She is wearing a beautiful dress as we follow her down a narrow outdoor corridor. It's starting to drizzle, so we hurry. She ushers us through a courtyard and through a door. We are in her living room being invited to sit and relax with her family. She doesn't sit yet, making last minute adjustments around the room and going to check on something outside. We sit, in her home, surrounded by the people she loves best.
She is Astrida. And she is one of our beautiful, gifted artisans.
We have the honor of being guests in her home.
Her husband,whose English is exceptional, begins talking with us. He tells us that he and Astrida are Congolese refugees. They fled civil unrest years ago after his parents were killed and he was beaten so severely that he still has back trouble and headaches today. He tells us that his injuries made it difficult for him to find work and that life was very difficult. They wanted to provide for their children, but they weren't making enough to do it.
Then Astrida began working at the Umucyo co-op, the Noonday partnership.
Their children are all in school, they have medical insurance, they are saving to purchase a home, he has found a job as a teacher.
They tell us that Noonday has brought them a new day. That their life is happy. That they are proud to provide for their family.
I look to Astrida, and her face is quietly glowing. She is proud to be a woman of industry, a woman of talent, a woman whose work is known and loved and used and shared around the world.
We have a chance to introduce ourselves and share about our families and our lives. And I am so excited. You see, I had been hoping to be paired with Astrida for this visit. I have been captured by her smile and her eyes since the first time I saw her picture.and now here she is, right in front of me, and I get to tell her who she is to me.
I introduce myself and tell her about Adam. I share pictures of my husband (who she thinks is very handsome...good taste!) and my parents, my sister and Daisy. And then I get to tell her what I have been dying to say.
I tell her thank you. Thank you because we don't have any children and we are adopting. Thank you because the income I earn with Noonday is being set aside to cover extra adoption costs. Thank you because, even though she didn't know me until today, she is helping me become a mom, which is the deepest desire of my heart.
I don't know what she thought. She just smiled, took my hand and bowed her head.
This woman. This woman on the other side of the world is my partner. We need each other to take care of our children. This is the heartbeat of Noonday Collection. Women walking side by side with one another in equal partnership, empowering one another to make a difference in this world. I am honored to know Astrida, to have sat on her couch, to have hugged her children, to have had the opportunity to thank her for joining me in this journey, to know that she is part of my story and I am part of hers, to be able to share with my own children one day that this woman, and so many others like her, were instrumental in bringing us together.
Before we leave, she serves us tea and bakery bread, a Rwandan custom when guests visit your home. She is honoring us. And I tell her no, that the honor is mine.