The over-arching goal of Mission Rwanda is to relieve poverty. We aim to move people from hunger and vulnerability to being able to provide for themselves. If this was easy the problem would have been solved a long time ago. One element in the mix is enabling individuals to start their own business, and in turn become able to provide for their families.
Starting a new business has its hurdles anywhere in the world and Rwanda is no exception. The greatest problem perhaps is that the amount of money needed to get going, while modest in European terms, is more than most Rwandans have ever seen, and especially when they are used to hunger. Business skills need taught and the individual needs to have something to sell. Nevertheless, we have successfully enabled many families to earn their own income.
Our first venture into business start-ups was in Nyamirambo, the district in Kigali where our street-children came together. The children's mothers were offered money to start up businesses to feed the children. Out of this came a restaurant and a grocery shop. The children, who had been wandering the streets gradually moved back to a more stable family.
In Rwamagana, a town 50 miles east of Kigali, we worked with the Evangelical Restoration Church and provided funding for a group of women to start up small businesses in the town. They started selling shoes, DVD's (think Blockbuster) and potatoes. One lady is hiring out marquees for weddings. The Rwamagana widows, as they came to call them were in time able to diversify and even start investing in livestock.
One lady became known to us as the mother of two children we are sending to school. The family had no income and their house is basic. She was given money to buy a sewing machine which she uses to make women's dresses and bags.
Starting a new business in Rwanda, like anywhere else, doesn't always work. When it does though, the results are life-changing.