home from rwanda

we spent the last week in rwanda working with the women in our hand in hand program with women for women international
December 16, 2011  |   column: DELIBERATE POLISH

our PR director, johanna, and i spent an amazing, inspiring and productive week in rwanda where we met with the women we work with through our hand in hand program. we were excited to see our women in action and to gain a better understanding of the progress that’s been made in the program since its start over a year and a half ago.

let me just say—wow. what a difference a year and a half can make.

hearing the success stories of the women enrolled in the program was one of the best parts of the trip. we met with a woman named ange, orphaned in the rwanda genocide in 1994, who today has three daughters—two of whom she’s been able to adopt and support due in part to her success in the hand in hand program. ange introduced us to her family and showed us her livestock (a cow and several goats), as well as the homes she’s been able to purchase and now rents out to tenants.

between meeting with the women, shopping the markets, attending a graduation ceremony and spending a day gorilla trekking, we had plenty to keep us busy. one item on the itinerary that i wasn’t expecting was a surprise visit from my sponsor sister jeanine. jeanine and i have only been sisters for the last two months (my previous sister having recently graduated the program), and it was such an experience to sit together and hear her story—the possibilities in store for her future that she had never dreamt of before. suffice to say, it was a beautiful, emotional day.

on sunday, we headed for home with armloads of inspiration from our shopping trip and, more importantly than that, an overwhelming sense of the work that’s still to be done in rwanda.

as a company, we plan to continue to develop rwandese products that we’ll sell in our shops—but as individuals, we can get involved and start making meaningful changes in these women’s lives as early as today.

the number of participants in women for women international’s year-long program is directly correlated to the number of sponsorships the organization receive. if you sign up to sponsor five women, five women will get to enter the program.

having celebrated the graduation of women we met last year when they were just entering the program—and comparing their quality of life then to where it’s at today—it’s evident how truly impactful a sponsorship is. now especially, with the holidays around the corner, is a perfect time to consider getting involved (i, myself will be giving several sponsorships as gifts).

i continue to be excited about the opportunities we’re creating in rwanda. it’s a gorgeous country with wonderful people and i’m honored to be a part of the work happening there. stay tuned to hear more about the progress we’re making with our hand in hand program. there are lots of exciting things on the horizon—and we’ll share more with you soon.



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