Return From Rwanda & What’s Next

Volcano views on our drive out of Gisenyi

Rwanda was fantastic. I am so, so, so glad I decided to go. I traversed the country for two weeks in search of artisans and took a little trip with friends to the rainforest along the way (and also ate some fantastic food). I feel like I have so much to blog about, and yet it’s almost like ‘Where do I begin?

I got back to Nairobi in the wee hours of Saturday morning with a mixture of feelings. I moved houses (again) while I was gone and have a fantastic place to call home now. But even if it sounds silly, I get distressed walking even during the day. It’s no longer a place I feel at ease in. I think when our bus rolled up to the bus office in Nairobi, and I saw a fight where they left a guy lying in the road unconscious, it was the sort of ‘Welcome home’ you don’t really care to receive.  The good news is I am feeling very focused after my Rwanda trip. Even if Nairobi is not the place I care to call home any longer, I know what needs to be done, and I am still passionate about the very reasons that brought me here in the first place- create jobs and skills training to elevate people out of extreme poverty and provide a future for their children.

There is a LOT that needs to be done. Some days it seems like I will never figure everything out. And the more that I check off the list, the more I realize I don’t know. Little things I never gave much thought to before that turn out to be really big things- like finding out the labeling laws for textile products- seem like a cumbersome task. (By the way, anyone who would like to give me a synopsis of those laws to avoid making my head hurt even more, please feel free to do so).  However, slowly but surely, we are making progress. I am very fortunate that my best friend has done SO much on the U.S. end of things. (Thanks Emily!) She has received our first shipment, dealt with all of the sorting and tagging, and will be doing all of the shipping as well. My friend and business manager here in Nairobi Fred has been a huge help- when I simply have reached my wit’s end with miscommunications or don’t think I can deal with an issue any longer, he manages to resolve things. He keeps my scatterbrained thoughts and deadlines in order… pretty much exactly the type of help I need here in Kenya. Somehow, we all manage!

Learning how sisal baskets are made in Gitarama, Rwanda

Our very first shipment of jewelry, as I mentioned, has now landed in the U.S. We are calling this our ‘Pre-Launch Sale’. Even though Amsha will not be officially launching until my return, this is a good way to spread the word, get feedback, and boost capital to invest in a larger launch order. This is also the first time I have publicly announced the name of my business. Amsha (pronounced om-shuh) is a Swahili word meaning ‘to awaken’. It needs an entire blog post on its own to explain how I came up with it, but I think it is so fitting… awaken customers to be more conscientious consumers, awaken and elevate our artisans to new opportunities and a brighter future, etc.

So that’s where I am now- sitting at my dining room table, looking out to the Birds of Paradise plants in our backyard, feeling the nice breeze, and listening to the birds. (Thank god it’s Sunday because it means the huge orange crane that I can also see out my back door is not operating). Our pre-launch sale will start this Thursday on the Amsha facebook page, so keep your eyes peeled! I will post the link on Thursday so that you can check it out. Even if you have no intention to buy anything (or you’re a guy and women’s jewelry isn’t really your thing), I would love for your feedback! In the meantime we need to tweak a few things on the page, and I’m already scouting out a few more artisans for our final order. There is never a moment of rest here! I am really pushing to wrap things up in Nairobi in about a month, so I think we have some long days ahead of us. I’m really excited to share the products with you and am eagerly awaiting your feedback. I would not be where I am today without all of the help that I have received and look forward to continuing to improve our products and our business model with your input.

One thought on “Return From Rwanda & What’s Next

  • Laura, can’t wait to see the FB page and share it with others! I am SO proud of you and I know I only have a glimpse into the time and energy you’ve invested into this journey.

    Be safe and keep working hard! If I can help with anything, you know I’m only an email or Skye chat away :-)

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