Sunday, August 28, 2005
SUNDAY-SATURDAY: 27 hours of air, ocean and airport dust later . . .
We arrived at Kigali and were met by friendly Rwandan faces: Rwanda Knits Program Manager Geoffrey Katushabe, who has become a new Bpeace friend and invaluable guide as well as Eric Rwabuhihi, Director of Rwanda and Americans in Partnership. And incredibly, fast runners were at the airport looking for us! Several friends of Bpeace joined the welcoming team and we look forward to interviewing them later this week! In the "old days" we had to go find them, now they find us!
3 hours later, after quick showers and a breakfast we were off. With a few dusty turns (with the first time visitors eyes wide open taking in the new sights), we arrived at the headquarters of Rwandan Women's Network. We did not know it then but it turned into a three hour impassioned meeting with over 20 women who gave up their Saturday chores to meet with us. We arrived bleary and weary but soon the energy and passion of the Rwandan attendees and their leader Mary Balikungeri not only blew us away but reinvigorated us. We started with introductions and ended with what looks like the potential for partnership. The women in their network are in fields diverse as construction, real estate, retail, beauty salons, software, and telecommunications. The heart of the meeting was a dialogue around business concepting and addressing the challenges of building businesses in
Rwanda. Additionally time was spent talking about the knitting project of which RWN will be a part and how to make this broadly and largely successful. We are excited to report that we will interview some of the women for our fast runner program and work with Mary on the next steps for molding our work together . . .we have high expectations given the success of the meeting.
Then wonderful sleep AND sleep AND sleep. Back up for 7am breakfast with the team and off . . .one car to Butare to meet with Tim Shilling, Director of the Pearl Project. The Partnership for Enhancing Agriculture in Rwanda through Linkages (PEARL) works with rural communities across Rwanda to generate income through agricultural product development and market linkages. Their program has transformed the Rwandan coffee industry (and was written up in Time Magazine this past week) and the other to Rwamagana's Avega Center to meet with 6 of the knitters in the Rwanda Knits Program.
Photo © Peter Lien 2005
Glad you had a safe trip and that the mission is productive right out of the gate!!
Marla - I left a vm for Dan on Saturday and then spoke with him yesterday (Sunday).
How's the coffee? Are the chilies 3 alarm or 5 alarm????
My thoughts are with everyone
As a Rwandan, I am glad to be involved with such a great team that is committed to helping Rwandan women become self reliant through businesses that enhance the progress of Peace.
I look forward to being on the next trip. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!