Sunday, June 04, 2006


Friday, May 26

The Day That Just Kept Getting Better
The morning began when Cari, Marla, Anne, Richard, and Manny met with Felix and Josephine Odette of UNIFEM. Our partnership has been renewed. UNIFEM and USAID were extremely pleased with the success of the training efforts and Bpeace in its support of Rwanda Knits.

A taste of New York - Bagels
Cari visited Mbwirandumva (Speak We Are Listening), a center for older widows, handicapped women and young girls orphaned from the Genocide. Here they learn sewing, beading, embroidery, card-making and, yes, bagel-making. Every Friday they bake amazingly good bagels. Of course, it was just when we were leaving…… But Cari brought a bagel back for everyone to test them on the bona-fide BPeace bagel gourmets.

Road Trip…to Butare

Sabra, Selma, Richard, Susan, Marla and I took a beautiful drive to Butare, the former capitol of Rwanda. It is considered the cultural and intellectual center of Rwanda as the national university and museum are situated there. Unfortunately, we didn't see either but our back road adventure made up for our lack of cultural sights. We met Symphrose Mukamazimpaka at her hotel Le Petit Prince (with a signature statue, a fountain, parking area, garden, restaurant, conference center and outdoor restaurant/bar with traditional looking huts for gathering and eating). All of the above are built but not completed. Symphrose needs a hotel manager and another loan.

After lunch with Symphrose at the Ibis, we visited her hardware store. The university is one of her institutional customers but there is stiff competition in Butare for other contracts. Next time we come to Butare we hope to stay at her hotel. We then drove to a historic site where she plans on having picnics and overnights in tents. The site was "just a few minutes from town" (sound buzzingly familiar Kate?). Anyway, 45 minutes later we were at the top of a beautiful mountain with spectacular views. Symphrose, by the way, was a great driver but she kept turning around to look us in the eye. Anyway, when we got there, we were told the site was just a few minutes walk away. Then we heard it was 10 minutes each way down a dirt path and while Marla and I were ready to go, Sabra was skeptical. We just didn’t have the time. (Marla had a meeting in Kigali with a potential investor for one of our associates.) I don't know about Marla's car on the way up, but I do know that we were laughing and giggling with Symphrose as we bounced all over the place. Fortunately, only Sabra's bra wire popped out of her shirt when we hit a huge gully in the road. You get the picture.

On the way down, Marla and I tossed balls and candy out the window to the kids because we didn't have time to stop. No injuries--just fabric balls.

When we returned to the hotel we met Jullian (one of our workshop attendees) who had been waiting for Manny. She had gifts for Julia and me and we heard about a lot of kids and orphans. We said good bye to Susan, our translator, my partner in the back seat of the land cruiser. She too had gifts.

We went upstairs and there was Richard and his twin brother Ronald--otherwise referred to by their mom as "ever and forever" (Patty Duke show, for those of you that remember). They are identical in appearance but very different in personalities-both delightful.

Funny that at least two people thought I was Anne and visa versa. It was either the change of hairstyle, big or pulled back or the fact that we all look alike. Sometimes the women would come in with completely different hairstyles or extensions or headscarves and they would look totally different. I never saw as many glamorous women in one room as I say the night of our farewell celebration at Nadia's restaurant in the new, upscale mall. Even though it’s hard to compete with their sense of style, designs and fabrics, bring one nice outfit. (Or buy something in Kigali. At Charlotte's store Julia bought black heels and a shirt that she somehow planned on wearing as a skirt.) -loretta

Village of Hope
Manny and Anne started the morning with a visit to Penina at the Rwandan Women’s Network Village of Hope, also recipients of knitting machines. The village is situated on a ridge surrounded by many beautiful new homes. The village produces many products including hand made cards, sewn clothing, beaded necklaces, and bath mats. They need help with product development and quality control.

Esther and Diana’s Day Care Center-
Next Manny and Anne toured the future site of Esther and Diana’s day care center. Centrally located, with in a block of a big elementary school, the building will be able to serve approximately 25 children to start, ranging in age from 3 months to 5years. They already have a business plan and need mentoring to launch the business.

Girl’s Night Out
Anne and Cari enjoyed a lively dinner with Senator Odette, Angelina Muganza and Charita, truly remarkable women. The talk ranged from building peace, business and knitting to surgery, as Senator Odette is a retired doctor. The Senator is accompanying President Kagame to the US on Sunday. They are meeting with President Bush to discuss Darfur and Human Rights.
I am so happy to know that Esther and Diana will soon open a day care center. I hope you will provide male teachers to help guide boys with no fathers. It will wihout doubt help working mothers and will leave a fingerprint on young lives.
Really a nice post.
Emerita Natural Women Products
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