Rwanda is a small mountainous country located in the Great Lakes region of East Africa, just south of the Equator. The country is ecologically diverse for its size and characterized with highland mountain landscapes in the west giving way to savannah grasslands and low altitude marshes to the east. Tourism, minerals, coffee, and tea are Rwanda's main sources of foreign exchange. Although livelihood practices vary geographically, agricultural production serves as the foundation for the rural economy. Rwanda is actively promoting entrepreneurial development in it's Vision 2020 push to become a middle income country. Administratively, Rwanda is divided into five key Provinces. They include the Western, Northern, Southern, Eastern, and Kigali Province located centrally.
Twiyubake Leather Sandal Cooperative - organized by Hands of Mothers (Manos de Madres) - is a cohort of incredible young people who did not receive a chance for a proper education, and all living with HIV. Many are the head of their households, struggling to provide for their families. Twiyubake provides an opportunity to grow together as a community, learn new skills, and connect with like-minded individuals who all want a chance to create a better future for themselves and for their families.
Pacifique began his professional art career when he was 17, and founded Niyo Art Gallery in early 2015. Niyo was created as a community outreach center to help support impoverished children in Kigali. Initially a dance studio, Pacifique's young students would fund raise during dance performances to raise money for school fees. The studio expanded into an art gallery and cultural center, and profits continue to support nearly 120 children through the completion of secondary school. Pacifique has traveled multiple times to the United States to teach Rwandan traditional dance to American children in order to share his culture and his love of creative arts.
There are today 12 artisans and one accountant making up the pottery cooperative. One of them, Louis, has been there since the very beginning. Since pottery is the Batwa’s main occupation – a minority group in Rwanda that constitutes less than 1% of the population – and Louis is a Batwa, the skills of pottery-making have been transmitted to him by his family and community since his young age. Initially, there were 17 local potters working at the cooperative before the genocide. Only Louis remained and decided to become a teacher, sharing his skills and expertise to fellow members in his community who were interested in the art of pottery-making. The clay that they use is locally made as they have all the resources they need around them, both on the hills and in the swamps. The only difference is in terms of coloring and finishing; hues are imported from abroad, mainly Belgium. They ceramics are very high quality and you'll find them for sale at boutique shops Rwanda and abroad.
GAHIZI, Aime's father, is from Karongi District, Gitesi Sector, and is the former manager of the local branch of a major bank. He was also a teacher in a secondary school in Congo. He went to Burundi in 1990 and started a coffee shop and restaurant. He eventually returned to Rwanda and was on the city council of Kicukiro District in Kigali. In 2000, he started planting coffee and started Gitesi Coffee Washing Station. Gitesi started harvesting coffee in 2004 and started the washing station in 2006. After overcoming 4 years of challenges, they perfected the coffee washing process in 2010, and Aime joined the family business 2011. Their goal is to buy more land each year and plant about 2,000 more trees.
Grace was born in the Southern Province of Rwanda in a village called Byimana, a village well known for basket making. She attended only primary school because her parents didn’t have enough money to send her to school and continue her education. She came to Kigali when she got married. After 20 years of marriage, her husband passed away, so now she is in charge of her whole family. Her work supports her and her four children. She is proud because her children don’t lack anything - they have enough to eat and dress, and go to school.
Students and their parents come from around Rwanda to attend Groupe Scolaire Rosa Mystica. With them, they bring a wide range of skill sets.
“What’s there to do around here?” I ask at the reception desk of a small, rural hostel. To my surprise, the most enticing of the responses I got was, “walk around.” That was after being here in Rwanda for about 3 weeks. In the seven mon ... read more