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Babies & Bolgas!

Babies…bolgas…babies & bolgas! We were so excited about our newest kiddie clothes & fresh-from-Ghana basket collections that we decided to put them together in a brand new, oh-so-cute photoshoot!

The wool vests & hats you see in the images below are made by the artisans of Handspun Hope - a True Vineyard Ministries {link:} empowerment initiative that employs  58 people in Rwanda to handspun & dye 100% organic merino wool {to learn more about our partnership, click here}The bolga baskets, a traditional Ghanaian craft, are handwoven out of locally-grown straw and are the latest addition to our quickly growing Ghana collection.

We hope you love these photos and the handmade-with-heart  products in them! You can shop these collections here PLUS find some new made-with-love-in-Rwanda goodies for you and your little ones. Think wrapped wire flamingos, our best-selling “I Heart Bunny,” and our go-to print rompers and bloomers styled for fall.

#leadership academy, #indegodiaries, #education

Back-to-School Success Stories

This September, we’ve been taking you behind-the-scenes of the back-to-school, giving you the inside scoop on our Leadership Academy and the incredible successes of our graduates. Today, we have even more amazing stories to share about our students and all they are achieving – read on for more!

To help our partners achieve their dreams, please donate to our Leadership Academy today

Vestine’s Water Business

During the Leadership Academy’s “Introduction to Finance” lesson, Vestine from Ejo Hazaza cooperative said that while she had always wanted to start her own business, she was too scared to take out a loan. Other students in the class, eager to change her mind, immediately chimed in with personal stories about how loans had positively impacted their lives. 

Rose from the Ingenzi Knit Union talked about how she took out a loan to expand her business, which became so successful she was able to buy her own home (and pay the loan back in full.) Anne Marie from Cocoki cooperative discussed the time that she could not afford to pay her children’s school fees, but took out a loan to make sure they would be able to continue their studies. She is now paying it back in installments with the income she earns at her cooperative. 

Armed with these empowering stories, and the lessons she learned at the Leadership Academy on banking and finance, Vestine has since taken out a loan which she is using to open a water business in her community, where many people do not have access to clean, affordable drinking water. We think this is only the beginning for this inspiring social entrepreneur! 

Mentorship, Networking, & Skill-Sharing 

One of the primary goals of our Leadership Academy is for students to use their knowledge and skills to mentor and uplift others. We are thrilled to report that each and every one of our Academy graduates led mentorship workshops at their cooperatives last semester – creating a ripple effect of empowerment for all of our artisan partners.

Another goal of our Academy is to create networking opportunities for women from different cooperatives in Rwanda to exchange ideas, best practices, and – thanks to our recent grads – artisanal skills! Last semester, students at the Academy arranged to go to one another’s cooperatives and teach their members new artisanal techniques (inspired by Academy lessons on market competition and product innovation!) 

For example, Lucy from Covanya cooperative taught the seamstresses of Ibyshimo how to weave, and Jacqueline from Cocoki taught the weavers of Imirasire how to sew. We can’t wait to see the awesome new products (and market opportunities!) that these skills bring about.

A New Business in Kigali

At the graduation ceremony of our first Leadership Academy class this April, our students made an exciting announcement: they are banding together to open an artisan craft store in Kigali! They came up with the idea after taking an Academy lesson on market and customer analysis, which focused on understanding local customers and preferences. Based on what they learned in class, they realized that there was a market for artisan-made goods in Kigali and that by opening a shop, they could create additional sources of income for their cooperatives.

The students worked together to draft a business plan for the project, which will cost about 5 million Rwandan Francs (close to $7,000 USD) to get off the ground. The students plan to pool these funds from each of their cooperatives and are in the process of identifying an affordable shop space with a good amount of foot-traffic to bring in customers. Look out for them next time you’re in Kigali!

We hope that these stories give you a firsthand sense of our Leadership Academy and the impact it is having on women across Rwanda. As students become empowered as entrepreneurs and leaders they are using their knowledge to uplift others, create employment opportunities, and drive economic growth in their communities. 

In order to sustain this momentum and empower more women through the power of education, please donate to our Leadership Academy today!

To donate to the Leadership Academy through the Ann B. Zeis Scholarship Fund, click here

#community, #indegodiaries, #collaboration, #funwithfriends, #leadership academy, #back to school

Back-to-School with The Great Lakes Goods

We are so excited to introduce you to our newest partner, Rose Lazar: the founder, designer, and talented maker behind The Great Lakes Goods. Known for her whimsical handmade prints, magical wall charms, and finely-crafted wooden objects, Rose infuses each item she makes with humor, good vibes, and a love of handmade design that we simply can’t get enough of. That’s why we are so exited to launch our new custom collection of Great Lakes x Indego Africa products featuring hand-drawn notecard sets and moon & star garlands. But wait – there’s more!

In addition to being our partner-in-design, Rose is also a supporter of our Leadership Academy in Rwanda. Through September 22nd, you can buy any of our Indego Africa x The Great Lakes products and your purchase will go towards our Back-to-School Campaign to support education for women in Rwanda!

Click here to shop these one-of-a-kind handcrafted products and keep reading to find out Rose’s thoughts on the power of education, her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, and why she supports Indego Africa.

When we hear the word education we think of opportunity and empowerment. What does education mean to you and how has it helped you become the person you are today? 

To me, education is something that you never outgrow. There's always a chance to learn something new whether it be from a book you read, an experience you have, a conversation between two people or even a negative experience with something. Whatever triggers that thing inside of you that makes you want to learn more is a very powerful thing. Education to me means never losing sight of that feeling. Education has helped me in that no one ever told me there was a limit to what I can learn. To this day when I figure out how to do something it's an incredibly satisfying feeling.  

At our Leadership Academy, students are learning the skills they need to start their own businesses. As the  founder, owner, and designer of The Great Lakes Goods, what advice would you give to these aspiring entrepreneurs? 

The advice I have for aspiring entrepreneurs is: don't be afraid to take a chance. Whatever you want to do might seem crazy to some people but if you 100% believe in it, the passion you have for it will shine through it and convince everyone around you that your crazy idea just might work. Just be prepared to work hard for want you want to do.  

We love the whimsical handmade awesomeness that is The Great Lakes. What inspired you to work with Indego Africa? 

I wanted to work with Indego Africa because I had already been a fan, buying up your products when I would see them in boutiques around NY. When I investigated who and what Indego was, I thought it was fantastic! Taking these super traditional handicrafts and making them contemporary through color and styling. Then on top of it supporting a community of women makers. I was honored to be asked to work with Indego as I think it's a super inspirational community.  

We are honored to work with The Great Lakes and to bring you beautifully handcrafted products that empower women to achieve their dreams. To shop our Great Lakes x Indego Africa collection and support our Back-to-School Campaign for women in Rwanda, click here

#leadership academy, #education, #indegodiaries

Back-to-School with Emelienne Nyiramana: The Power of Education

Emelienne Nyiramana is one of Indego Africa’s first artisan partners (yes, from way back in 2007!), the founder of Cocoki Cooperative, and an inspiring testament to the power of education in transforming lives. While only a few years ago Emelienne was struggling to lift herself and her family out of poverty, today - thanks to education and determination - Emelienne is a full-time Indego Africa staff member, a Teaching Associate at our Leadership Academy, and an influential mentor and leader in communities across Rwanda. We sat down with Emelienne to find out what education means to her and why she is passionate about sharing it with others. Read on to find out!

To help provide more women with the life-changing educational opportunities Emelienne has had, please consider donating to our Leadership Academy today!


How has education changed your life?

When I began participating in Indego Africa’s trainings, I started to think big and was inspired to continue my education. Since then, I have gained so much and not just financially – I have grown mentally too. Education has enabled me to open my mind and pursue opportunities I had never even dreamed of. 

You have become a mentor to many women in Rwanda,  such as the artisans of Abasangiye & Ejo Hazaza. Why is mentoring other women important to you?

Mentoring is very important to me because it gives me a chance to share what I learned through my education and help other women achieve more so that their lives can change just as mine has. It is encouraging and very important to me when other women trust me and appreciate my advice, and it is also humbling at the same time when they say they want to be able to follow in my footsteps. 

Why did you want to become a Teaching Associate at Indego Africa’s Leadership Academy?

I wanted to become a Teaching Associate to share the knowledge I have received from my education with Indego Africa to uplift other women. I believe the Leadership Academy is important for the following reasons:

(1) The lessons are very good and helpful because they combine business knowledge with computer training and English vocabulary, which are useful to cooperatives/ individuals that want to be better entrepreneurs.

(2) Networking during the class allows students from different cooperatives to discuss and share their opinions and ideas with one another, which encourages them to learn from each other. This also helps them to build professional and/or personal relationships with each other.

(3) Students are able to focus and give their utmost attention to the program and enjoy what they are learning without any distractions. Before, when trainings were carried out at the cooperatives, some students would try to listen to the trainers and work at the same time so they could get paid at the end of the day. Therefore they could not be fully committed to learning. At the Leadership Academy they are able to dedicate two days a week to studying and also have enough time to work, which makes a good balance. 

How does the Leadership Academy impact its students?

The Leadership Academy gives  students with the knowledge and skills they need to better manage their businesses. The graduates from the first Academy class have been able to change the way they run their cooperatives. For example, some have gotten bank accounts, which they use to pay members and avoid mismanagement of funds. Others have learned new technical skills from their co-students that they did not know before in the hope of accessing different markets.

What has been your favorite moment at the Leadership Academy so far?

My favorite moment was the day we introduced our students to Chromebooks. They were so excited to work with them that no one wanted to take a break. We practically had to force them to go home at the end of class!

Why did you want to become a full-time Indego Africa staff member? What are your dreams for the future?

I wanted to become an Indego Africa staff member to expand my knowledge about international NGOS and to work closely with Indego’s (more than) 800 artisan partners. My dreams for the future are to complete my studies and continue to mentor other women through business trainings. I hope to empower them to go back-to-school as well! 

Please help Emelienne achieve her dreams and empower more women in Rwanda to go back-to-school by donating to our Leadership Academy today!

To support our Leadership Academy through the Ann B. Zeis Scholarship Fund, click here

#indegodiaries, #leadership academy, #education, #behind the scenes

Behind The Scenes Video Note From Our CEO

This September, we are going back-to-school! Our Leadership Academy is a six-month advanced business education program that empowers women to become entrepreneurs and agents of change in their communities.

While most of our artisan partners had their education interrupted by the 1994 genocide {92% never completed secondary school} today they are reaching extraordinary heights – creating a ripple effect of empowerment and opportunity in communities across Rwanda. Press play to find out why our CEO believes in the power of education and why you should too!


#leadership academy, #education, #bts, #back-to-school

We’re Going Back-to-School!

On October 1st, 2014, we launched a Leadership Academy to educate the next generation of powerful female leaders and entrepreneurs in Rwanda. Almost one year later, the results are in and we are so excited to share them with you…read on for more!

Our Leadership Academy is a six-month advanced business education program that trains women in the skills they need to grow their own businesses and become agents of change in their communities {for more detail, click here}

While most of our artisan partners had their education interrupted by the 1994 genocide {92% never completed secondary school} today they are reaching extraordinary heights – creating a ripple effect of empowerment and opportunity in communities across Rwanda.

In order to sustain this momentum, it is crucial that we continue to fund our Leadership Academy and uplift more women through the power of education. But we need your help to make it happen! 

From today through September 22nd, we will be running our second annual Back-to-School Campaign to raise support for our Leadership Academy. Over the next two weeks, we will take you on a behind-the-scenes tour of this past year, giving you an inside look into our Leadership Academy and the incredible successes of our graduates.

We hope that these stories will inspire you to support our artisan partners as they strive to achieve their dreams. Will you help them go back-to-school?

Click here to donate 

P.S. – the first 25 people to donate today will receive a special, handmade-with-love gift {and a gold star from our Academy Teachers in Rwanda!} So don’t wait – donate today!