Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Rwanda in Photos: Day 1

So I know what you have been thinking.


Well, I have good news for you. Over the next few days, I am going to work on organizing all of my photos into separate posts by days. My hope is that this will give you a little taste of what my amazing week in the Land of a Thousand Hills was really like.

So, here we go.

Sunrise on our first morning.
I'll be honest. I woke up not knowing what to expect. And I was definitely not prepared to be swept away by the tidal wave of love that followed. 

 Noonday Collection's founder, Jessica Honegger, with all of our Rwandan seamstresses sharing with us how Noonday started in Rwanda. It is a beautiful story that wraps adoption, economic opportunity and female empowerment into one. 
 She shared with us that she sat in a room with these women three years ago, promising them jobs without knowing whether she could actually deliver. 
And now, three years later, these women all have dignified jobs, they have homes and their children are in school. 
 We gave them  picture of all of the Ambassadors from last year's conference for them to keep in their studio as a reminder that we are on the other side of the world working hard to sell their beautiful pieces. 
 And to reaffirm the Noonday sisterhood, we brought them some gifts from their sister artisans in India
And then we had a chance to hear from Charlotte, the co-op president, as she shared what Noonday means for her and how her life has transformed since linking arms with Noonday Collection.
Important side note: Charlotte had her baby while we were in Rwanda!!
A baby girl named Jessica Honegger. 

 Then we were able to go inside the sewing studio, and these blessed women tried to teach us how to sew. They are the most patient of teachers. 

 Our artisans do ALL of their sewing on foot pedal sewing machines. 
 So Lindsey and I got paired with Charlotte.
You know, the president of the whole co-op. 
Poor Charlotte. 
I won't speak for Lindsey, but I am a terrible seamstress! As in, totally hopeless. 
 I paid really close attention. 

 But, as you can see, I was not feeling too confident.

 But Charlotte, eternal blessings upon here, was a very patient and thorough teacher, and I loved every minute of learning from her. Watching her explain and teach something that is obviously so near to her heart (and something she has SUCH a talent for) was an incredible experience for me. These women are real. Their lives are real. Their stories are real. Their talent is REAL. And I get to be the one to share that with my little world over here? Are you crazy? This is my JOB? I am honored to work WITH these women. Honored to call them my sisters and my friends.

So after MANY false starts and Charlotte have to jump several times to prevent me from totally breaking her sewing machine,
I eventually, kinda, sorta got the hang of it. 
I am being very generous with myself in saying that. 

 Love this sweet woman!
And now I have a whole new appreciate for what she and all of our Rwandan artisans do for us every single day.

Serapia at her station. 
Talk about a woman who gives good hugs! 

 Grace and Solange (see her in our new fall look book!) helping Emily and Leslie learn how to sew on the foot pedal machines. 
 Beautiful ladies taking a break from trying to teach us. 
Apparently. we are exhausting students. Ha! 
The sewing studio from outside. 
The name of our Rwanda co-op is Umucyo (ooh-moo-cho). 
The name means "Light" in Kinyarwandan. 
And these beautiful women are full of light. 

 So then we were off to the fabric market! 
Talk about being overwhelmed. 
Beautiful market fabrics hanging all over the place. 
 So many to choose from! 
 Oh, and I don't speak Kinyarwandan, so this was all done with pointing. 
My final selections. 
All of these were taken back to Umucyo, where our artisans were going to create some gorgeous new treasures for us. 
Skirts and dresses and make up bags and aprons, oh my! 

Getting measured for my skirt! 
My first ever custom piece of clothing. 
And I LOVE knowing that it was crafted by these precious women. 

If you want to read my impressions about day one in Rwanda, just click HERE. I wrote about it that night when we got back to the Africa New Life guest house. This day stands as one of the the very best in my whole life. 

"If you pour yourself out for the hungry
    and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
    and your gloom be as the noonday."
Isaiah 58:10

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