Development Association) is Africa’s first virtually free college that provides an education to the huge numbers of students who have no access to furthering their education after high school.
The school currently serves 1,000 students who are benefiting from full scholarship in pursuit of their business degrees, with a pass rate from 2004 to 2008 of 70% and a corresponding 80% employment rate for graduates.
So what’s next on the horizon? The founding vision of CIDA is being applied to plans for two new independent educational institutions that will offer the opportunity to serve 50% more students through a broader range of post-high school options. And, of course, there is always more fund raising.
There’s no better way to wear jewelry than with the knowledge that you’re not only looking good – you’re doing good.