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Up Close & Indego

#new, #inspiration, #handmade, #impact

Our Blog #spreadthanks

Christine

#inspiring, #artisans, #spreadthanks

Christine of the Ingenzi Knit Union is most thankful to have work that earns her a living – only a few years ago this was not the case.

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Christine was raised by her grandmother who passed away when she was 17 years old. Left to support herself, Christine found a job cleaning a family’s home in Butare. However, when the Genocide began, her employer kicked her out and Christine was left on the streets with nowhere to go. As was the deeply painful case for many women at that time, she became a victim of rape.

Christine escaped from Butare to Kigali, but her struggles did not end there. When she arrived, she stayed with a man she had met during her escape - that is, until he decided to marry her off to a man she had never met. In the years that followed, Christine was forced to bear three children by him. But when one of those children died, Christine was faced with another piece of devastation: he had been HIV+.

She immediately went to the hospital to get tested and found out that she was also HIV+, although somehow her husband had managed not to contract the disease. When he heard the news, he left her and her children to fend for themselves. To make ends meet, Christine began selling avocados on the streets, but her children were often forced to drop out of school because she could not afford to pay their tuition. Soon, hours spent working under the scorching sun took a toll on her already ailing health and she fell seriously ill.

Christine sought solace at Mpore Mama, an association of HIV+ women based at the Kacyiru Police Hospital, where she had first learned about her HIV status. Shortly thereafter, a woman from the United States donated knitting machines to Mpore Mama, as well as several other organizations, which have since merged to become the Ingenzi Knit Union.

With the help of the other women, Christine quickly learned how to crochet and knit – skills that she says saved her life. Today, through Mpore Mama’s partnership with Indego Africa, Chrisine earns a steady income for her work. She is able to provide for her children and send them to school – something that she and her family are deeply proud of. She can also afford medical insurance, which provides her with access to the medications she needs to manage her disease.

Today, Christine is able not only to survive but to live and for that, she is deeply grateful. Her goal for the future is to earn enough money to buy her own house – an investment in her children and in the generations of her family to come. We have every reason to believe that she will accomplish this goal and many more. 

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Immaculee

#spreadthanks, #artisans, #impact, #inspiring, #community, #hope, #peace

This November, we are taking a moment to pause and reflect on all of the things that we and our artisan partners are thankful for. We hope you'll join in! #spreadthanks

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Immaculee is one of the multitalented artisans of the Ibyishimo cooperative. A warm, kind, and inquisitive person, Immaculee exudes a quiet confidence that inspires those she meets. When she speaks, her eyes fill with a light that infuses everyone & everything around her, spreading joy & delight. 

While today Immaculee is deeply thankful for many of things in her life, her journey to find happiness was beset with painful obstacles to overcome.

When Immaculee was 12 years old, she lost her father, seven siblings, and more than 60 relatives during the Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsis. When the violence ended, and the country reeled to reinstate the rhythms of everyday life, Immaculee struggled to cope with this devastating loss. For years she had trouble concentrating in school, particularly around the annual commemoration of the Genocide. She was shaken by every problem she faced, thinking about what her father would have done and yearning for his advice. Unable to manage the emotional stress and pressures of school, Immaculee dropped out.

Faced with the necessity of supporting herself, Immaculee packed her bags and left her hometown of Gitarama for Kigali. There she found a job at a bar where, as fate would have it, she met her husband {with whom she now has two children}. After her second child was born, Immaculee decided it was time to leave her job at the bar and seek another form of employment. Luckily for us, she was introduced to Ibyishimo through her church and quickly joined the ranks of its talented artisans mastering the art of sewing with ease (and today, friendship bracelet weaving and dreamcatcher making!)

These days, Immaculee tells us that she has much to be thankful for. She is thankful to live in a safe neighborhood and provide a good life for herself and her family. She is also thankful to have earned enough money working with Indego Africa to purchase a plot of land where she will begin to build a home next year. Most importantly, she is thankful for her family and for the feeling of harmony she has in her life.

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