Today we took a bone-jarring bus ride to Rutonde along the Nyaburongo river which flows towards Kigali from the Virunga mountains in the north west of Rwanda. Despite this being the rainy season, the vegetation is covered with a layer of brown dust.
We have been working in Rutonde for a little over five years. The Porridge project has successfully enabled many families to establish incomes for themselves. A number of local women, with our help, formed themselves into a cooperative to produce crafts and clothes.
It is always a little uncertain as to how a new venture will progress. We met the women for the first time this week since the cooperative was set up and were pleasantly surprised. In three months the women have been able to sell bags they have made at the local market. They have also produced a small stock of agaseke, traditional coloured baskets. Even better, the group have money in the bank.
To help the women get themselves organised, a model constitution was prepared which was in English. On their own initiative, the women used the son of one of their number to produce a Kinyarwanda translation.
The objective of encouraging the women to set up a cooperative was to give them something which they could grow and call their own. We shall not be putting any more money into it although we may buy some of their products. Our hope is that these woman will be able to take the opportunity to create an ongoing income for themselves.