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Kigali: Today we cried for the loss

How can you wrap your head around the lack  of and the loss of humanity in a genocide that took up to a million lives in three months? It’s very hard for us to imagine that this lovely country was the site of one of the worst killing fields in our lifetime. And yet, present day Rwanda doesn’t seem to even resemble that Rwanda of 1994. We had quite a contrasting day when Richard Niswenshuti, our Kigali Program Manager showed us the progressive city of Kigali and took us to the the Nyanamata Genocide memorial

As we drove through the streets of Kigali we saw all the evidence of a growing economy.   New construction, clean, well maintained streets, flourishing businesses ( including driving by the hair salon of our Bpeace Fast Runner Jeanne  and seeing  it  full of fashionable ladies getting their hair done). This country is ripe as a banana for growth and we are excited to be part of  the opening of the first ice cream shop in Rwanda.  Sunday we leave for Butare for our first meeting with the ladies we will be training.

So today we honored the past and the present Rwanda. The church at Nyanamata was a graphic example of a massacre and a mass grave. A banner in the front reads “If you knew me, and if you really knew yourself, you would not have killed me.” The church is left, much as it was that day with pews full of  clothes of the 10,000 who were killed here including women and children. Skulls and bones line shelves  in an underground mass grave. It is so very real and so very raw.

Part of the cause of the genocide was  poverty, unemployment and idleness. It truly brings to mind why we are here, because Bpeace believes more jobs mean less violence.

Lidia is the star of the 2008 Bpeace Gala

Bpeace CEO Toni Maloney, Gala Honoree Lidia Bastianich and Bpeace Board members Laurie Chock and Kate Buggeln. Photo © Camera 1 2008. All Rights Reserved."

As a cookbook author, public television host, chef and restaurateur, Lidia Bastianich accepted Bpeace’s first-ever Economic Impact Award for her achievements.

Read more ...

Bringing the experts to Kigali

Sabra (left) works her magic with Harriette and Jeanne

Money makes the world go round
Back in Rwanda by critical acclaim, Sabra (above left, with Harriette and Jeanne) held court at Richard’s office. She met with three Fast Runners to review their finances and discuss how, as she says, “The numbers tell the story.”

Sabra is a financial consultant in the U.S. and Anguilla, so is one of those lucky Bpeacers who directly translates what she does for a living into her Bpeace mentoring and training. Brigitte, Harriet and Jeanne—who all own separate beauty salons--are working together to refine their financial tracking systems. They're struggling to manage their inventory (hair care products) and to understand the differing levels of profitability for all the services they offer.

Brand, baby, brand
Barbara, Stephanie and Marla visited Francoise, who is currently running three related businesses in Kigali-- a restaurant, a party decoration business, and a catering operation. Her restaurant is doing well because of Francoise’s engaging personality, as well as its high-traffic location close to a main Kigali bus station. Francoise provides internship opportunities for women looking to gain business and restaurant skills.

Right now all three businesses operate under different names. We emphasized the need to trade on Francoise’s restaurant success and brand the other businesses to effectively cross-market all three. Francoise also needs to acquire a loan in order to purchase equipment to expand the catering business. And hey, Bpeacers and friends reading out there—Francoise needs a mentor! Who do you know who can help her build these businesses and create a brand?
Pierette and Peggy: Fast and honest!

Leasing? What a concept
Pierrette and Peggy (above) operate a freight-forwarding business, critical to any country on the rebound. We talked about the feasibility of our Fast Runners  leasing, instead of buying, a large truck, so they can move beyond their domestic service and expand into international transport within the East African Economic Community. They've got to grow to be a sustainable business.

The growing reputation of their business--the only one in its industry owned and operated by women in Rwanda--is reflected in Pierrette’s recent selection to participate in a USAID training program. She'll attend regional seminars with other local freight companies to learn new industry regulations. Pierette and Peggy need a mentor who can help connect them to freight forwarding partners in the U.S. and Europe, as well as create a logo and website for their company. Who do you know who can assist?

Blooming big
Floriculture is a $194 million export business for Rwanda, selling mostly to Holland and Belgium. Solina focuses on the domestic flower market and operates Saintpaulia Flower Center, where she sells plants and flowers, and provides landscaping services and gardening contracts. Her clients include individuals and a few businesses. Appropriately, when we visited Solina’s lush operation, it was the first full day of sun since our arrival.

The team listened to Solina’s current business issues, and Anne reviewed recommendations and questions from Solina’s mentor Madelyn Simon, who operates a similar business in the U.S. Solina was beyond grateful for Madelyn's input. Solina and the Bpeacers brainstormed on ways to help her generate more contract clients, including the exploration of cross-selling with other Associates to provide greater visibility.

--January 2007

Piqued your interest? Read the entire January 2007 Rwandan Mission blog here.

Style Road Trip: Get to know a Fast Runner

[caption id="attachment_330" align="alignnone" width="491" caption="Baktnizar and her 2005 mentor, Annette"]Baktnizar and her 2005 mentor, Annette[/caption]

New York, New York, here they are--12 extraordinary entrepreneurs from Afghanistan in town for a three-week training program.

The Philadelphia Inquirer called it a "mixed American holiday with business boot-camp. The women attended classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology, got a bird's-eye view of Manhattan from the top of the Empire State Building, and scoped out such American consumer temples as Target and ABC Carpet."

Meet one Fast Runner:
Baktnizar operates a dress shop in Kabul, Afghanistan. Her mentor Annette owns a dress shop in Nyack, New York.

From Business Week: "During the Taliban years, Baktnizar, 28, supported her husband and four children in rural Lagman province by embroidering, working until midnight on most days. After the Taliban was overthrown, the family moved to Kabul where she earned her teaching degree and taught Pashto part-time, making $50 a month. "It was not enough," she says. "I thought if I had my own business we'd be able to do better. I was always interested in clothing and design, and it was something I knew how to do." The enterprising seamstress joined the Afghan Women Business Association. and met up with Bpeace members who arrived in the country in 2004. They helped her apply for a CARE International grant to support her business idea. Today, Baktnizar operates a ready-to-wear shop, Khaber Khush, which means "good news," in Kabul, overseeing 36 employees and earning three times as much as she did as a teacher. With her affiliation with Bpeace and her in the Style Road Trip, Baktnizar hopes to learn about Western markets and tastes to be able to export, improve quality control, and to find better raw materials to work with. Eventually, she wants to open a chain of stores with locations in every province in Afghanistan. "If you're going to have goals and dreams," she says. "They might as well be big."

--July 2005

Piqued your interest? Read the entire Style Road Trip blog here.

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