March 13. Laura Hanson and I arrive in Kigali, met by many friends, all members of the Ingenzi Knit Union. After two days of catching our breath and getting updates, Monday we visited Mpore Mama. Here is the Design and Management Teams of the Ingenzi Knit Union outside of cooperative Mpore Mama in Gasabo district, Kigali, the day before they sent representatives to elect a team of five grant writers to begin work on writing their grant to USADF - US Africa Development Fund. These grants must be written by for-profit busiinesses that include cooperative unions.
Above, Rwanda Knits' Project Manager, Patrick Nimubona, explains to the elected representatives of the three member cooperatives what is required to write a grant. They then elect, through secret ballot, the five members of the grant-writing team: Eric, Kayitesi, Domitille, Daphrose and Augustin. These five will meet for the next 5 days and will prepare their draft together with a budget. This is very hard work and congratulations were well deserved! But the grant-writing goes on, with translations, advice, buget re-writes, changes - just as it is for any grant application. And when we told the group that last year there were 100 applications for 7 grants and asked if they still wanted to apply, all hands went up. Now that's confidence! Here's the grant-writing team hard at work at the RAPP offices:
And just before we left Rwanda, we thought it would be a good idea if the members of the Ingenzi Knit Union paid a visit to another artisan cooperative, this one a sewing one called Ineza. They exchanged ideas, loved to know there were others they might collaborate with and pledged to see each other again. Here's a shot from that very quick "field trip" (just outside RAPP's back door). Note that some of Ineza's product line can be found at http://manosdemadres.com/.
If you're wondering who the two young men are in some of the photos, Rwanda Knits partners with Orphans of Rwanda (http://www.orphansofrwanda.org/) university students to do business training follow-up with each of the three primary cooperatives of Ingenzi Knit Union. And since Laura and I brought over four laptop computers (we got a GREAT deal on them!), the ORI interns will also be conducting basic computer skills workshops with the knitters so they will be able to use their new http://www.ingenzi.com/ website (currently a placeholder is there while a volunteer works on the back end) to show their product line and correspond with potential customers for school uniform sweaters.. Note that is is harder to be accepted into the ORI program than is is to get into Harvard, so Thomas and Sosthene are two amazing young men.
Lastly, I am very happy to let everyone know that finally, scarves made by the Ingenzi Knit Union are available on the Inshuti Collection website: http://www.inshuticollection.com/. They are beautifully knitted and photographed, so enjoy! Here's a photo of Dancille holding one of the scarves she made last year:
And a stack of the finished product. Akoze keza! (Kinyarwanda for "great work!")
More soon.....and a surprise!