THE CONVERSATION - SAME SKY

Exciting news for the whole Same Sky family: we're thrilled that Woman's Day has featured the story of Same Sky in print and online! Click below to be taken to the article, and read an in-depth feature on the incredibly inspiring Reverend Gloria Walton here. On shelves now!

 

Screenshot of Woman's Day article

 

Same Sky artisans with diplomas after graduation.

Congratulations, Same Sky Business Scholars!
On July 22, seventeen artisans graduated from Same Sky’s Business Training in Rwanda. Pride and excitement rippled through the air as graduates listened to speakers praise their accomplishments before receiving certificates for their second level business studies.

 

Speaker addresses graduates at Same Sky artisan graduation ceremony.Class Representative Therese Mugorewera offered moving remarks about the achievements of her classmates. “We learned to care about ourselves!” she exclaimed, adding that her class has gained vital knowledge of global markets and mastered crucial computer skills. The director of the program, Rosine Urujeni, noted with pride that the graduates can now use computers with the same ease as tech-savvy 20-year-olds.

It’s astonishing to see the transformation of these women. Only a few years ago, they were sick and destitute, bearing the open wounds of their country’s brutal 1994 genocide. Many couldn’t afford the medicine they needed and had little hope for survival. But since joining the Same Sky community, artisans have soared from surviving to thriving. Today, their faces beam with pride and glow with health. They’ve mastered a trade, earned financial security - and are on their way to becoming great business leaders and entrepreneurs. For these Same Sky artisans, the simple act of writing an email used to be an impossibility; now they possess the knowledge to grow their own tech-friendly businesses, in true 21st century fashion. 

Speakers address attendees of Same Sky graduation ceremony.

Happily, for some Same Sky artisans, the completion of their second level business studies is just one step on a longer journey. We’re excited to announce that three Same Sky scholars will go on to advanced business training, where they’ll develop even more specialized knowledge and skills.

We’re also thrilled to cheer on the members of this year’s graduating class who recently formed their own women’s cooperative, called Umwezi. Such entrepreneurial tenacity is exactly what Same Sky strives to foster in its artisans.

Same Sky artisan receives diploma upon graduation from business training.

We at Same Sky believe that educating women has a ripple effect that goes beyond individual growth and self-reliance. To educate a woman is to improve her family, her community, and her world. Or, in the words of Same Sky’s newly minted graduate, Therese Mugorewera: “If you help a woman, you help a whole country.” Congratulations again to Same Sky’s 2016 Business Scholars!

Each year, Same Sky provides scholarships to Same Sky artisans to study business leadership, the global marketplace, and computer skills. To donate to the Same Sky Foundation, visit www.samesky.com.

In the US, July 4th calls to mind festive scenes of barbecues, fireworks, and the flag waving proudly in a warm summer breeze. But for the people of Rwanda, Liberation Day is as marked by triumph as it is by brutality.

On July 4th, 1994—after 100 days of horrific violence resulting in over a million casualties—the Rwandan Patriotic Front overcame the genocidal regime against the nation’s Tutsi population. Paul Kagame, leader of the RFP and future president of Rwanda, defeated the Hutu militants through strategic, controlled artillery attacks seeking to minimize further civilian casualties. Kagame’s army reclaimed Kigali and instituted an interim government of national unity, a turning point now recognized as Rwanda’s Liberation Day.

Every July 4th, Rwandan citizens commemorate the significance of this day with speeches, receptions, remembrance ceremonies, sporting events, concerts, and parades. One of the largest annual events is held at Kigali’s Amahoro Stadium, acknowledged as a protected site by the UN for serving as a sanctuary for refugees in need of shelter during the genocide.

22 years later, Rwanda continues to rebuild. The UN estimates that a quarter million women were raped during this atrocity; of these women, approximately 70% contracted HIV or AIDS. Restoring the nation and healing its communities begins with caring for these survivors.

“I would like to thank Same Sky for their support and for bringing all women together. It’s good when we work together rather than working as individuals… it has improved our well-being.”
– Mukayiranga, Same Sky artisan and genocide survivor

 

Women like Mukayiranga have the tools to rebuild their lives and their communities in the promise of steady employment. The independence an artisan feels when she supports herself and her family gives her the empowerment to be a caretaker, leader, a teacher, a beacon of hope.

The meaning and merit of Liberation Day is lived each day through these artisans, women whose perseverance, will, and creativity have granted them the freedom of self-sufficiency. The transformation of Same Sky’s artisans—and, in turn, their families and communities—is helping rewrite a nation’s legacy.

“My goal is… to educate someone and pass on the message so when I grow old, younger people will also carry it on.”

Mary Uwera has plans to become a doctor. Joyce Mutesi earned a certificate in computer science. Uwase Odilla is looking to study medicine at a top university like Oxford. These are just a few of the young women who—thanks to support from the Same Sky Foundation—are working hard to pursue their dreams at the FAWE Girls’ School in Rwanda.

For years Same Sky has been a proud supporter of FAWE, a lauded institution that empowers underprivileged young women with invaluable training in STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—subjects that are crucial if girls in Rwanda want to lift themselves out of poverty and continue to make strides in a country that largely owes its current stability to women’s political and economic participation. Since the school’s founding almost 20 years ago, thousands of FAWE graduates have gone on to attend college, many in the U.S. and Europe, and enjoy successful careers in medicine, business, technology, and beyond.

FAWE Scholars

In 2014, while leading a delegation to Rwanda to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the country’s tragic genocide, Same Sky founder Francine LeFrak visited FAWE and identified girls at risk of dropping out, primarily due to a lack of financial resources. As a result the Same Sky Foundation granted scholarships to 20 students in need, designed to supplement their continued STEM coursework, along with classes in English and entrepreneurship, and participation in extracurricular activities such as arts, mentoring and volunteering.

Progress reports on this first round of Same Sky scholars have been highly encouraging, with both students and teachers reporting impressive gains across the board. Girls who just two years ago were at risk of dropping out are now thriving, and many Same Sky scholars have blossomed into school leaders, continuing to improve their academic performance and involvement outside the classroom as well. Some standout stories include:

  • Uwase Odilla, who was the second-best performer at FAWE in national exams—and also among the top performers in the entire country—is now pursuing her goal of studying medicine at a top international university.

  • Akimana Mukundwa jumped more than 10 spots to reach number 2 in her class, despite facing personal and family hardships.

  • Kamariza Violet improved in every subject—from science to English and entrepreneurship—moving from the bottom of her class to the top twenty.

  • Mary Uwera finished an immersive language training program, and can now communicate easily in English.

  • Raissa Nyiransinzi who, after leadership training at FAWE, successfully spearheaded genocide memorial activities in her community.


FAW Scholar with Same Sky Thank You giftChallenges, of course, remain, and much work must still be done to ensure that the amazing progress made by women in Rwanda is not stalled. But one thing Same Sky scholars share is a special spark and dedication to learning in the face of adversity, helping them develop the confidence and creativity to access a world rich in opportunity. The Same Sky Foundation is thrilled to be able to help launch these young women on their life journeys, and we want to expand our umbrella to include even more deserving students. Learn more about how you can donate to our FAWE scholars program—your support will have a direct impact on the life of a girl in need, and play an important role in shaping the future of Rwanda!



Come November the SAME SKY FOUNDATION’s inaugural Business Training class will graduate from their first session. With every update we have received, our admiration for and pride in the AVEGA Artisans has grown.

As the session nears its end, we wanted to share some exciting highlights that have happened so far!

Real Life Application of Knowledge

While each class presents an opportunity for the women to learn relevant and helpful business terms and processes, they also offer the opportunity to work as a group as they apply their growing knowledge to their own lives and communities. In a recent session, this ability became apparent when Beatha observed that cooperative members should do more than just join, participate, and leave the group as it was found; rather, members should take the time to contribute ideas so that they can develop both themselves and their cooperatives. She recognized that the training sessions are a powerful tool that can be used for greater individual and interpersonal achievement.

Chromebook Lesson

Just recently, the women were given a chance to spend a whole class learning about and working with Google Chromebooks! This wonderful opportunity enabled them to become more comfortable sending and receiving emails, typing and using Google Docs, and even creating their own email addresses! The lesson emphasized the importance of communication on both a personal and professional level. The women were all incredibly excited to finally have an avenue through which they could communicate openly with each other and with SAME SKY!

We are so excited to see what the last month and half of classes will bring and could not be prouder of the progress these women have made! Their incredible growth is a testament to not only the wonderful instruction of Modeste and Rosine, but also to each individual artisan's determination to grow and succeed for themselves and for their communities.

Rwandan Business Training

As the Business Training program nears its halfway mark we have begun to touch base with the women and map out their progress. Each woman is blossoming in the program and we are so proud that they are all taking full advantage of the opportunity to grow both as individuals and as a community. 

At the beginning of the training we asked each woman to write down what she most wished to take away and/or learn from the program. The Same Sky Team would like to share with you some of the women's dreams and goals - 

Judith: I’m joining the training to gain knowledge on money management, learning to invest money, and to start my own business.

Yvette: I need this training to learn skills that will help me perform my job effectively and professionally. I hope to find new markets, building good relationships among the cooperative members, and, personally, become an entrepreneur.

Speciose: I have no experience in financial management or how cooperatives operate; this is why I need the training.

Clementine: Personally, I want to do my job effectively, and become a self-entrepreneur.

Alice:  After the training, I expect to know how to invest what I earn from the cooperative.

Domithille: Currently, I have a bank account and manage my savings. I hope to gain marketing skills and be able to work with banks to obtain a loan.

Beatha: My hope is to find new ways to improve our quality control and time management.

Madeleine: I want to implement the lessons I learn into the cooperative and my personal life so that I can earn more money to pay for the necessities.

Therese: I want to share the knowledge I learn through the course with others in my community.

Cecile: My dream is to earn money that can help me develop my family because of the saving skills I will learn.

 

Keep checking in to see how each woman is progressing and how their journeys unfold!

 

- Same Sky 

Photo Cred: Indego Africa

Photo: Indego Africa

SAME SKY has teamed up with Indego Africa to offer our Rwandan artisans the chance to further their education!

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela


Same Sky’s faith in our artisans’ talent not only drives our business model, it also drives our philanthropy. It’s inspired us to transform the lives of the most vulnerable women in Rwanda using the best philanthropy there is – a good job.

Starting this summer, we’re investing in our artisans’ talents with an unprecedented opportunity. The Same Sky Foundation is providing 18 Same Sky artisans with a Business Training course. We believe that knowledge and education are the keys to achieving empowerment for women. And our brightest and most driven artisans are now learning how to be businesswomen. This is a chance they would have never known to dream of, but one we know they have the talent to take advantage of.

This course is providing our artisans with the business training they need to thrive as successful, independent entrepreneurs. The curriculum and experience is designed to empower our artisans with the confidence and skills to work more effectively in our cooperative, build their own businesses, and assume enhanced leadership roles in their communities.

Friday, June 5th was the first day of school for the 18 artisans. Each of the students enthusiastically gathered for orientation and their first lesson and shared their hopes and goals for the experience.

We can’t wait to see the impact that lessons in budgeting, quality control, and supply chain and production will have as our artisans learn ways to build and grow their own businesses. We know their future is bright. And we can’t wait to celebrate all of their success with you over the coming months.

As our motto expresses, when women are given opportunity, the possibilities are endless.

There is no greater gift than the pride and satisfaction we feel when we give our worthy artisans the opportunity to learn and the skills to become successful entrepreneurs. It’s the same joy we feel when wearing our Same Sky Jewelry.

Are you as excited as we are about the next chapter of Same Sky’s story?  Wear the jewelry created by them and make a life changing gift to the Same Sky Foundation to join our community of conscious consumers working together to empower women and change our world for the better.

 - Same Sky

 

This Summer, Same Sky is releasing the simply stunning Black Tie Collection. Handcrafted right here in the USA, this collection will be your go to set for every cocktail event! This sophisticated and lightweight collection features a long chain necklace, a delicate bracelet, and rhinstone earrings.

The necklace and bracelet feature metallic glass seed beads and delicate rhinestone balls strung on sturdy stretch chord for an easy and flexible fit. The stunning dangle earrings feature two rhinestone balls, putting a literal twinkle in your eye! Each piece in the Black Tie Collection, just like the women we support, are strong alone, but even stronger together! For the ultimate in style, stack your Black Tie bracelets and necklaces! 

The Black Tie collection will help you dazzle in the dark and is sure to leave an impression on everyone you meet.

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Same Sky is proud to release the Black Tie Collection in continued support and employment of artisans in Rwanda and America. Each piece is lovingly crafted with hope, faith, and pride by women who have been given a second chance to thrive and succeed. When you purchase a Same Sky piece you become part of a movement that is working to empower women through employment on a global scale.

Purchase your Black Tie Set today and know that your support is helping give women and their families a stable and sustainable future.

 

Limited time only - Get $25 off when you purchase the set! - offer expires 6/30/15

 

Look good, do good, feel good – Jewelry with Purpose
 - Same Sky

The SAME SKY delegates have returned from their wonderful trip in Rwanda with beautiful, inspiring images of the country still fresh on their minds. Learn more about the delegation trip and how Rwanda has grown in the last 20 years through the eyes of SAME SKY Ambassador Ann Lovell. Below are excerpts from her blog with direct links.

Meeting artisans for the first time!

JANUARY 21, 2014

Where to even begin…for years I have heard these artisan's stories, seen their photos, seen their signatures on their lovely creations…but meeting them in person! Our first stop was Avega Agahozo, the Association of Genocide Widows of Rwanda formed right after the genocide was by dozens of genocide widows.  The organization promoted welfare of genocide victims through weaving, beading, craft making that are income producing.  Same Sky has been working with this particular group of artisans for 3-4 years thus far.

CLICK TO READ "VISITING THE ARTISANS"

JANUARY 22, 2014

After our wondrous visit with the Same Sky artisans, we grabbed lunch (we are definitely do not going to go hungry here!) and headed to Parliament to meet with the Forum of Rwandan Women Parliamentarians (FRWP).  

We were greeted by very high level leadership including deputy speaker, President of the FRWP and were able to have everyone introduced and then began an in-depth question and answer session in which Senator Connie Bwiza Sekemana provided incredibly full responses.  She has been a Member of Parliament since the first elections held after the genocide (2003). Afterwards we were able to visit over coffee and refreshments – it was fabulous!!!

CLICK TO READ "CATCHING UP"

JANUARY 23, 2014

All packed up and ready to go this morning as we said our goodbyes to those not heading up into the mountains and loaded up into our safari type vehicles for the ~2 ½ hour drive to Lake Kivu and tomorrow's GORLLA TREKKING adventure.



The road begins it ascent right after leaving Kigali and the countryside is GORGEOUS! Hill after hill blanketed in green and still clean – and I mean CLEAN.  People were out walking along the road all along the drive: men, women, children – many carting or carrying water or rice/supplies.

CLICK TO READ "ON THE WAY TO SEE GORILLAS"

We met in the lobby at 5am, loaded up and headed to Volcanoes National Park. This park was established in 1925 and was the first national park to be created in Africa.   Six volcanoes make up this mountain park in the Virunga Mountains (a Transfrontier Conservation Area that includes protected areas in Uganda and the DRC).  The park has within it Rwanda's highest point, Mount Karisimbi (4507 meters - the 5th highest mountain in Africa AND two active volcanoes.  The entire park, though a little less than 80 square miles is absolutely gorgeous and filled with lush mountain forest that include bamboo/vines/Golden monkeys/buffalo (we saw a great deal of their "leavings"/bushbuck/a vast variety of birds/elephants (though very few are thought to remain/AND…. fire ants).  Thank goodness for our helpful guides and porters who worked very hard to keep us as “ant-free” as possible!

CLICK TO READ "OMG"

Greetings from Rwanda! To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide, we are on a delegation trip to witness firsthand how much the country has endured, persevered, and developed. Ann Lovell, President of the David and Lura Lovell Foundation, founding director and VP of Women Moving Millions, and SAME SKY Ambassador, is one of the ladies on the trip. Below is her reflection on her first day in Rwanda. 

Having lunch at Heaven Restaurant and Inn

Mwaramutse (good morning)! I awoke this morning to the sights and sounds of a bustling community looking out my window to see people purposefully moving about against the backdrop of hills covered with homes and businesses. 

After breakfast, we were GRACIOUSLY welcomed by Ambassador Valentine Rugwabiza the recently appointed CEO of the Rwanda Development Board.  

She spoke of how she wished us to form our own opinions of Rwanda and its people and to carry the Rwandan stories with us and to share them everywhere we traveled.  She spoke of being able to come from the unthinkable to valuing life, building a bright future – not just to be okay but to build a good future.  Although there are always differences, to focus on relationships, listening, caring and creating system of inclusion, of realizing that there are problems but focusing on looking for solutions.  She, and others we met throughout the day, spoke about Rwanda as being 20 years old, that Rwanda itself really began as an independent country 20 years ago (after the genocide) and that now there is a sense of limitless hope.  Although they can not afford to have short memories – they remember – but they are healing and moving beyond it.  She thanked us for coming and being a part of that future.  She spoke about men being the minority in the country and about how they all work to empower women.  Their landmark election in 2013 that elected a 64% female parliament is due partly to the political environment, partly to government support BUT mostly due to the fact that women were ready to step up – at first because they had to and now because they were needed…but afraid or not – they were willing to step up.  She is an amazing and gracious speaker!

We then heard from Rica Rwigamba, Head or Tourism and Conservation Department at Rwandan Development Board.  Rwanda is much more than I had imagined, with its incredible beauty and richness of wildlife…and the positive mindset of its people – something we were to see over and over again throughout our day.  

We also learned about dung art!  More to come later!!

Piling onto our little bus, we drove to FAWE Girl's School, a boarding secondary school for girls aged between 12 and 18 (Grades 7–12). FAWE is the Forum for African Women Educationalists whose mission is to create positive societal attitudes, policies and practices that promote equity for girls in terms of access, retention, performance and education quality, through influencing the transformation of education systems.  There are chapters all over Africa and FAWE Rwanda was founded in 1999 with the vision of being a center of excellence in Science and Technology. The school provides scholarships to girls from underprivileged backgrounds and prepares them to be best academic and social achievers.

CLICK TO READ MORE

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