Visiting The Artisans In Kigali

Colleen Napolitano

Posted on September 30 2013

Visiting The Artisans In Kigali


SAME SKY Supporter Kelsey Buchbinder, a Junior at Barnard College recently visited our artisans at the Gahaya Links cooperative in Kigali, Rwanda. Here's what she had to say about the experience: 

A lot happens in a year. Last March I had the privilege of visiting the SAME SKY family in Rwanda. I was amazed by what I saw... the beauty and strength of the women employed by SAME SKY's trade-not-aid initiative. They chatted and worked, creating a piece of art connecting them to people around the globe.

Traveling to Rwanda again this August, I was excited by the prospect of returning to the worksite and engaging with the women that SAME SKY works to empower. Nothing could have prepared me for what I witnessed. Sure I knew that the project had grown and employment had increased but as I pulled into Gahaya Links and was greeted by Joy Ndungutse, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of the work cooperative, I was blown away. I was first taken to the building designated for training the women to create the jewelry that we (as SAME SKY patrons) all know and love. Brimming with smiling faces, women sat cross legged practicing and learning from the more experienced artisans. But that wasn’t where it ended. I followed a woman down a path from the three buildings in the front of the plot to a new building over looking Kigali. We entered the building and as we walked up the stairs I gazed upon a sunlit expanse, women sitting at tables diligently weaving SAME SKY bracelets. I could not fathom such an expansion had taken place over the 13 months since I had last visited. SAME SKY had effectively embraced all of these new faces, and in turn their families and communities, directly effecting positive change on a scale so much larger than one could imagine. I returned to Joy’s office where she explained how proud the women were to be given the opportunity to be captains of their own fates, to have the chance to work and support themselves and their families. She spoke of the gift of employment, the pride and self-esteem associated with SAME SKY.

I can tell you, first hand, what it means to be a SAME SKY supporter. The bracelet that I wear every day with honor means that I have reached across the world and given a woman the freedom to reclaim her life. Though we are far from done, we can certainly say that we have done what we have set out to do: we have given the women of SAME SKY a hand up. 

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