Sky Stories - SAME SKY

Photo: Indego Africa

Rwandan Business Training

An Interns Perspective

 

As roll call was read out loud for the very first time in the Business Training course classroom on June 4th, it marked the beginning of an empowering educational journey for 18 of our Same Sky artisans.

Since that day, the artisans have been hard at work every Friday morning further developing their business skills, and transforming their greatest dreams into a reality. Together over the past month, the artisans have formed a powerful learning community. From their individual dedication to their positive collective energy that fills the classroom every week, the artisans have immersed themselves in a learning environment that will build personal and communal growth.

At Same Sky, we believe in the power of community and the potential of every active citizen. Each artisan is an influential contributor to the classroom. This is illustrated by their teacher, who has been overwhelmed by the amount of meaningful questions she receives after every class and their motivation to learn English terms to help their future business endeavors.

In particular this week, we would like to recognize five of our artisans who have been elected as class leaders. The Class Representative: Therese Mugorewera, Time Keeper: Beatha Kabagwira, Morale: Speciose Kangwera, In-Charge of Discipline: Bethea Mukankusi, and Reporter of Class Activities: Cecile Gupenda. As the artisans learned in their second lesson about elections, it is vital to choose the right people to lead and manage, hold leaders accountable, ensure good governance, change cooperative strategies, encourage trust, maintain morale, and provide learning and leadership opportunities. These five women have demonstrated their understanding of this lesson as class leaders and we have been inspired by the leadership role they have taken inside classroom.

In addition to learning about elections, the artisans were taught during their third lesson about the importance of statements of purpose to the cooperative, what statements of purpose contain, how statements of purpose help cooperatives make decisions as an organization, and the key elements of bylaws. During this class, the artisans discussed the Same Sky mission and why it is important to them. From their courageous and meaningful words, everyone at Same Sky has been inspired by their work.  We are constantly reminded by our artisans of our shared mission and vision, and the remarkable impact it has on us all.

Although thousands of miles away from our artisans during this time, I feel connected to them. As in intern in the Same Sky office and college student, I am empowered by the artisans. They remind me everyday of the value of education, and the importance of our collective mission as members of the Same Sky community.

By wearing Same Sky jewelry, we are all connected.  It acts as a symbol to everyone who wears it of our shared learning experience, our mission, and hope for the future.  We are incredibly proud of the accomplishments our artisans are making inside of the classroom, feel inspired to be a part of their journey, and are excitedly anticipating more updates to share with all of you!

 

- Elizabeth Longo, Same Sky Intern

 

1) What does being KIND mean to you? As an individual? As a global citizen?

As an individual, kind means being able to count off the top of your head AT LEAST 5 things that you're grateful for at any moment. Kind means acknowledging the people behind the scenes. It means realizing you're not going to get anywhere without the people that surround you. Kind means that you are a puzzle piece to a great work of art.

As a global citizen, kind means knowing that everything you do is either a contribution or a setback to society.

 

2) We want to hear your Fresh Story! When was the last time you were KIND?

A bunch of my fancy friends and I went to a nice restaurant. As we were leaving, I noticed that they had barely touched all of the food that they'd ordered. I'm incredibly aware of wastefulness and I couldn't stand the idea of leaving it all to be thrown out. Before we left, I requested that we all package up the food and give it to the homeless people I had seen down the street. As we handed out a meal to one man, he told us he was so touched. He went on to tell me that he hadn't had seafood in over 20 years. Wow. Sometimes you never know how a small gesture can change someone's day!

3) We find you inspiring, how would you share or encourage your readers to be KIND, too?  Do you have any tips or challenges for them? We would love it if you'd share!

Empathy. Just knowing that everyone is going through a greater battle -- and being respectful of that in your day-to-day life.

 

This week I had the opportunity to return to FAWE Girls School. Having visited the school last January with a group of Same Sky Ambassadors, I knew I was in for a treat. I was excited to have the opportunity to speak with a group of girls who are sure to be the next generation of innovators and leaders and to share with them my experience as a student in the United States.

Upon my arrival, the girls informed me that they had prepared a debate to showcase the strength of their award winning debate team. Discussing the ongoing education reform sweeping the region, the girls spoke with conviction and passion. Pointing to their personal experience as students and the statistics of learning each team built an argument that was not only emotional and exciting but also well researched and convincing. Their passion for the future of their nation was clear.

 

This same passion was evident when the environmental club took the stage. A self run student group, the girls draw upon their own experiences to devise innovative solutions to problems they faced in their day to day lives. Presenting me with a beautiful program outline, the girls explained that they took issue with the kerosene lanterns that they and their classmates used at home to light their rooms.

 

Highly dangerous and dirty, the girls of the energy club decided it was up to them to find a solution to the energy problem they faced. This solution has come in the form of solar replacement lanterns. The girls’ drive and curiosity led them the contact fellow student in Massachusetts. Partnering together, the two groups of students on opposite sides of the world plan to start their first pilot program in the upcoming months.

As is always the case when I visit FAWE, I was completely blown away by the experience. The excitement and curiosity that the girls of FAWE displayed towards their clubs and student groups is a testament to the way they see the world. Challenges excite them, roadblocks foster innovation and the future is brighter than the past. I wait with baited breath to see what the girls of FAWE will do and I have no doubt that whatever that might be, it will be great.

 

 

1) What does being CURIOUS mean to you? As an individual? As a global citizen?

Ever since I was a little girl I've been a curious one. I love how I get to encompass this concept with Same Sky's BE FRESH campaign.

I am curious about everything, particularly how people live their lives outside the realms of everyday life here in America. When I think about where my true curiosity lies, I am automatically drawn to my passion to travel the world. It was my curiosity that brought me to a special place like Nepal. Little did I know at the time, it would change my life forever for the greater good.

 

2) We want to hear your Fresh Story! When was the last time you were CURIOUS?

When I was 24 years old, I left my beautiful life in Colorado to embark on a seven-month journey with no plans, no itinerary and no expectations. It was my curiosity that drove me the whole way along. My curiosity led me to start up my own business, supporting the women of Nepal by bringing their hand woven bags to the states. Ultimately my goal is to support women from many different countries and walks of life. I truly feel my curiosity is what will bring me to that point.

 

3) We find you inspiring, how would you share or encourage your readers to be CURIOUS, too?  Do you have any tips or challenges for them?

We would love it if you would share! As a young woman I can only say that curiosity lies in the desires of your heart and if you don't see those desires through, you may feel as though you've missed out. It is never too late to pursue your dreams to love and live out all your curiosities. It can and will take you places you've never been before. Keep doing. Keep giving. Keep being FRESH!

 

1) What does being FREE mean to you? As an individual? As a global citizen?

For me being free is having the ability to exist how you want and being able to pursue whatever aspirations speak to you. Freedom is about being able to create a life that is authentic and genuine.

I am currently doing my doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology in Boston, but have done music and worked in the hospitality and night life industry. I love music more than anything, but at the end of the day music is about people and feelings. I chose to shift my career towards psychology because it fulfills me in a similar way and leaves less room for me ending up with a guitar case at Penn station at age 57.

While I was doing music I always worked in restaurants- which is highly psychological. If you can work in a restaurant, you can do anything.  I am currently the Maitre D at the Surf Lodge in Montauk for the summer, and my day to day is very similar to seeing a client. Across the board people just want to feel acknowledged and heard.

2) We want to hear your Fresh Story! When was the last time you were FREE?

Yesterday I was driving and I had an epiphany. I realized there was something I kept doing in my life that I did not like. And then I decided- I'm not going to ever do that again. It was that simple! But up until that point I had been struggling with not being able to make this change. However, in that moment, I realized I could. It's good to remind yourself that you have volition over your choices and actions. I believe in making the most out of what we can control. 

3) We find you inspiring, how would you share your encourage your readers to be FREE, too?  Do you have any tips or challenges for them? We would love it if you would share!

If I could challenge people to do one thing it would be to show that they care. To me - there is no better quality than someone who is confident enough to act like a true human being with a heart. I dare everyone to wear their hearts on their sleeves.

 

1) What does being BOLD mean to you? As an individual? As a global citizen?

I am delusionally optimistic and an avid problem solver. The combination has resulted in a lifestyle of constructive defiance, which entails knowing what rules to break and when, as most leaders inherently do. Constructive defiance varies from defiance in that it is solution oriented. Being bold for me means constructive defiance – and in that, defining who you are and your legacy.

 

2) We want to hear your Fresh Story! When was the last time you were BOLD?

I triggered a social revolution recently, that was pretty BOLD.

As a Muslim, my choice to wear hijab often adds a pre-constructed narrative to my identity due to the isolating narrative constructed for me by Islamophobes and terrorists alike. Throughout the years, I learned that the implications of one piece of fabric could be huge. I could be seen as sadistically oppressed, voicelessly docile, and naïvely desexualized when not forcefully hyper-sexualized. Those descriptions have nothing to do with me, though. I am relentlessly optimistic, painstakingly curious, entertainingly awkward, imprudently adventurous, and irrationally proper when not uncomfortably loud. Above all, I love fashion. And the unapologetic fusion of my identities has always received attention.

I grew sick of telling “my story” as a defensive correction of popularly perpetuated myths related to violence and oppression rather than my own personal narrative. That realization is why I started a national dialogue that advanced the discourse on the representation of Muslim women in America.

I co-produced a video cut to Jay Z’s “Somewhere in America” that featured fashionable Muslim women in a group that a few friends and I started – we tongue-in-cheekily refer to this group as #mipsterz (Muslim Hipsters). It’s since evolved into an active listserv. The video went viral and commenced an unprecedented cross-web dialogue amongst Muslims on who gets to represent Islam, why, and how. 

The mainstream quickly caught wind of the debate and was covering #mipsterz as a movement of American Muslims presenting their own narrative relative to their own context – far from the limiting and monolithic stereotypes perpetuated for so long.

Mipsterz has become an unmatched space for young American Muslims that identify with culture and the arts. The space has transcended our own listserv through the hashtag #mipsterz and over 200 articles published on the movement. In following the global web dialogue, I also learned how to say Mipster in 6 languages, including Mippusuta (Japanese), Mipsterski (Polish), and Müslüman Hipsterlar (Turkish).

 

3) We find you inspiring, how would you share your encourage your readers to be BOLD, too?  

Don’t be afraid to be different! But remember that at the end of the day as humans, we are mostly the same. We are all 70% water, making us 70% similar – and 30% BOLD.

 

   

 

Eugenie Mukeshimana was only 22-years-old and 8 months pregnant when the genocide broke in Rwanda. She went into hiding with her husband, who tragically died after separating to improve their chances of survival. It was the birth of her first child that gave her the willpower to survive.

Today, she leads the Genocide Survivors Support Network (GSSN), a charitable organization with a mission to educate communities on the crime of genocide and help genocide survivors rebuild their lives.

 

What makes Eugenie Mukeshimana a hero of the Rwandan Genocide?

Like other female genocide survivors, Eugenie’s story is one of adversity and triumph. But, what differentiates her from others is her determination, her desire to serve her community, and her commitment to furthering her education. In addition, Eugenie founded the Genocide Survivors Support Network when she noticed a heavy increase of genocide survivors emigrating to the USA with no support system. From ensuring her daughter’s survival to dedicating her life to help displaced families in both Rwanda and the USA—Eugenie encompasses every aspect of the word “hero”.

 

About Eugenie Mukeshimana

Eugenie and her husband were trying to escape Hutu extremists’ hunt to exterminate them. After separating with her husband, Eugenie continued to hide at various safe houses, often in very painful, confined spaces. She was hiding in a trash pit when the Hutus found her.

Extremists wanted to cut open her stomach to see how a Tutsi child laid inside a mother, as if it were any different than their own mothers. They opted to wait to force her to kill her own child after birth. A month into the genocide, she snuck into the kitchen and gave birth to Mystica Rose on the floor. When the Hutus discovered this, they raped her and kidnapped her as a cook.

Eugenie survived the horrors of genocide with her daughter beside her. For the seven years following the genocide, Eugenie earned her high school diploma while learning English. With the help of kindhearted donors, she emigrated to the USA to earn a college degree in social work at the College of St. Rose in Albany, NY.

During her studies, she was shocked to find out that her professors and classmates had no knowledge of the Rwandan genocide. She used her voice to educate students, teachers, and other community groups about crimes against humanity. Before founding GSSN, she worked with homeless families in NY and NJ. Eugenie is also a frequent panelist on genocide-related issues.

SAME SKY salutes Eugenie Mukeshimana as a hero of the Rwandan genocide.

 

Resource
Genocide Survivors Support Network: http://www.gssnglobal.org/
Tweet Eugenie: https://twitter.com/GSSNglobal
Watch Eugenie’s UN Testimony: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQFely6oULg 



This month, we’re highlighting an inspirational healthcare leader who is celebrated worldwide for radically improving Rwanda’s state of health after the genocide – Dr. Agnes Binagwaho. Two years after the tragedy, Dr. Binagwaho finished her medical training in Belgium and France and left a comfortable lifestyle to tackle the alarming health statistics in her home country.

“I saw more deaths in one week than I had seen in five years as a pediatrician in France. I nearly packed my bags to go back. There were no resources. Everyone was dying,” Dr. Binagwaho said during her first week back. Fortunately, she didn’t leave her wounded country. Under her leadership, Rwanda’s healthcare developments progressed quicker than anyone anticipated. Many successful health initiatives were implemented: improving access to care, forming a 45,000-person clinical services provider program, and creating other innovative programs that combat malnutrition and more, including the One Cow per Poor Family Program and Kitchen Garden Program.

Past welfare, Dr. Binagwaho is an active participant on global discussions about HIV/AIDS, population health, and family care. Her work is published in many medical journals and she sits on multiple world-changing boards. Her mission is to improve access to prevention, care, and treatment for HIV/AIDS, cervical cancer, breast cancer, and malaria, as well as promote education on how to combat them.

 

What makes Dr. Agnes Binagwaho a hero of the Rwandan Genocide?

After the ’94 genocide, Rwanda was a broken country and the Rwandan Government knew that in order to be sustainable, they needed to invest in healthcare and implement an effective plan to help its people. During the 100-day genocide, 1 million Rwandans perished, including many of the country’s medical professionals. An estimated quarter-million to half-a-million Rwandan women and girls were raped, leaving 70% of female Rwandan Genocide survivors HIV+. Many children were born from rape victims, creating a surge in population and poverty-stricken, widowed families.

The devastation was immense, but Rwanda persevered through these bleak statistics to welcome miraculous progress under Dr. Binagwaho’s leadership. Today, the number of those affected by HIV/AIDS has decreased tremendously to less than 3% of the population. The child mortality rate has been cut in half. Life expectancy has doubled. And the Rwandan Government is now taking action to ensure that their citizens are living longer, healthier lives by targeting diseases that often affect the elderly, such as cervical cancer and breast cancer. Rwanda even recently won a Malaria Control Award for maintaining at least 95% coverage of LLIN and IRS interventions that are important tools in malaria prevention. We applaud Dr. Binagwaho for leading this healthcare transformation in Rwanda. As the Rwandan Minister of Health, Dr. Binagwaho has played a pivotal role in rebuilding the country – a remarkable hero post-genocide.

 

About Dr. Agnes Binagwaho 
Dr. Binagwaho is a Rwandan pediatrician currently serving as the Rwandan Minister of Health. Prior to becoming Rwandan Minister of Health, she was the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health of Rwanda. Since 2009, Dr. Binagwaho has been a faculty member in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine in Harvard Medical School. She was appointed Clinical professor of Pediatrics at the Geisel School of Medicine at Darmouth College in 2012. Also, Dr. Binagwaho is a founding board member of the Tropical Institute of the Community Health and Development based in Kismu, Kenya. Dr. Binagwaho recently received an Honorary Doctor of Sciences from Darmouth College, and currently is pursuing her Ph.D. at the National University of Rwanda. 

Resources
Dr. Binagwaho's blog posts: GlobalHealthHub.org
Tweet Dr. Binagwaho: @agnesbinagwaho
Dr. Binagwaho's vision: Minister's Vision
Read Dr. Binagwaho's publications: Harvard Medical School



Consolee Nishimwe is a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide against Tutsis, and her story isn’t anything short of a miracle. At the young age of 14, she suffered three months of physical torture and emotional wounds as her Tutsi family went into hiding. After living through the mental hurdles of losing family members and struggling with her faith, Consolee miraculously survived with her mother and younger sister.

Like other genocide survivors, Consolee’s journey to reconciliation wasn’t easy. But overtime, Consolee discarded vengeful thoughts and burdens of the past to triumph through the tragedy. She now resides in NYC and has become an inspirational role model for other female genocide survivors. 

What makes Consolee Nishimwe a hero of the Rwandan Genocide?
 
Consolee’s story is one of a quarter-million women who were raped, of which 70% contracted HIV/AIDS. They were left as widows, single mothers, and orphaned teenage girls. Consolee lived through the horrors of the genocide, yet found courage and hope to live on. Moving speaker, global women’s rights advocate, and author of “Tested to the Limit: A Genocide Survivor’s Story of Pain, Resilience, Hope”, Consolee continues to share her story of remembrance and reconciliation to prevent future atrocities.



Consolee’s Story
 
When the Rwandan Genocide began, Consolee Nishimwe was only 14 years old. Not fully understanding why the war was happening, her extended family fled for safety as Tutsi homes were hunted and burnt down by Hutus.

The ethnic Hutus intended to murder every Tutsi they encountered, often killing males immediately, while keeping females alive temporarily as weapons of war. For three months, Consolee and her family hid in bushes and sought shelter from old friends who ended up turning their backs. One by one her family members were savagely murdered as Hutus discovered them.

Consolee and her remaining family members sought refuge in different homes after losing her aunt, father, and three younger brothers. Unfortunately, while at one of those homes a Hutu neighbor known to her family beat and raped her, leaving her HIV+. Through these traumatic incidents, she didn’t lose faith. She continued hiding in different places with her mother and younger sister until a good samaritan in the Muslim community took them in for the remainder of the genocide.

Resources
Watch Consolee Nishimwe’s speech at the UN: ‘Engaging Religions in the Prevention of Atrocity Crimes – World Interfaith Harmony Week’ 
Official website: www.consolee.com
Purchase Consolee’s book: Tested to the Limit

SAME SKY mourns the loss of Anne Heyman, founder of the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda. She passed away from a tragic horse-riding competition January 31st. 

Heyman was inspired to change the world after a visit to Rwanda, where she learned about children who were left behind by the Rwandan Genocide. Agahozo-Shalom, a combination of Kinyarwanda and Hebrew meaning “where tears are dried” and “peace”, is exactly what Heyman beautifully created. Modeled after Yemin Orde, the Israeli youth village for children who survived the Holocaust, Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village is located in rural Rwanda, where orphans are given a nurturing environment to grow up and recover from the trauma.

Agahazo-Shalom Youth Village is now comprised of 500 students, aged 15-21, who looked to Heyman as a mother. Many can hardly remember their biological mothers, but they saw Heyman several times throughout the year as she frequently traveled to the village. She didn’t just raise millions of dollars for the village, she also proactively partook in the successful development of the children.

Anne Heyman represented kindness and the human capacity to help others in need. Her exceptional legacy will forever live on through her efforts in Rwanda. And she will always remain an inspiration to all of us at SAME SKY.  

For more info about Agahozo-Shalom, visit: www.ASYV.org.