Abraham is a self-taught jewelry designer who upcycles discarded materials (i.e. cow horn, cow bone, cooking pots, padlocks) to create necklaces of high quality and beauty.
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.
Irenee had dreams of opening his own woodworking and carpentry company for many years. Eventually, he left his job leading up the carpentry department at Nyamata Technical Secondary School and pursued his dream. Irenee works directly with his clients to carry out their woodworking designs, or creates unique pieces based on their needs. His business is small but growing, and he hopes to eventually have both a workshop and a showroom. The nickname Magic Hands was given to Irenee by former colleagues, and it means someone who can start with something like timber and change it into something usable, like magic!
Chris was born in the DRC (Democratic republic of Congo) to a Kenyan father and Rwandan mother. Both parents passed away when he was only five, leaving he and his two brothers to be raised by their grandmother. Chris has been passionate about dance nearly all of his life, having started getting involved at the age of four. He recalls that it was his uncle - now living in South Africa as a singer - who taught him to dance and inspired him. Chris made this his career and dreams of taking dance to another level in Rwanda.
Haute Baso’s two co-founders - Linda and Candi - met in late 2013 through their mutual experience in design and interest to support local communities in Rwanda. Both had backgrounds in international development and fashion and art. Linda was born in the US to Rwandan parents (who worked for the UN) and moved with her family to Uganda in the late 1990s. Linda felt passionately about her home country and moved to Rwanda once the war ended. Candi was born and raised in Belgium. Her father is Rwandan and mother Belgium and Congolese. Feeling a draw to he home, she moved full time to Rwanda in 2009 to contribute to development of the country. Fashion and boutique have always been an interest. She started out drawing clothing designs as a teenager and producing her own clothing line for family and friends a few years later. It wasn’t until 2013 though that she really starting thinking about fashion as a business. With an education in international development, she worked for several years in the public health sector before deciding to go full time into design. The two met in late 2013 after beginning to make a name for themselves in Kigali’s burgeoning fashion scene. Haute Baso was a merger of Haute Rwanda, a company that Linda had launched, and Candi’s company, Baso. After seeing the quality of Linda’s work at varioud exhibitons, Candi reached out to discuss a partnership. Haute Baso started small selling out of the back of their car and on social media. They built their brand by marketing and selling at various exhibitions and opened their design house once they had dialed in quality and were shifting to meet demand. As Linda says “We really started with nothing. It was incredible learning how you can just start with an idea and grow from there. We've received a lot of support from people who want to see us succeed, and it would be great if more people could learn from this and do similar. Its a win when other people are inspired and believe that it is achievable.”
In the 1970s, a group of Belgian nuns came to Rutongo and started an embroidery training center and workshop to help young women from the village. Women were trained, then offered jobs in the workshop. They earned a salary and were able to provide for their families. The initiative was an important social enterprise and for many years represented a great source of pride for local young women. The embroiderers developed an unparalleled know-how and their work won praise beyond Rwanda’s borders. The best materials (Belgian linen and French DMC threads) were imported from Europe so that the finest quality of embroidery would be guaranteed. At its best, the workshop employed more than 300 embroiderers. In 1994, the work was abruptly halted, ending the enterprise that supported the Rutongo community for so many years. The Belgian nuns moved back to Belgium and the workshop disappeared.
OpenTek is a team of 4 young people who graduated from Adventist University of Central Africa(AUCA) with degrees in Information Technology. The team has wide life experience and come from different backgrounds. They are driven by a passion for technology and innovation and strive to be on top of the best technologies in the region.
Yakubu was born and raised in the land of thousand hills. Yakubu is a selft-taught photographer and now works as a freelance photographer based in Kigali. He is the co-founder of Kwanda Art Foundation, which helps promote Rwanda’s art community through festivals, workshops, and exhibitions. He travels all over Europe and Africa showing his photographs and has recently been featured on CNN Africa.
Theoneste started boxing when he was 13 years old as a way to get fit and learn self defense. He quickly realized how much he enjoyed it and started training regularly. In 2005 he entered his first international competition. One year later, in 2006, he was national boxing champion of Rwanda. Theoneste is still competing today, but focusing on coaching too. He coaches young children and adults. He was formerly a taxi driver, but recently sold his car to focus more on boxing. In addition to his own training and coaching work, he's also the captain of the Rwanda National Boxing Team.
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.
Inema Arts Center is a collective of Rwandan creative artists. At its core, the center provides space for artists in residence, specializing in contemporary African Arts, Crafts, Music, and Dance, to explore their creative talent.
Serge started drawing as a young boy in Rubavu, Rwanda, but didn't focus on his talent until he was in high school. He studied art at Nyundo art school in Rwanda's Western province. After school he came to Kigali to focus on his art. He finished school in 2009 and has been painting full time since. He currently has 4 students in a small academy he runs out of his home. He has trained about 10 students, many of whom have moved on to focus on their own work. Serge works out of his home and paints everyday from about 7am to 4pm. Serge's dream in to build an art academy, training many students and have his own gallery in downtown Kigali. He also wants to one day meet Barack Obama, the focus of one of his favorite pieces. He likes meeting people from other countries for new ideas and inspiration!
The women of Ineza all live with HIV and are striving to better themselves and their community. Income-generating activities, such as the creation of these innovative crafts, have empowered them to learn new skills and develop themselves, thus improving their quality of life.
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.
Faith is, in short, a force of nature, with big dreams for the Kigali-based bakery group she belongs to. “I envision it looking like Simba or Nakumatt (the largest regional groceries). I want to see our bakery famous everywhere. Not only in Rwanda, but everywhere.”
This kind of hope and energy was not always the case for Faith. As a single mother of four, Faith had relied on her extended family for support for the last 10 years. “I felt useless. But when I joined the bakery, I learned so many lessons. My mind has opened.”
Now, Faith co-leads the Remera Women’s Bakery group, focusing her energies on accounting reports, finding new markets, and promoting nutrition both at home and in her community. “The most important lesson has been about nutrition. In most of Rwandan society, you won’t find people with a balanced diet. Not because they are poor, but because they don’t know, they aren’t educated on the topic. We explain to our clients, the other breads are big, but not nutritious. So people have started believing us, and they are changing their mind. “I have always needed to rely on my family to provide me with support, I felt useless. But when I joined the bakery, I learned so many lessons. My mind has opened, and I now I know I can do something.”
Hands of Mothers involvement with the women began in 2010 and resulted in the launch of the Nyacyonga Jewelry Initiative. The women seized this opportunity and have been determined to succeed. They named their cooperative Ejo Hazaza because "Ejo Hazaza means 'tomorrow,' and we hope to continue to live tomorrow in good health by supporting ourselves financially and each other emotionally." Their goal is to be able to send their children to school, access health insurance and proper nutrition.
Aminatha is in her early 40s, and has two children. Her firstborn son is a 21 year old business student and her second child is an 11 year old girl. She didn’t go to school but speaks Lingala, Swahili, Kinyarwanda and French fluently. Aminatha grew up thinking that women don’t work, but when she started working, she felt empowered - realizing that she does not have to stay at home and that she can pay school fees for her children. She eventually started learning English and continues to learn today.
Rupari was born in Burundi and came to Rwanda in 1994. She holds a degree in International Economics from the National University of Rwanda and has worked with NGOs, in public relations, and also in the banking sector. Rupari’s immediate goal is to be successful in the design and production of her clothing lines. She hopes to export her work internationally and eventually open a shop in another country. She’s also passionate about working with other models that wish to pursue modeling as a career. She also hopes to have a larger online presence and increase sales through her website.
The “One for One” movement became so out of control in 2011, that three college students began extensive research on supply chains in Africa in order to better communicate the economic injustice of hand-outs and explore alternatives. What they found were the victims behind those hand-outs: the entrepreneurial, informal network of artisan-shoemakers. Informed chiefly by them, Atinga was formed to defend and support their livelihoods and openly compete against this movement with their very own footwear - Africa’s most humble shoes. You can read more about the artisan-shoemakers behind this incredible Project on their website.
Located at Rwanda’s geographical heart, the rapidly growing City of Kigali is not only the national capital, but also the country’s main business center and port of entry. It is is among the safest and friendliest capital cities in Africa. Kigali is built in hilly country, sprawling across about four ridges and the valleys in between. The city centre is located on one of these ridges, with the main government area on another. The tops of the ridges have an average elevation of 1,600 metres (5,250 ft), while the valleys are around 1,300 m (4,270 ft). The bigger houses and office buildings tend to be on the tops of the ridges, while the poorer people live in the valleys. The city is ringed most of the way round by higher hills, with some suburban sprawl rising up these. The highest of these is Mt. Kigali, with an elevation of 1,850 m (6,075 ft) above sea level. The City of Kigali is made up of three districts namely Gasabo, Kicukiro and Nyarugenge.
All roads lead to Kigali. Rwanda's capital is located centrally in the country and to get from one side of Rwanda to the other you pass through the city. For international arrivals, there are a number of major airlines with flights to Kigali from other African countries, Europe, the Middle East, and beyond. There are direct bus routes from Kamapala, Uganda and various locations in Tanzania.
As Rwanda's cosmopolitan capital city, Kigali has all you need including comfortable accommodation, a diverse array of quality restaraunts and bars, and more. Hike up Mount Kigali for incredible views of the city or visit Kigali Genocide Memorial for a somber history lesson. There is plenty of opportunity explore what the city has to offer.