This collection was made by ISANO – a cooperative of 12 talented young people in Rwanda, all of whom are affected in some way by HIV/AIDS. The group was started in 2013 by Rwandan-born teenager, Celine Mudahakana, who was at the time a high school student living in the U.S. In the summer of 2012, Celine returned to Rwanda to volunteer with CHABHA (Children Affected By HIV/AIDS), a nonprofit that partners with community-based organizations in Rwanda and Burundi to support young people affected by AIDS and poverty. Witnessing the difficult circumstances in which teenagers her own age were living, Celine felt compelled to do something more.
The following year, while taking a weaving class at her high school in Vermont, Celine had an idea: if she could teach vulnerable young people in Rwanda how to weave too, she could help them to develop a valuable skill and, in turn, earn an income. From there, ISANO was born.
Over the course of the next few months, Celine worked tirelessly to raise money for her cause, which she did, in part, by weaving her own scarves and selling them to people in her community. Eventually, with the help of friends and family, she raised enough funds to purchase four eight-harness looms for her artisan project and to cover the costs of a trip to Rwanda for herself and her classmates to use their weaving skills to make a difference.
Celine helped to develop a new vocational training program under CHABHA’s Project Independence initiative, from which 12 young people were chosen to participate. All of them were not in school, despite being of school age – most had been forced to drop out after primary school because their parents could not afford to pay the school fees. Without education or income-earning opportunities, these young adults & their families were living a life of abject poverty.
Celine set out on a mission to change that. Over the course of several weeks, she and her classmates taught these students how to weave using foot-looms - a skill which they picked up quickly and with much enthusiasm. Two years later, the artisans of ISANO are masterful weavers, creating beautifully crafted fabrics, scarves, wall hangings & more.
We are so thrilled to be able to partner with a cooperative like this which is not only creating products we love, but is also part of a larger mission to change the future for young people affected by HIV/AIDS. This disease continues to be an epidemic in many parts of Rwanda, and we are honored to work with these brave young people who are showing others that they too can take ownership of their futures.
Celine is thrilled at all the progress that the members of ISANO have made. Over the past two years, she says, they have gone from being shy to exuberantly confident and have developed valuable business and leadership skills along the way. Her goal for them is to: “become economically stable, earn a steady income, and escape from poverty,” she says. “I want them to influence other generations and to bring more people into this project and other projects like these so that all young people who do not have opportunities can have the chance to become financially independent.”
We couldn’t agree more & are so excited to continue to work with and support ISANO and CHABHA in the years to come, helping more young people to develop life-changing skills. We hope you’ll show your support too!
Shop the ISANO scarf collection and Indego spring here