6/24, South Province workshops and Ingenzi group

On the 24th of June, we travelled to the South Province.

Once again, I will shamelessly steal Erika’s notes, since they’re so much more thorough than mine. [I’ll put additions in square brackets.]

[Business Visits]

The group split up to visit Ingenzi (partnered with Erika, John, Corinne and friends) and Umucyo (partnered with Tarrytown UMC: Amanda, Amelia & Josh, Rachel and  Melissa) groups. First we all went to a [fairly large] government complex where many groups and Zoe graduates rent space. Part of the Zoe model is to partner with and integrate into the community.  Other people also rent space here and the Zoe kids often hire other community members to work for them.  

First we visited with some Zoe welders.  The three of them were working on metal windows.  They were tight on time as they were joining with other community members later to help build shelves for coffins for a genocide memorial.  

Next we went to a shop where members of Zoe were making and selling sandals, knitted goods and tailored goods.  

  • Esperanza is a tailor. [She completed her vocational training in January. She makes dresses, shirts, skirts, cloth shopping bags, and placemats. Rwanda has banned plastic bags for most purposes, including use by retail merchants. Our hotel rooms had plastic bags in the wastebaskets, so, obviously, there are exceptions. “No plastic bags” means there’s a great market for cloth shopping bags, and also is probably part of the reason why Rwanda is so amazingly litter-free.]  Her business helps her pay school fees for her siblings in secondary school.  She has a second business buying and reselling beans, which allows her to pay for medical insurance for herself and her two siblings. Esperanza’s dream is for the shop to become a cooperative so they can be wholesalers of “Made in Rwanda” goods. [(There is a drive by the government in Rwanda to have more things be made in Rwanda. At least partly for this reason, import of second-hand clothes is prohibited. This results in an opportunity for Zoe kids to make more clothes.) Esperanza gave thanks to God and the government (which supports Zoe) and Tarrytown UMC, and said her group expects to see the entire Tarrytown congregation on the next trip.]
  • Vanessa has earned the money to bring electricity into her home and to pay health insurance and school fees for her siblings.  
  • Eric, who makes shoes, has been able to buy a plot of land and plans to build a house.  His land cost 700,000RWF.
  • Jean Baptist has built a new house and moved in.
  • Chantal graduated in 2010.  She’s now married and expecting her own child.

They also had a knitting project working on school uniforms to fulfill a contract they had entered into.

The group split up and Celine, one of the Program Officers, took Corinne, John, Sandra, Rachel [there were two Rachels on this trip — one was our trip leader and the other was the 15-year-old daughter of Sandra, from Cary] and I to visit members of the Ingenzi working group at their businesses in Musha in the Gisagara district.  

Francoise is 21 and has three siblings (15, 10 & 8).  Her first IGA [income-generating activity] was selling bananas, which she gets from a plantation.  With the money she raised from that business, she’s bought 2 pigs, 2 goats and 4 hens.  Nows she’s renting 3 plots of land and grows and sells onions. One kg of seeds costs 500RWF and yields 300 kg of onions, worth 100,000RWF.  Not a bad profit margin, especially with 3 harvests per year. Between onion crops she plants tomatoes. With all the business she has, Francoise hires five workers to help grow her onions.  She also has 2 bicycles to transport her goods. She helps her siblings with clothes, shoes and school fees. This year her dream is to buy a motorbike, which will cost 2,000,000RWF (~$2,000) new.  She will hire someone to drive it for her, but she does want to take driving lessons.

Nigomugabo is 19 and also has two siblings, aged 10 and 9.  [His father left the family when he was seven, and he now lives with his mother.] He started out selling groundnuts and doughnuts.  Then he bought land to grow his own produce. He grows and sells tomatoes and carrots, and sometimes sells avocados, which he buys from farmers.  With his profits, he’s invested in 2 pigs and 2 goats. He uses the manure from the pigs and goats for fertilizer and sells the babies. Through his businesses, he’s paid for his own training in construction and pays school fees and medical insurance for his siblings. [He currently owns one bicycle for transporting what he sells. Depending on which market he sells at, the distance he travels to market is either one kilometer or ten.]  His dream is to get a motorbike and attend driving school so he can run a taxi. He plans to start by buying a used bike which will cost him 400,000RWF. He’s already saved 200,000RWF.

Damascene’s older sister joined Zoe as head of the household, but she got married, so he took over for her.  [He is 19 and has two other siblings.] He started his IGA with rabbits from a Zoe grant. He used the profits to start a hen breeding and selling business because there is a larger market. [He sells to hotels in Huye (Butare).]  He currently has 15 hens. Previously he was a street kid and homeless, but he has been able to build a house for himself with windows and a roof from Zoe. [He has also been able to buy medical insurance.]  His dream is to get a motorbike so that he can carry his hens further [Huye is a 30-minute walk and a five-minute ride] and use it for a taxi.  

We all pitched in and bought bananas from Francoise, tomatoes and carrots from Nigomugabo and a chicken from Damascene.  We wanted to support each of them in their businesses. We knew we could take the fruit and veggies back to the hotel for the staff to fix for us but we didn’t know what we were going to do with a chicken.  Sandra asked Celine and she suggested we take it back to the hotel [to be cooked]. Everyone except John vetoed that idea [hey, fresh chicken! — John.]. She then suggested that we ask Damascene to bring it to the group meeting and that we present it to the group to take care of for us.  

We also stopped in to say hi to Jean Domecene from the Unity group [which is partnered with a single person, Barbara P.], also in its 2nd year.  He is 20 and owns a small shop which his sister (16) helps him run. Their 3 other siblings are in school.  They have a home, but Jean Domecene sleeps in the shop to protect it.  

Next we went to Laurent’s veterinary pharmacy.  Laurent was able to attend school supported by a community member and he took vet school classes. [He finished school, but his mother is extremely poor, so he returned home to help care for her and his sister.]  When he graduated, he was able to open the vet pharmacy. He also helps community members with sick livestock.  With the profits from his business he bought a motorbike and a cow, supported his sister in tailoring training and bought land to build her a house.  He hires people to work his land and is renting a sewing machine for his sister. His dream is to move to a big city and open a big pharmacy. He wants to offer internships to teach others and he wants to be able to solve all his family’s problems.  

[Group Meeting]

We hopped back in the trucks to drive around to the Ingenzi group meeting.  As we drove up we could hear the singing and clapping and the younger kids were crammed in the doorway to greet us.  

Laurent was the MC for the meeting.  

Jean Baptist, the chairman, gave us a report on the group.  There are 26 families and a total of 81 children in the group.  He thanked us for the training they’ve gotten. They’ve learned how to prepare nutritious meals and how to be clean and healthy.  They started a group project growing tomatoes but now grow cassava. Zoe has helped group members who were sick get help and children who were homeless get homes. [One group member had an illness that required special treatment.]  All the kids now have toilets.  

Most households have no parents and some of the kids were thieves before Zoe, but now they can buy what they need.  Zoe helped them get vocational training. The group has a lot of agriculture projects and they all have kitchen gardens, so they now have nutritious food.

Eric [the shoemaker] told us that before he met Zoe he was a street kid and didn’t have a good place to live.  He has learned a lot with Zoe and started a business of hen breeding and selling to feed his family.  Before, finding food and renting a house was hard, but now things have changed. His siblings go to school, can eat and have medical insurance and they have a house.  He has even bought a bicycle to transport his goods. Eric dreams to have a large shoe factory so that he can [train and] give jobs to other children.   

Each group we visited had its own special clap/cheer.  Ingenzi gave “flowers” by waving their hands.  

The group presented each of us with a pair of beautifully made sandals and Rachel spoke to the kids and told them how she’s their age [that made a big impression on them] and is so inspired by them.  We then presented the chicken to the group, who decided Pascal [a different Pascal than the one I wrote about for our 6/25 first-year group visit] should be the one to take care of it. He’s 16 and is a “total orphan” (no parents). Rachel got to present the chicken to Pascal.

Corinne closed us in prayer and then we took pictures.  

We met back up with the other half of our group at a shop run by some of their group members, so of course we did more shopping.  We then stopped by a cafe so we could all stock up on Rwandan coffee. [John: turns out this little cafe had a pretty serious coffee-roasting machine. And the cappuccino they made was absolutely world-class. We sat out front at little tables and had cappuccino and conversation. I will always remember that fondly.]

We still made it back to the hotel in time to have a couple of hours “down” time.  Most of us spent the time figuring out how to pack all the things we’d bought!


  • The majority of parents died of AIDS, but malaria and other diseases also. [Some of them have simply been abandoned by their parents. Rwanda still has a fairly high fertility rate and the economy is still challenging, I gather. When one parent has abandoned a family, it only takes the death of one parent to make the children orphans.]
  • Citizens of Rwanda need to have an ID to get insurance and to own property, but getting an ID requires having a birth certificate, which is sometimes hard to get.
  • There are Volunteer health workers in the villages who act as midwives.
  • On the drive to Kansi in Gisaraga district we passed by a home with 4 units owned by Zoe graduates (graduated in 2015).  We also saw a cluster of homes in the distance where the government had granted land for Zoe homes. The kids often build and live close together.
  • Houses in the Gisaraga district often collapse in the rain because they are old and not built well.