I knew about Rwanda, saw heart-yanking images and read articles of the 1994 genocide that left a nation scarred. But I didn't really feel the connection until my friend Elizabeth returned from working in the African country, where she'd educated and empwered women to take political stances and position as Rwanda slowly rebuilt. Elizabeth had also founded a nonprofit organization there, Every Child Is My Child, which funds education for children in Rwanda and Burundi.
She invited me to watch a marketing video and give feedback on Every Child's social media strategy, and even as I fed ideas and talked through content tactics, I was churning inside. With a volunteer staff and board, and only a few hundred dollars in donations, the organization provides tuition, uniforms, books and school supplies to enough kids that it the community has shifted. The cost is minimal -- less than my cable and phone bills for the month -- and investment is so critical -- kids having a backpack of what they need to enter a classroom, consider college, think about how to raise up Rwanda even more.
I felt just as heartened when I was introduced to Indego Africa, an organization that partners with 400 women artisans in Rwanda, with the same spirit of empowerment and access to resources, education and audience.
Indego Africa's business partner artisans are organized into nine nonprofit cooperatives. The collaboration enables individuals, many of whom are genocide widows, are sole providers for their families, have minimal formal education or are impacted by HIV/AIDS, to pursue their own entrepreneurialism, financial security and gender equity in the market place.
The jewelry and housewares Indego Africa's artisans craft reflect the creativity, skill and social responsibility of the women who make them. Major brands like JCrew and Nicole Miller have collaborated with Indego Africa's partners, and the woven rugs, handbags and brightly threaded necklaces are sold by 80 retailers.
But I chose my bit of Indego Africa artistry from the organization's site, where an online marketplace is packed full of beautiful things for sale. I picked this Horn & Tin Toggle ring, handcrafted and signed and reminding me as I type to move forward bravely and with power on my own and surrounded by a community of other women, as these artists have done.
One small donation to a scholarship fund like the ones Every Child is My Child provides, one purchase from the Indego Africa marketplace -- it does make a difference, it does add up. The dollars count and so does the intention to be and stay connected to women and children far away, with far less, who seek equality and education and stability and creativity. We all get what it feels like to wish for those things, and I believe we all want to help each other make them happen.
I love this reminder of all that is happening in Rwanda on my finger and that it will urge me on to click, connect, donate and do more for people in a country I've never seen. I have much more to do, there is far more support that families in Rwanda need and I want this to be my very-small beginning.
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. Indego Africa provided a gift certificate to me to choose and review a product created by one of their artisans. The opinions and call to participate in good works for the women and children of Rwanda are all mine.