I must admit, although I strive not to pick favorites among our twelve different projects, the Single Mom Tailoring Group holds a special place in my heart. Being a single mother in Rwanda is an extraordinary challenge, with limited job opportunities and persistent stigmas. I've been a part of GIFTS Rwanda for nearly two years now, and this was the very first project I had the privilege of launching from the ground up. Witnessing their progress, their genuine happiness, their overwhelming gratitude, and the love they share with one another fills me with immense joy. Take a look for yourself HERE. We talked, sewed, and I listed to their wants and needs. They made me a beautiful skirt I cannot wait to wear tomorrow and they even gave us a show of song and dance that filled the room with love and happiness.
But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. Our day started with a detour to the pharmacist on our way to the village. I had lost most of my voice a couple of days ago, and my throat had become raw and swollen. Despite having purchased cough drops the day before, my voice hadn't improved. I assured Brigitte that I was loading up on vitamin C and antioxidants, and that it would eventually improve, but she insisted we visit a local pharmacist. I'm genuinely grateful that she did.
Experiencing a Rwandan pharmacy was a fascinating and eye-opening experience. The pharmacist carefully examined my condition and prescribed four treatments for me. He took his time, displayed a remarkable depth of knowledge, and the cost was surprisingly minimal. To top it off, he even offered me his personal phone number in case I had any questions or encountered any issues. I couldn't help but mention that our healthcare system in the US could certainly learn a thing or two from his level of care and dedication. His response was a heartwarming mix of pride and joy, and meeting him was undoubtedly one of the highlights of my day.
From there we traveled to have a meeting with Fredrick, the leader of the Rugalika sector. In Rwanda, there's a hierarchy of villages, sectors, districts, provinces, and the country itself. During our visit this week, we were able to extend health insurance coverage to an additional 800 people, all thanks to your generous donations. This brings our coverage from 446 to an astounding 1246 individuals. The leaders of the village and sector were so moved by this gesture that they requested an in-person meeting to express their heartfelt thanks. It was a remarkable experience stepping inside the sector building and meeting the individuals who work diligently to run the village. They are profoundly grateful for our efforts to uplift the people of Rugalika from extreme poverty and have pledged to support our journey to become an NGO in Rwanda. While we're already a registered 501c3 non-profit in the US, obtaining the same status in Rwanda is no small feat. Once we secure this status, it will open doors for us to apply for Rwandan grants, providing the village with another avenue of funding. Fingers crossed, we can make it happen!
One of GIFTS Rwanda's earliest sustainable projects involved soap and bead making. In the afternoon we were able to meet the soap makers and bead artisans at Rugarika Primary School. This dynamic group comprises strong, joyful women who welcomed us with open arms, demonstrating their soap-making and bead-crafting skills. In support of their hard work, we purchased their entire inventory as gifts to bring home. I couldn't be prouder of their accomplishments, and I'm brimming with ideas on how we can further assist them in managing their finances and business needs.
I can honestly say that I've never had a day where I've smiled so much, and I will be eternally grateful for the open hearts of these remarkable women and the warm embrace of the children we met today. The love and positivity in this community are truly infectious, and it fuels our determination to continue making a meaningful impact in their lives.